LIDS Professor Philippe Rigollet Receives Grant As Part of Global Effort to Map Every Cell in the Human Body

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Photo: Bryce Vickmark

April 19, 2018


LIDS Professor Philippe Rigollet Receives Grant As Part of Global Effort to Map Every Cell in the Human Body on Behalf of the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative DAF, an Advised Fund of Silicon Valley Community Foundation

The Chan Zuckerberg Initiative (CZI) today announced new funding for 85 projects to support the Human Cell Atlas, a global effort to map every type of cell in the healthy human body as a resource for studies of health and disease. The grants total $15 million over one year.

Projects are focused on developing open computational tools, algorithms, visualizations, and benchmark datasets to enable researchers around the globe to work with the large variety of molecular and imaging data being generated by scientists working on the Human Cell Atlas. The grantees will also collaborate with each other, and with CZI’s scientists and software engineers, to maximize the impact of the new tools and technologies.

LIDS professor Philippe Rigollet, a core member of the Institute for Data, Systems, and Society (IDSS), a professor in the Department of Mathematics, and affiliate of MIT’s Statistics and Data Science Center (SDSC), was one of 83 principal investigators from around the world whose project was selected for funding.

Rigollet’s work will focus specifically on studying the trajectory of cellular changes over time: processes such as cell division or differentiation, which happen at an extremely fine scale and which can be observed, today, at an unprecedented resolution.

His research will use the tools of computational mathematics — specifically drawing on optimal transport methodologies — to develop new algorithms. These algorithms could ultimately help scientists understand the statistical likelihood of each of a cell’s possible development pathways, both those in its past and those in its future.

“One of the most exciting things about the trove of data provided by single-cell RNA sequencing is the possibility of reconstructing and understanding cellular processes using temporal information. This level of understanding has the potential to impact biology and medicine profoundly, especially in collaboration with other groups from the Human Cell Atlas initiative,” said Rigollet.

To learn more about the Human Cell Atlas, please visit:

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