Dec 2, 2020 · 6 min read

CZI Awards Nearly $32 Million and Announces New Funding Opportunity to Advance Biomedical Imaging

Grants Support Increased Collaborations and Innovations in Imaging Technology, while New Request for Applications Focuses on Visualizing Proteins in Cells

Computational microscopy enables imaging of scattering samples with rich label-free contrast. | Photograph of a collection of C. elegans embryos from CZI Deep Tissue Imaging grantee Shwetadwip Chowdhury, University of Texas at Austin.
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Imaging of proteins, cells, and tissues is critical to understanding health and disease. Today, the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative (CZI) announced nearly $32 million in funding to support biomedical imaging researchers, technology development, and the BioImaging North America international network of bioimaging facilities and communities. CZI also opened a new Request for Applications (RFA) aimed at supporting technology development that will allow researchers to see the inner workings of cells, including proteins, at near-atomic resolution to better understand what causes disease and how to develop treatments.

“We want to enable researchers everywhere to visualize, measure, and analyze the biological processes underlying health and disease,” said CZI Head of Science, Cori Bargmann. “That means taking multiple approaches. We’re pushing the frontiers with our Deep Tissue Imaging grants, we’re supporting Imaging Scientists — the key technology experts who disseminate new advances — and we’re building community with BioImaging North America. We’re thrilled to welcome our new imaging grantees.”

CZI’s Imaging program aims to drive breakthroughs in curing, preventing, or managing disease by advancing the imaging field. This includes increasing collaboration between biologists and technology experts, improving microscopy tools and expanding access to these tools, and supporting increased training and community building. Learn more about CZI’s Imaging program and the history of progress in the imaging field.

“Our goal is to support the advancement of imaging technologies and provide access to and training on these state-of-the-art tools so that researchers can drive towards discoveries,” said CZI Imaging Program Officer Stephani Otte. “By collaborating closely with the imaging community and providing both funding and expertise in technology development, we hope to help make the next breakthroughs in imaging possible.”

The following grants are supported with this new round of funding:

CZI Imaging Scientists: $17.5 million, 22 imaging scientists 

  • Imaging scientists play a critical role in developing and sharing advanced imaging technologies, which are central to both biomedical research and clinical practice. Yet progress in the imaging field has been slowed by a lack of investment in imaging scientists and imaging technology development, as well as limited dissemination of advanced microscopy methods. CZI’s Imaging Scientists program seeks to address these issues by increasing collaboration between biologists and technology experts and improving the tools that scientists use for imaging.

    22 CZI Imaging Scientists — engineers, physicists, mathematicians, computer scientists, and biologists with expertise in imaging technology — will interface between biology, microscopy hardware, and imaging software to help advance the field of imaging. Imaging scientists enable critical biomedical research through their work at imaging core facilities — centralized hubs that provide experimental biologists with access to the latest imaging software and hardware. These five-year grants will support Imaging Scientists at research and medical imaging centers worldwide, representing 11 countries. CZI previously funded 17 Imaging Scientists in the United States. View the full list of CZI Imaging Scientists.

BioImaging North America: $1.3 million

  • BioImaging North America is an international network of imaging scientists, bioimaging facilities, and communities spanning the U.S., Canada, and Mexico. This network is a platform for communication and for fostering partnerships among imaging facilities to provide resources and exchanges of expertise to train scientists in imaging core facility management and imaging technology. BioImaging North America increases access to advanced microscopy methods and enables imaging scientists to better support researchers so they can use cutting-edge technology to understand and identify the biological mechanisms of health and disease.

    The grant supports BioImaging North America’s efforts to strengthen community building and training to address the practical challenges of operating bioimaging facilities and open access tools for imaging technologies in the life sciences, and to improve the quality and reproducibility of imaging data. BioImaging North America is part of the worldwide Global BioImaging network, which CZI also supports.

Frontiers of Imaging: CZI Deep Tissue Imaging Grantees: $13 million, 13 projects

  • Although there have been significant advances in biomedical imaging, we are far from the ultimate goal: to observe cells and subcellular processes in living organisms and in a minimally invasive manner. Current tools provide a limited view of biological systems and tend to focus on a specific biological scale (such as proteins, cells, or tissues) in an often artificial context, like isolated proteins or extracted cells. To advance our understanding of biological systems, we need to measure in the necessary context and across biological scales.

    Awardees of CZI’s Deep Tissue Imaging RFA will work to advance the field of deep tissue imaging by developing technologies that will allow researchers to view information at cellular resolution, in complex tissue and through skin and bone, in living organisms. Initial 2 1/2-year pilot projects include technology applications in optical microscopy, photoacoustics, quantum imaging, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), ultrasound, and X-ray. In the second phase of the RFA, successful grantees will be eligible to apply for four-year, $10 million technology development grant awards. View the full list of grantees.

CZI is also launching the following Request for Applications:

Frontiers of Imaging: Visual Proteomics 

  • The Frontiers of Imaging initiative, part of CZI’s broader Imaging program, supports the development of disruptive imaging technologies that connect biological scales across organs, cells, and proteins, allowing researchers to directly visualize biological processes at the necessary resolution and context to obtain a mechanistic understanding of health and disease. As part of the Frontiers initiative, the new Visual Proteomics Imaging RFA supports technology development that will allow researchers to see the inner workings of cells, including proteins, at near-atomic resolution. CZI invites scientists to apply for this 2 1/2-year grant opportunity to support the development of hardware, software, and methods.

    Examples of research themes could include hardware and software development to enhance contrast and resolution for electron tomography, high-resolution correlated light and electron microscopy (CLEM), and FIB-SEM; sample preparation improvements for electron tomography; and development of software or new computational techniques and algorithms for identifying protein molecules inside cells and segmenting sub-cellular structures.

    The Visual Proteomics Imaging RFA will accept applications starting Wednesday, December 2, 2020 at 9 a.m. Pacific Time until February 17, 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 sciencegrants@chanzuckerberg.com. Learn more about CZI’s Frontiers of Imaging effort.

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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.

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