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A team from the Medical Sciences Division led by Dr Anita Milicic at the Jenner Institute has received a share of $14 million in funding from the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative as one of 29 projects that will explore emerging ideas regarding the role of inflammation in disease.

Dr Anita Milicic, Dr Calliope Dendrou (Wellcome Centre for Human Genetics) and Prof Mark Coles (the Kennedy Institute of Rheumatology) will combine their expertise to create the first map of adjuvant-induced inflammation on tissues from diverse ethnic groups and build a unique resource that will inform more inclusive global vaccine design and development.

Grantee teams are made up of two to three investigators with distinct areas of expertise and they represent 11 countries. View the full list of grantees.

Vaccination requires an inflammatory signal to help prime and train the immune system for a lasting response. This stimulus comes from co-administration of adjuvants, or compounds that elicit a global immune response. Individuals of different ethnic backgrounds respond differently to vaccines. In this exciting project investigators will use a range of adjuvants to determine the first steps in the initiation of an inflammatory immune responses and better understand the cellular and molecular basis of adjuvant mediated inflammation in humans. This is essential to developing the next generation of vaccines and complements ongoing work on the Human Cell Atlas project and the development of next generation human vaccine adjuvants.

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. “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.”

“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.

The Chan Zuckerberg Initiative (CZI) was founded by Dr. Priscilla Chan and Mark Zuckerberg in 2015, to leverage technology to help solve some of the world’s toughest challenges. These grants build on CZI’s work in single-cell biology supporting the Human Cell Atlas, a fundamental reference for health and disease.