Initial Projects

Human Cell Atlas

The Human Cell Atlas (HCA) is a global collaboration to map and characterize all cells in a healthy human body: cell types, numbers, locations, relationships, and molecular components. It will require advances in single-cell RNA sequencing, image-based transcriptomics and proteomics, tissue handling protocols, data analysis, and more. Once complete, it will be a fundamental resource for scientists, allowing them to better understand how healthy cells work, and what goes wrong when disease strikes.

The idea for the HCA grew from an enthusiastic scientific community, and represents a collaborative effort to increase the impact of single-cell biology by federating results from different organs, cell types, experimental approaches, and countries, without suppressing the dynamism of individual communities and projects. The HCA project welcomes participation by scientists, physicians, and engineers around the world. CZI joins groups such as the Wellcome Trust, the European Bioinformatics Institute (EBI), the Broad Institute, the Sanger Institute, and UC Santa Cruz to support this work. We are supporting the HCA through a variety of mechanisms, including:

1. Helping to build a data coordination platform

We are working together with international genomics leaders to formulate, fund, and jointly build a unified data coordination platform that will enable data sharing across researchers and research institutes. The size and scope of this project requires collaboration between bioinformatics and genomics experts in academia, as well as the software expertise of CZI engineers. Collaborations are underway regarding this element of the HCA with EBI, the Broad Institute, and UC Santa Cruz. Partnership with EBI will ensure that all data standards meet the exacting international criteria for data access and data sharing that EBI must follow, such as permanent maintenance of data through EBI and deposition of all data into the European Nucleotide Archive or the European Genome-phenome Archive, as appropriate.


2. Helping to build computational tools

Our computational biologists and software engineers are working collaboratively with the scientific community to develop tools for analyzing sequencing and imaging data. In all cases, we work closely with scientists and computational researchers to identify bottlenecks in current approaches, and identify opportunities for improving existing tools. This may include developing new tools, or building consensus around formats, standards, or benchmark datasets. An example of an open-source repository reflecting current work around standardizing analysis pipelines for image-based transcriptomics can be found here.

3. Grantmaking

We are funding 38 pilot projects to help build new technologies, best practices, and data analysis techniques for the HCA. These individuals and organizations will further the goal of the HCA by accelerating our understanding in key areas including the brain, immune system, tissue handling & processing, gastrointestinal, skin, and technological development.

We are funding 85 one-year projects to develop computational tools, algorithms, visualizations, and benchmark datasets in support of the Human Cell Atlas.
Participants in this project will collaborate with each other and with us to accelerate progress, facilitate communications, and maximize open dissemination of the resulting tools.

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