Mar 9, 2021 · 3 min read

CZI Announces New Grant Opportunity to Encourage More Representative Research

Grants Will Support Researchers to Contribute Diverse Tissue Samples to the Human Cell Atlas

A pie chart titled “Past genomics research lacks ancestral representation” shows people of European ancestry make up 78 percent of study participants.
Individuals of European ancestry account for nearly 80 percent of genomics data, and studies based on a narrow slice of ancestral background are often not generalizable to all people.

To cure, prevent, or manage all diseases, scientific research should include people of all ancestries. Today, the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative (CZI) launched a new funding opportunity to expand the ancestral diversity of the samples in the Human Cell Atlas (HCA), an international effort to map all cells in the human body as a foundational resource for understanding health and disease.

Diseases manifest differently in different people, and ancestry is one factor that impacts disease severity, outcome, and treatment. Individuals of European ancestry account for 80 percent of genomics data, and studies based on a narrow slice of ancestral background are often not generalizable to all people. To help fill these gaps in scientific knowledge, the Ancestry Networks for the Human Cell Atlas Request for Applications (RFA) will support teams of researchers to generate healthy, single-cell reference data from historically understudied populations.

“Broad representation of the global human population in the Human Cell Atlas will make it more relevant for more people,” said CZI Head of Science, Cori Bargmann. “The HCA holds immense promise in accelerating our understanding of diseases at the cellular level, and it’s essential that we support efforts to incorporate more representative research into this vital resource.”

The Ancestry Networks RFA builds off of CZI’s experience from supporting 10 collaborative research teams to study tissue samples from a diversity of populations, including people who are Black, Latinx, Asian, and Indigenous, as an initial step in addressing equal representation in the HCA. This new RFA will support collaborative networks of researchers for three-year projects. Teams should consist of at least three and up to 10 principal investigators, including at least one computational biologist or data scientist and one expert in single-cell biology. Community-based participatory researchers should be involved in the collaboration to ensure that the research is attuned to the needs of and connected with the participating donor communities.

“Together, the biomedical community must actively seek to limit disparities in representation and learn from its past shortcomings,” said CZI Program Manager for Single-Cell Biology, Norbert Tavares. “Increasing the richness of the donor samples making up the Human Cell Atlas will help build a more inclusive, scientifically-relevant resource that will allow us to better understand how diseases impact historically understudied populations, in particular underrepresented ancestries.”

Ancestry Networks will collectively generate new tools, open source analysis methods, and openly available data from underrepresented donors across multiple tissue types, and provide valuable contributions to the HCA community. Project examples could include generating data from organs and tissues from a single or multiple ancestral groups; developing and sharing tissue resources that will support standards, protocols, and tissue access to researchers; and expanding community engagement or donor recruitment programs and models.

The Ancestry Networks RFA will accept applications from Tuesday, March 9, 2021 at 9 a.m. Pacific Time until May 25, 2021 at 5 p.m. Pacific Time. For more information and application instructions, please visit CZI’s online grants management portal. For administrative and programmatic inquiries, technical assistance, or other questions pertaining to this RFA, please contact Learn more about CZI’s single-cell biology program.


About the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative

The Chan Zuckerberg Initiative was founded in 2015 to help solve some of society’s toughest challenges — from eradicating disease and improving education, to addressing the needs of our local communities. Our mission is to build a more inclusive, just, and healthy future for everyone. For more information, please visit

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