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March 22, 2012

Paul G. Allen commits $300 million for more Brain Science study

The Allen Institute for Brain Science announced today that, given its achievements to date, Paul G. Allen has committed an additional $300 million to the Institute to significantly expand its scientific programs. Bringing his total commitment to date to $500 million, Allen has charged the Institute with tackling some of the most fundamental and complex questions in brain science today. The answers to these questions are essential for achieving a complete understanding of how the brain works, what goes wrong in brain-related diseases and disorders, and how best to treat them. (H/T KurzweilAI)

Bolstered by new funding and new scientific talent, the Allen Institute for Brain Science is further pushing the frontiers of neuroscience with new initiatives and historic aims to accelerate understanding of the human brain in health and disease.

Allen's significant new contribution will support the first four years of an ambitious 10-year plan developed by the Allen Institute for Brain Science. The plan calls for a doubling of the Institute's staff to launch three new and complementary scientific initiatives that address critical questions that are central to understanding how the brain works:

* How does the brain store, encode and process information?
* What are the cellular building blocks that underlie all brain function, and are often targets of disease?
* How do those cells develop, and then create the circuits that drive behavior, thought and brain dysfunction?

These three complementary initiatives are designed to yield knowledge of fundamental principles governing brain function, publicly sharable data, and new tools and technologies that will further accelerate progress across the global research community.




Expansion

To support the new initiatives, the Allen Institute will expand significantly, with plans to double its current staff to more than 350 employees over the next four years. Hiring has begun across all three initiatives. These programs require a team of leading minds at all levels and from across different disciplines to cross-talk and pool their expertise, working toward common goals.

The Allen Institute has already begun to assemble a powerhouse of noted scientific leaders who will collaborate closely and drive creative discovery, innovation and productivity to achieve the goals of the new initiatives. Christof Koch, Ph.D., joined the Allen Institute from Caltech in 2011 as chief scientific officer. R. Clay Reid, M.D., Ph.D., from Harvard Medical School and Ricardo Dolmetsch, Ph.D., from Stanford University will start in the coming months.

They join the Allen Institute's senior scientific director of research and development, Hongkui Zeng, Ph.D., who oversees the Allen Mouse Brain Connectivity Atlas project and is already using the Allen Institute's existing public data sets to begin classifying different cell populations. Dr. Reid and Dr. Dolmetsch will contribute their respective expertise in neural coding and cell networks to a multidisciplinary conversation with Dr. Zeng and Dr. Koch, who is well known for integrating results from different neuroscientific disciplines to understand the complex computations and functions of the brain.

"The Allen Institute's groundbreaking approach—the way that it conducts 'big science' in an 'open science' fashion—has been a game changer in neuroscience," said Susumu Tonegawa, Ph.D., Nobel Laureate and director of the RIKEN-MIT Center for Neural Circuit Genetics. "From the accomplishment of the mouse and human brain atlases to this new work in the areas of neural coding and cell circuitry, the Allen Institute is making it possible for the world's scientists to carve inroads in understanding and treating human brain impairments that otherwise would be decades away."

Paul Allen launched the Allen Institute for Brain Science with a seed contribution of $100 million, and based on the successful completion and impact of the Allen Mouse Brain Atlas and other early initiatives, has since contributed an additional $100 million. The $300 million commitment announced today brings Allen's cumulative investment to $500 million, making it one of the largest philanthropic commitments ever to fund neuroscience research



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