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Wellcome Leap Launches $55M Program to Develop Disease-Specific Tissue Profiling Platforms

NEW YORK – Wellcome Leap, a US nonprofit founded by the UK's Wellcome Trust, has launched a $55 million program called Delta Tissue to fund collaborative research projects to develop platforms that can profile and predict transitions between tissue states in various diseases.

Delta Tissue aims to build so-called "tissue time machines" — multiscale, multimodal, and widely accessible platforms that will allow researchers and, eventually, clinicians to predict how tissues will change over time with enough fidelity to intervene in the present.

The program will require the integration of technologies that are typically expensive to buy and run and require a high level of expertise, Wellcome Leap said in a statement.

Expanding on this notion, Wellcome Leap Program Director Jason Swedlow said in an email that the types of technologies utilized in these tissue models will depend on the proposals received by the program.

"We expect to include a wide range of modalities that work at spatial scales from nanometer to millimeter and across an equally wide range of temporal scales," said Swedlow, who is also cofounder of the Open Microscopy Environment. "This could include a broad set of imaging modalities that detect many different types of molecular entities, as well as biomolecular profiling technologies that include transcriptomic, proteomic, metabolomic, and/or lipidomic analyses."

Swedlow further noted that the program wants to "build tools that choose modalities that provide sufficient profiling for a given tissue and disease state, and also develop capabilities for integrating the range of data types we will be working with."

According to the Delta Tissue program announcement, the effort will initially focus on three disease models where it aims to demonstrate the platforms being developed: tuberculosis, triple negative breast cancer (TNBC), and glioblastoma multiforme (GBM). For tuberculosis, for instance, goals for a proposed platform would include defining and profiling the states of tuberculosis granulomas and predicting whether their integrity will be maintained or compromised.

In TNBC, platform goals would include differentiating TNBC states and predicting state switches in response to therapeutics; while in GBM, platforms should aim to discover quantitatively distinct tissue states within the tumor microenvironment and indicators that can predict tissue state transitions.

Wellcome Leap is soliciting abstracts and proposals for work over three years with a potential additional one-year option. It will accept proposals from any legal entity in any legal jurisdiction, including academic, non-profit, and for-profit organizations. The first submission deadline for the program is May 17.

Los Angeles-based Wellcome Leap was founded in 2020 by Wellcome Trust Director Jeremy Farrar, University of Dundee life sciences professor Mike Ferguson, and other Wellcome Trust leadership with a $300 million seed investment. The organization is led by CEO Regina Dugan, who previously served as the director of the US Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, and is chaired by former Illumina CEO Jay Flatley.