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Allen Frontiers Group Awards $13.5M for Research on Cancer, Cells, Aging and Brains

By November 5, 2018November 7th, 2018No Comments

It’s notable that the newest class of Allen Distinguished Investigators, announced today by the Paul G. Allen Frontiers Group, includes researchers who are developing new treatments for lymphoma. Lymphoma is the type of blood cancer that led to the death of Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen, the namesake and funder of the research program.

The decision to focus on that disease — along with nuclear biophysics, neuroimmunology, brain cells and Alzheimer’s disease, and cellular development and aging — was made last year, long before the billionaire philanthropist was diagnosed with a recurrence of his non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. Nevertheless, the choice is in line with Allen’s willingness to tackle the toughest challenges in bioscience.

The Allen Frontiers Group, a division of the Seattle-based Allen Institute, was created in 2016 with an initial investment of $100 million to fund research that could lead to biomedical breakthroughs.

“Paul’s vision and insight have been an inspiration to me and to many others, both here at the Institute that bears his name and in the myriad of other areas that made up the fantastic universe of his interests. He will be sorely missed,” Allan Jones, president and CEO of the Allen Institute, said in a news release. “We honor his legacy by carrying out our mission of tackling the hard problems in bioscience, as evidenced by these new Allen Distinguished Investigator awards.”

The awards have been given annually starting in 2010, well before the Allen Frontiers Group came into the picture. They’re designed to support early-stage research that’s unlikely to receive support from traditional funding sources but has the potential to produce significant advances in biology.

The researchers in this year’s class brings the total number of Allen Distinguished Investigators to 69. The full roster reads like a who’s who of bioscience, including gene-editing pioneers Jennifer Doudna and Feng Zhang as well as evolutionary geneticists Svante Pääbo and Evan Eichler.

Each of the nine awards given out this year is worth $1.5 million, amounting to a total of $13.5 million. One of the awards is being shared by two researchers, rounding out a class of 10.

Kathy Richmond, director of the Frontiers Group, said Allen “was keenly interested in the work of these 10 exemplary researchers and their potential to push the boundaries of knowledge.”

“Our new investigators all think outside the box to tackle big challenges and find new insights about disease and health,” she said. “Each of them is poised to ‘move the needle’ and drive their fields forward.”