Penn Program in Single Cell Biology


Scientific Vision and Mission

The human body is comprised of an estimated 100 trillion cells, each differentiated from a single cell. But, the number of distinct cell types, the molecular basis of their function, and the aggregate functional role in a tissue or an organ are unknown. Mapping the cellular phenotype, like mapping the human genome, is the next frontier in understanding the cellular basis of organism function. A cellular foundation of organism function requires intimate quantitative knowledge of molecular components of single cells and the assembly of the constituent parts in the context of how they interact with one another. Such studies entail developing methods for single cell analysis including, 1) quantitative phenotypic characterization, 2) high throughput individual cell culturing and manipulation, and 3) quantitative model analysis of phenotype. Data generated from the activities of this program will provide insight into functional system development and maintenance while providing means for directed manipulation of cellular systems. At the heart of solving many grand challenges in biomedicine is the true integration of a systems level and synthetically driven manipulation of living cells, which will also be therapeutically relevant.

The mission of this program is to promote interdisciplinary collaboration in single cell analyses, while providing access to resources and technologies. In addition, the program seeks to develop new technologies that will have application in the understanding of single cell function.


The Penn Program in Single Cell Biology offers:

  • Workshops on multiple aspects of single cell biology techniques
  • Advice for investigators wishing to incorporate single cell biology into their research program
  • International single cell biology symposia, hosted at University of Pennsylvania

There is also a limited amount of funding for single cell analysis technology development or data generation.


  • James Eberwine, Co-Director
  • James Eberwine, the Elmer Holmes Bobst Professor of Pharmacology at the University of Pennsylvania Perelman School of Medicine, is a molecular neurobiologist whose research efforts focus on understanding the functioning of individual neurons and subregions of neurons, called dendrites, by using molecular biological tools. He has developed various analytical procedures that permit characterization of the mRNA and protein complement of single cells. Dr. Eberwine serves on various review and advisory committees and has served as a member of the Board of Scientific Counselors for the National Institute on Drug Abuse. Among several honors, he has received a MERIT award from the National Institutes of Health, a Pioneer Award from NIH Director's office and is the recipient of a EUREKA grant and Ellison Foundation Senior Scholar in Aging award.

  • Junhyong Kim, Co-Director
  • Junhyong Kim, the Edmund J. and Louise W. Kahn Term Endowed Professor of Biology at the University of Pennsylvania, is a theoretical biologist and genomicist who works at the interface of mathematical and computational biology and evolutionary biology with a focus on neuro-cell biology. He uses quantitative models and statistical analysis of genomic data to ask evolutionary biology questions. Foremost amongst his interests are "theory of structure" problems. Examples include: the mathematical structure of macro-evolution, the architecture of molecular control for cellular processes, and the ecological structure of individual cells in multicellular organisms.