Chan Zuckerberg Initiative Awards $14 Million to Support Inflammation Research

Apr 29, 2020

Grants Fund Interdisciplinary Teams Studying Basic Tissue Biology and the Role of Inflammation in Disease

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Visual of immune cells and gut microbes of living fruit flies.
New technology lets scientists peer inside living fruit flies, allowing them to watch immune cells and gut microbes interact across the gut's fragile, one-cell thick lining. | Photography by Lucy O'Brien, Stanford University.

Today, the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative (CZI) announced $14 million in funding to support 29 interdisciplinary teams and build a network of researchers that will explore emerging ideas regarding the role of inflammation in disease. While inflammation is a natural defense that helps our bodies maintain a healthy state, chronic inflammation results in harmful diseases such as asthma, arthritis, and heart disease.

In this cohort, we welcome 80 researchers working on the projects, 75 percent of which are led by early-career scientists within six years of starting their independent position. Grantee teams are made up of two to three investigators with distinct areas of expertise, including physicians, experimental biologists, technology developers, and computational scientists. The awarded project teams represent 11 countries. View the full list of grantees.

“Knowing more about inflammation at the level of affected cells and tissues will increase our understanding of many diseases and improve our ability to cure, prevent, or manage them,” said CZI Head of Science Cori Bargmann. “We look forward to collaborating with these interdisciplinary teams of researchers studying inflammation.”

CZI will support these small teams to carry out two-year pilot projects focused on tissue-level inflammatory processes in diverse tissues and disease states. Several researchers are studying coronaviruses like SARS and MERS. Pilot awards are intended to help new collaborations form, establish technologies and experimental methods, and frame key questions for further investigation. 

“Work on inflammation has been distributed among many fields and lacks dedicated support as a coherent discipline,” said CZI Science Program Officer, Jonah Cool. “As these research teams study the cells involved in inflammation — and the molecular mechanisms that link them — we hope to support community growth and connect advances in inflammation that will have far-reaching impact.”

Inflammation plays a role in organ failure, neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s, and severe infectious diseases like COVID-19. Diseases associated with inflammation disproportionately affect underserved communities and vulnerable populations, highlighting the importance of making progress in this area of biology. Several funded projects will directly explore important differences depending on genetic ancestry and lifestyle.

These grants build on CZI’s work in single-cell biology supporting the Human Cell Atlas, a fundamental reference for health and disease. Inflammation grantees are encouraged to think broadly about how collaboration and new technologies can be used to bring clarity to a question that touches so many diseases. Read our Medium post to learn more. 

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About the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative

Founded by Dr. Priscilla Chan and Mark Zuckerberg in 2015, the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative (CZI) is a new kind of philanthropy that’s leveraging technology to help solve some of the world’s toughest challenges — from eradicating disease, to improving education, to reforming the criminal justice system. Across three core Initiative focus areas of Science, Education, and Justice & Opportunity, we’re pairing engineering with grant-making, impact investing, and policy and advocacy work to help build an inclusive, just and healthy future for everyone. For more information, please visit www.chanzuckerberg.com.