Helmsley Trust Awards $13 Million for Gut Cell Atlas Initiative

Helmsley Trust Awards $13 Million for Gut Cell Atlas Initiative

The Leona M. and Harry B. Helmsley Charitable Trust has announced seven grants totaling $13 million in support of the Gut Cell Atlas initiative.

Part of the larger Human Cell Atlas, an international effort to map all the cells in the human body, the Gut Cell initiative is working to catalogue cell types in the small and large intestines as a first step to understanding distinct cell functions and interactions in human health and Crohn's disease. Although human bodies are composed of trillions of cells, there is no complete catalogue of all the cells in the body and little is known about how cells function and work together in tissues and systems such as the gut.

Grant recipients include Anindita Basu (University of Chicago), Mark Arends (University of Edinburgh), and Keith Wilson (Vanderbilt University Medical Center), who are using various single-cell analysis techniques to build the Gut Cell Atlas; Guy Boeckxstaens (Katholieke Universiteit Leuven), who will research particular cell types within the gut that appear to play a key role in the pathology and/or symptoms of Crohn's disease; and Jellert Gaublomme (Columbia University), Bobby Kasthuri (University of Chicago), and Andreas Moor (University of Zurich), who are piloting novel technologies with the potential to provide a new level of understanding of cellular behavior that leads to inflammation.

"Helmsley's philanthropic support toward mapping the human gut will help bring us one step closer to producing the Human Cell Atlas — a 'Google map' of the thirty-seven trillion cells in the human body," said Sarah Teichmann, co-founder of the Human Cell Atlas initiative and head of cellular genetics at the Wellcome Sanger Institute. "The Gut Cell Atlas will help us uncover what happens in the gut in health and disease and will also serve as a model for building other comprehensive organ system atlases."

"The Gut Cell Atlas will offer unparalleled insights into what we know about ourselves and our gut, including the role of each cell in keeping us healthy — or [in] causing disease. Mapping the cells of the gut is a critical step to realizing our goal of precise, personalized, and effective treatments for Crohn's patients, while pursuing a cure," said the Helmsley Foundation's Crohn's disease program director, Garabet Yeretssian. "Overall, the Human Cell Atlas will be a major scientific milestone in this century, achieved equally through creativity and collaboration. We are proud to do our part by supporting teams to create a Gut Cell Atlas."

"Scientists to Create a 'Gut Cell Atlas' With Funding From the Helmsley Charitable Trust." Leona M. and Harry B. Helmsley Charitable Trust Press Release 10/25/2019.