NEW YORK – The Chan Zuckerberg Initiative (CZI) said on Wednesday that it has established a new biomedical research hub in New York to create new technologies for characterizing and bioengineering immune cells with an ultimate goal of developing "cellular endoscopes" for early disease detection.
The fourth research institute of the Chan Zuckerberg Biohub Network, CZ Biohub NY is a collaboration between Columbia University, Rockefeller University, and Yale University. In addition to funding from the CZI, CZ Biohub NY also received $10 million each from the state of New York and New York City.
According to CZI, one initial task of CZ Biohub NY is to investigate the molecular memory and states of immune cells using "single-cell biology tools, cutting-edge experimental technologies, and machine learning and artificial intelligence (AI)" to unlock the "vast information" stored in these cells.
Building off that, CZ Biohub NY plans to bioengineer new functions into the immune cells to help "scout, report, and repair damage to our cells before it leads to serious illnesses."
The hub will first target hard-to-detect cancers, such as ovarian and pancreatic cancers; and neurodegenerative diseases, including Parkinson's and Alzheimer's, as well as aging and autoimmunity, CZI noted.
After that, the institute plans to engineer immune cells to make targeted repairs, such as promoting inflammation at a tumor site to activate a robust immune response.
"Blood has been a key window for monitoring the status of the immune system and health, but early signs of disease often reside in inaccessible organs and tissues," John Tsang, a Yale immunologist and CZ Biohub NY executive committee member, said in a statement. "Circulating immune cells offer a fabulous platform to develop noninvasive, organ-homing sensors and maintainers of health."