Accepting Applications: Modeling Emergent Cellular Behavior in Cancer 2021 Virtual Innovation Lab

Join our virutal workshop to develop novel cross-disciplinary collaborations!

Applications are due December 11th 2020 (Midnight Pacific Time). Apply Today!


Recent large-scale single-cell atlasing efforts have led to rich catalogues of cell types within tumors, but use of these data to predict emergent aggregate behavior in cancer has lagged behind. This five-day innovation lab will bring together diverse research and clinical communities to generate creative strategies and new research collaborations aimed at improving understanding, prediction, and validation of dynamic cell-cell communication and emergent behavior of cell ensembles in cancerous tissues. This Innovation Lab is intended to bring together experts to develop a roadmap for the direction of this research area. It is anticipated that this Innovation Lab will lead to interdisciplinary teams poised to advance scientific questions related to dynamic cell-cell communication and emergent cellular behavior. In addition to research projects, participants will have the opportunity to contribute to a white paper aimed at shaping the direction of this developing research area.

The event will be held online, and will take place on February 25-26 & March 1-2, 5. —

Applicants must commit to participating for the entire duration of the Innovation Lab if selected as a meeting participant.

There will also be some required prework and light background reading/viewing.

The Challenge

The availability of large-scale high-resolution data could facilitate research to uncover basic biological principles underlying tissue function and dysfunction. Achieving the potential of single cell measurements to understand dynamic and context dependent behavior will necessitate computational approaches to identify a tractable set of physiologically realistic testable hypotheses, integration of single-cell data modalities, and experimental systems to test these hypotheses. Important approaches to improve understanding and prediction of emergent cellular behavior could include in vitro models capable of recapitulating in vivo tumor behavior and tumor-stromal interactions, agent-based or ODE models of tumor cell interactions, and developmental frameworks applied to the tumor microenvironment. Collaborations between researchers in diverse biological fields and quantitative scientists (e.g. mathematicians, computer scientists, and engineers) with relevant expertise could lead to better approaches to interrogate and predict emergent cellular behavior using available data and new experimental systems.

The Lab

This Innovation Lab will bring together PI-level cancer researchers and clinician scientists, cell and developmental biologists, systems biologists, evolutionary biologists, engineers, physical scientists, and computer scientists interested in forming new collaborations and developing innovative approaches to address challenges associated with studying emergent population behavior in cancer using single-cell resolution measurements.

At the Lab, interdisciplinary teams will work together to ideate and develop a roadmap for how to tackle selected challenges in this field. Through the course of the five days, teams will form, pitch and refine plans (based on input from mentors and other participants) for interdisciplinary pilot projects that advance scientific questions related to dynamic cell-cell communication and emergent cellular behaviors. Participants and mentors will also have the opportunity to contribute to a white paper aimed at shaping the direction of this developing research area.

Who Should Apply

We encourage researchers and clinicians at the PI-level with diverse expertise across the continuum of cancer research, cell and developmental biology, systems biology, engineering, physical science, and computer science to consider how your experience could help to fundamentally transform our understanding of how emergent cellular behaviors contribute to tissue organization and tumor formation.

Irrespective of expertise, we are most interested in new, innovative ideas and original thinking that arise from new collaborations between people of diverse backgrounds and varying experience.

Approximately 30 applicants will be selected to participate in the Innovation Lab on the basis of the interests, expertise, and other characteristics solicited in the application. Most participants are expected to be academic faculty, from early career to senior investigators. Original thinkers from outside academia (e.g., industry) are also encouraged to apply. When selecting participants, consideration will be given to balance across a range of diverse disciplinary experience and expertise. All participants should be willing to engage in frank disclosure and assessment of ideas in a collegial and professional fashion. To facilitate open sharing, all meeting discussions will be considered a private communication and not to be shared outside of the meeting, unless approved by the contributor. Innovation Lab mentors, in consultation with the NIH Staff, will review applications and select the final list of participants. All research-related application information will be kept confidential. At this time there is no pilot funding associated with this Innovation Lab, but opportunities for submission of project proposals across NIH and federal agencies will be highlighted during the workshop.

Meeting Outcomes

The meeting has a dual purpose. First, new collaborative teams will form around promising research ideas and iteratively develop the concepts into realizable research projects. We encourage teams to develop applications for NIH funding opportunities and NIH staff are available to assist with identifying appropriate opportunities. Second, the Innovation Lab will provide an ideal setting for rapid generation of a Perspectives manuscript to aid in setting the direction of this developing area of cancer research.

Why and How to Apply

If you want to go beyond the cataloging of cell types within the tumor ecosystem to understand how emergent behavior are informed by single-cell level interactions, would like to explore critical cancer questions that can be solved using a systems-level viewpoint, and you want to participate in a stimulating and open exchange with a diverse, multidisciplinary range of researchers, we invite you to submit an application. If applying, please be prepared to answer questions about yourself, your work experience, your research focus, and why you are interested in and qualified for the Innovation Lab. Applications will be reviewed internally by the Innovation Lab mentors and NIH staff research-related information will be kept confidential.

Application Deadline: Friday, December 11th 2020 (Midnight Pacific Time)

If you have questions or need additional information, please email our organizing team at

Apply Here >>