Atlas impact story 3/3: Coalition of the willing

Series: the ATLAS Impact story (3 of 3)

With the Human Lung Cell ATLAS impact story, we aim to introduce different steps of the journey to showcase research impact. In the previous two posts, the input for the human lung cell atlas, the intended impact, some of the stakeholders involved and the outcome of the project, was discussed. In this post, the initialisation of the project and the output will be discussed.

Pioneers in single-cell biology

When Dr. Nawijn and his group started the atlas project, there was no money available; the atlas project consisted of a ‘coalition of the willing’: Dr. Nawijn had to invest his individual budget from the UMCG to go to meetings. He and his group were the first to produce data for the lungs using innovative single-cell biology, instead of classical methods, and were subsequently the first to publish a paper about it. Since they were the pioneers in the field, by using a novel method to obtain high quality data, they received funding for their research.

Use the impact cycle from the beginning in your research

The atlas is still in its initial phase, producing outputs in the form of papers. On the basis of these papers and subsequently the information collected in the atlas platform, previously described stakeholders such as the pharmaceutical industry will have  the information necessary to develop medicines or to identify biomarkers for diagnostics (outcome). By including this stakeholder in the project from the beginning, Nawijn and his team made sure that their outputs are seen by and provided to relevant stakeholders quickly.


There is still a long way to go to improving the quality of treatments for patients with lung diseases and eventually curing COPD and asthma, but this project is on the right track. Having a complete picture of the lungs and the cells within the lungs will contribute greatly in achieving this goal.