The American Dental Association Science & Research Institute, together with other US and international collaborators, has been awarded a three-year, $3.5 million grant to create a cell atlas of the nose, mouth, and airways from birth through adolescence.

The research team received the grant from the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative as part of a $33 million announcement supporting groups of researchers and pediatricians as they seek to better understand, prevent, and treat childhood diseases. The research funded by these grants will generate healthy, single-cell reference data from pediatric tissue samples for the Human Cell Atlas, an international consortium that aims to map every cell type in the human body.

Kevin M. Byrd, DDS, PhD, who is the Anthony R. Volpe Research Scholar and manager of oral and craniofacial research at the ADA Science & Research Institute, will serve as one of the principal investigators of the grant. Over the course of three years, 10% of the grant funding will be devoted to Byrd’s activities.

“From a healthy newborn’s first breath onward, our airways—including the lungs, throat, nose, and mouth—develop in harmony to support essential functions and protect us from many types of damage,” Byrd says in a release. “This newly assembled team of partners across the globe will work collaboratively to understand the common and unique cell types and their signatures that support the development of the airways in healthy children from Malawi, Vietnam, India, Germany, Brazil, and the U.S. This atlas of the ‘inhalation interface’ will be curated and open to the entire scientific and clinical community to accelerate our understanding of disease progression and guide therapeutic strategies in children.”

The Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, founded in 2015 by Priscilla Chan and Mark Zuckerberg, seeks to build a more inclusive, just, and healthy future for all by pairing technology with grantmaking, impact investing, and collaboration in its focus areas of science, education, community, and justice and opportunity. The initiative announced the grants Aug 27.

“When we talk about global health equity, we must rise to the challenge to include oral and craniofacial tissues in this grand effort of the Human Cell Atlas to map the human body at single-cell resolution,” Byrd says. “This proposal puts us one step closer to this deeply personal goal to improve oral health for all.”