In the Spotlight
Single Cell Analysis – An In the Spotlight Update
Convergence of the BRAIN Initiative and the Human Cell Atlas
Identification of all of the cell types in the human brain is an important part of the BRAIN Initiative, and the growing number of researchers using single cell transcriptomics to identify cell sub-populations in the human brain is providing insight into just how complex cellular specialization and diversity are within this most complex organ (Darmanis et al., 2015; Hu et al., 2016; Johnson et al., 2015; Lake et al., 2016; Poulin et al., 2016). Expect to see many more developments in this area over the coming years, including growing insight into the development and aging of the human brain (Bae et al., 2015; Liu et al., 2016; Soreg et al., 2017) as well as species differences that necessitate human rather than animal tissues/studies (Johnson et al., 2015; Lake et al., 2016; Wang et al., 2016; Zeng et al., 2013).
Facebook riches to fund development of Cell Atlas
The Chan Zuckerberg Biohub recently announced a first round of funding as part of its $3 billion 10 year commitment to cure, prevent, and manage diseases. The human cell atlas and infectious diseases are the two project areas funded at this time. Biohub was established as a nonprofit research institute late last year by Facebook co-founder Mark Zuckerberg and his wife Dr. Priscilla Chan. Fourty-seven faculty from three California universities, University of California San Francisco (UCSF), UC Berkeley, and Stanford University, “will get no-strings-attached awards to delve into risky new directions.”
Small business funding for single cell analysis technologies
New sources of funding for single cell analysis include NIH’s SBIR/STTR funding opportunity announcement (FOA), Development of Highly Innovative Tools and Technology for Analysis of Single Cells, to encourage small businesses “to develop and validate next-generation single cell analysis technologies and tools.” NIEHS is one of the NIH institutes participating in this FOA, and is “interested in tools and technologies to detect responses to environmental stressors in heterogeneous populations of cells, approaches to detect effects of environmental stress on germ cells, and technologies to isolate or detect effects in stem or progenitor cells.” The next proposal deadline is April 5, 2017.