New Sanger Institute Human Cell Atlas projects funded by the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative DAF, an advised fund of Silicon Valley Community Foundation

Projects will build computational tools to support the global Human Cell Atlas initiative to map every cell type in the body

The Wellcome Sanger Institute’s Martin Hemberg and Kerstin Meyer are recipients of three of the latest grants from the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative (CZI) DAF, an advised fund of Silicon Valley Community Foundation, to support the Human Cell Atlas, a global effort to map every type of cell in the healthy human body.

CZI will fund 85 projects, with a total of $15 million over one year to help build tools and technologies. The projects will also enable new collaborations among scientists, physicians, and engineers working to map every cell in the human body to understand health and disease.

Projects are focused on developing open computational tools, algorithms, visualizations, and benchmark datasets to enable researchers around the globe to work with the large variety of molecular and imaging data being generated by scientists working on the Human Cell Atlas (HCA).

Three one-year projects at the Sanger Institute have been funded by the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative DAF, an advised fund of Silicon Valley Community Foundation, to develop tools to analyse data coming out of the HCA Data Coordination Platform.

Two of the projects will be run by Dr Martin Hemberg. One will develop search tools for single cell RNA-sequencing data which will allow people to compare cells from independently collected data sets and develop a strategy to map them together. A second project will enable researchers to create a ‘family tree’ of the cells, and find out how they are all related to each other.

“We are extremely pleased to have been granted funding to carry out these computational projects. Many analysis tools will be needed to mine the large amount of data in the DCP. Efficient computational tools allow you to find things faster and open up possibilities for new investigations that couldn’t otherwise have been done.”

Martin Hemberg Group leader at the Wellcome Sanger Institute

A third pilot project is looking at how to take the data from DCP and put it into a biologically meaningful format that people can analyse easily. Run by Kerstin Meyer in collaboration with Irene Papatheodorou at the European Bioinformatics Institute, this will compare different analysis tools for the different steps in the pipeline, gluing them together so they can work in series. It will test which tools are the most suitable in context, so researchers can get useful results from the data.

“These computational projects will make a big difference to making data much more widely available, not just to bioinformaticians, but also to researchers from different disciplines. The new tools will help in the translation of the results to understand the biology of human health.”

Kerstin Meyer Principal staff scientist at the Wellcome Sanger Institute who leads the Sanger Institute HCA team

There are 85 collaborative projects being recommended for funding in response to an open Request for Applications issued by CZI in July 2017. Funding is being awarded to 83 principal investigators at 53 institutions, and in nine countries spanning four continents. Detailed information on each project is available at:

“I am thrilled to welcome this distinguished group of grantees to the CZI family, and I am excited about how they will support the ambitious Human Cell Atlas effort. Working together and with our team of scientists and engineers, these partners will create new ways for scientists to use information about healthy and diseased cells. Their efforts will help to accelerate progress toward our goal of curing, preventing, or managing all diseases by the end of the century.”

Priscilla Chan MD Co-founder of the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative

More information

More information on each project is available here

Selected websites

  • About the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative

    The Chan Zuckerberg Initiative was launched in December 2015 by Mark Zuckerberg, founder and CEO of Facebook, and Priscilla Chan, a pediatrician and founder and CEO of The Primary School in East Palo Alto. The Chan Zuckerberg Initiative is a new kind of philanthropy that seeks to engineer change at scale. By pairing world-class engineering with grant-making, impact investing, policy, and advocacy work, CZI hopes to build a future for everyone. Initial areas of focus include supporting science through basic biomedical research and education through personalized learning. CZI is also exploring ways to address barriers to justice and opportunity – from criminal justice reform, to expanded access, to economic opportunity and affordable housing.

  • Wellcome Sanger Institute

    The Wellcome Sanger Institute is one of the world's leading genome centres. Through its ability to conduct research at scale, it is able to engage in bold and long-term exploratory projects that are designed to influence and empower medical science globally. Institute research findings, generated through its own research programmes and through its leading role in international consortia, are being used to develop new diagnostics and treatments for human disease. To celebrate its 25th year in 2018, the Institute is sequencing 25 new genomes of species in the UK. Find out more at or follow @sangerinstitute

  • Wellcome

    Wellcome exists to improve health for everyone by helping great ideas to thrive. We’re a global charitable foundation, both politically and financially independent. We support scientists and researchers, take on big problems, fuel imaginations and spark debate.