Pilot actions to build the foundations of a human cell atlas

For better understanding human health as well as improving the diagnosis, monitoring and treatment of diseases, greater knowledge is needed of the diverse cells found within the human body. Recent developments in single cell technologies, analytical methods and computational tools allow for unprecedented characterisation of human cells. A novel approach to address this challenge is the international Human Cell Atlas initiative (HCA) which will create molecular reference maps of all human cells . The potential scientific scope and organisation, including the community values to be adhered to by participating researchers, are described in a recent white paper.

European researchers are at the forefront of developments and thus, well-positioned to make an important contribution to building a human cell atlas. For this, it is imperative to bring together and strengthen European expertise to generate data and/or develop methods for in-depth, integrated molecular analysis and spatial resolution of single cells from complex biological systems such as human organs and tissues.


Each pilot action should demonstrate the utility of an interdisciplinary technological/biological platform to generate and integrate standardised molecular, cellular, biochemical and other data sets, characterising single cells or their nuclear components, their interactions and/or spatial location in tissues from one human organ. Platforms supporting analysis of tissues from more than one organ are also in scope. The primary focus should be on healthy tissues, though comparison between healthy and diseased tissues could be appropriate. Sex, age and ethnicity comparisons could also be considered. Proposals should provide detailed plans for quality management of tissue procurement and data in compliance with the relevant EU legislation (e.g. ethics, data protection).

Proposals supported under this topic must strictly adhere to the values, standards and practices of the HCA and provide for co-ordination with ongoing European and international activities. Plans for building sustainability beyond the funding period and scalability should be included. Proposals for pilot phase actions under this topic should be ready to deliver results for the HCA quickly, therefore project should have a duration of two years. To ensure coherence and communication between projects funded under this topic and with the HCA, the Commission will ensure an overall coordination mechanism between the projects. Proposals are expected to budget for the attendance of co-ordinators to regular meetings, where communication of results and exchange of knowledge gained from each pilot will be the objective

The Commission considers proposals requesting a contribution from the EU of between EUR 3 and 5 million would allow for the specific challenge to be addressed appropriately. Nonetheless, this does not preclude submission and selection of proposals requesting other amounts.

Expected Impact

  • Timely contribution of project results to the HCA
  • Effective and sustainable biological and/or technological platforms.
  • Competitive and sustainable European role in HCA
  • Strong involvement of European technology SMEs
  • Laying the groundwork for improving diagnosis and treatment of disease

Cross-cutting Priorities

  • Socio-economic science and humanities
  • Open Science
  • Gender
Application date
Humanities : Philosophy, Theology and religion
Social sciences : Gender studies, Identities, gender and sexuality, Law, Psychology & Cognitive Sciences