Jul 9, 2020 · 4 min read

CZI Launches New Effort to Support Technology Development in Imaging

Frontiers of Imaging Initiative Funds Innovations in Imaging Technology Allowing Researchers to Peer into Deep Tissue to Cure Disease

In this illustration, T lymphocytes (orange), a type of white blood cell, attack a cancer cell (blue).

Today, the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative (CZI) announced a new effort to support innovations in imaging technology that could be transformative for medical applications and for understanding life at the cellular level. The Frontiers of Imaging initiative, part of CZI’s broader Imaging program, aims to advance deep tissue imaging approaches for observing cells and subcellular processes at high resolution in complex tissue with up to an initial $10 million in funding through a new Request for Applications (RFA).

To cure, prevent, or manage all diseases by the end of the century, we need a much deeper mechanistic understanding of biological systems. 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 across biological scales and in the necessary context. This RFA will drive development of imaging technology focused on obtaining cellular resolution readouts anywhere in complex living organisms. 

“Although there have been significant advances in biomedical imaging, we are far from the ultimate goal: to visualize life’s processes at the molecular, cellular, and system level, in real time, in the living organism, and in a minimally invasive manner,” said CZI Head of Science Cori Bargmann. “Advancing deep tissue imaging technologies will improve scientists’ ability to address important biological questions about health and disease.” 

While fluorescence microscopy has reached a high level of resolution, performing microscopy on multicellular animals is restricted to small, clear creatures because images with visible light are impossibly distorted by just a millimeter of tissue. Additionally, current deep imaging techniques such as ultrasound and molecular resonance imagining (MRI) have low resolution and often lack molecular contrast. 

CZI’s new Deep Tissue Imaging RFA aims to advance the field of deep tissue imaging and support the development of technologies that will allow researchers to view information at cellular resolution, in complex tissue and through skin and bone, in living organisms. CZI invites scientists to apply for this 2 1/2-year grant opportunity, and grants will be for $1 million in total costs per grantee. 

In the first phase of the RFA, grantees will develop a pilot project. Successful outcomes could include the development of imaging technologies and biological probes needed to visualize and label important cellular processes throughout the body, or new computational techniques and algorithms for deep tissue signal extraction and analysis. In the second phase of the RFA, successful grantees will be eligible to apply for four-year, $10 million technology development grant awards. Final determination of awards and numbers will depend on the quality of the applications received. 

“This new RFA aims to push the frontiers of the imaging field,” said CZI Imaging Program Manager Stephani Otte. “Ultimately, new, high-resolution imaging technology could allow us to watch cell division or growth, such as tumor growth, in real time deep within the human body, opening up new avenues for understanding cellular processes and for developing treatments and cures.”

The Deep Tissue Imaging RFA will accept Letters of Intent starting Thursday, July 9, 2020 at 9 a.m. Pacific time until Thursday, August 6, 2020 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.

CZI’s Imaging Scientists Cycle 2 RFA is also currently open until July 30, 2020 at 5 p.m. Pacific Time. Read more about CZI’s Imaging program.


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 chanzuckerberg.com.

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