Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen has pledged $100 million to establish a nonprofit research center in Seattle that will attempt to create a definitive map of the mouse brain, the Seattle Times reports.
The gift from Allen will be used to build the Allen Institute for Brain Science in the city's Fremont neighborhood. The Institute, which hopes to tap other donors and compete for government funding, will focus its work on creating what it calls the Allen Brain Atlas. By mapping cells from the mouse brain and making it publicly available to researchers around the world, the Institute's founders — a group that includes James Watson, co-discover of DNA; psychologist Steven Pinker; and brain researcher Marc Tessier- Lavigne — hope to spur further discoveries in the field of neuroscience.
"This is the neuroscience equivalent of the Human Genome Project," said Dr. Thomas Insel, director of the National Institute for Mental Health. "This is what we call in our business 'Big Science.' This would have gotten done eventually over twenty years, but [the commitment from Allen] greatly intensifies the focus and accelerates the pace of this knowledge into a few years."