December 4, 2020

The Niche

Knoepfler lab stem cell blog

Paul Allen Gives $100 Million for New Institute for Cell Science with Major Focus on Stem Cells

Allen Institute for Cell ScienceFor the worlds of biology and cell biology including the stem cell field more specifically, the holidays came early with some fantastic news.

Philanthropist and Microsoft co-Founder Paul Allen will give $100 million to form a new institute focused on cell biology in Seattle.

The Allen Institute for Cell Science has an ambitious mission dedicated to making transformative discovers about cells and stem cells will be a major area of focus.

The Director of the Allen Institute is Dr. Rick Horwitz, who was formerly at the University of Virginia where he did cutting edge working on cell biology including cell migration. Horwitz described the new Institute as being akin to a “Manhattan Project for cells”.

You can see Horwitz (on the right) pictured with Institute CEO Allan Jones from the Institute’s Facebook page.

Allen Institute for Cell Science

The Institute will reportedly launch with an inaugural project called the “Allen Cell Observatory” to create detailed visual models of cells, focusing at least in part on human induced pluripotent stem cells (IPSC). This observatory has been described as developing into a “Google Maps for cells”. It makes me think of an astronomical observatory probing the stars with telescopes, but instead in this case turning to microscopes and turning inward to probe the workings of cells. Very exciting.

See the official fact sheet on the new Institute here. It will start up in 2015 and eventually have about 70-75 scientists all studying cells. If you potentially want to be part of that team you can contact them here to express your interest.

Allen has a long track record of supporting science including via the Allen Institute for Brain Science. Given my own experience with cancer, I find it notable that he also knows what it is like to be a cancer patient too as he battled lymphoma two times.

From a Forbes piece on the new Institute:

“Cell institute director Horwitz said Allen realized after quizzing biologists there were no good predictive models for the behavior of cells. “He’s a quantitative guy,” he said, and Allen had the insight to realize that understanding cells might provide a new route to understanding cancer.

But the biologists say the cell research could impact any number of diseases. As Allen Institute CEO Allan Jones puts it, “Cells are a battleground for every disease known to humankind.”

Part of what is so cool about the Allen Institute for Cell Science is its focus on determining in great detail the inner workings of cells and building models to explain how cells work. It’s a relatively unique and ambitious goal.

I can’t wait to see what they find.

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