Paul G. Allen Family Names New Allen Distinguished Investigators

The Paul G. Allen Family Foundation has announced a third round of grants through its Allen Distinguished Investigators program.

Three-year grants ranging from $1 million to $1.2 million will fund three teams of researchers working in the field of cellular biology. Launched in 2010, the program supports scientists who are pursuing high-risk, high-reward research with the potential to impact human understanding and push the boundaries of current knowledge.

The new cohort of Allen Distinguished Investigators will use their grants to advance research in the area of cell lineage, a field of study that seeks to understand the process of cell division, renewal and death, as well as how cells in a developing embryo diversify into many distinct cell types. By understanding more about the progression through which a cell type is formed, researchers hope to uncover processes that can cause cancer, autoimmune diseases, and neurodegenerative disorders.

The researchers include Neil Kelleher, the Walter and Mary Elizabeth Glass Professor in the Life Sciences at Northwestern University, who will focus on scanning and mapping how B-cells mature from their beginnings in our bone marrow to protecting us from infection; California Institute of Technology professors Michael Elowitz (biology, bioengineering, and applied physics) and Long Cai (chemistry), who are hope to develop a platform to extract lineage and molecular event histories from cells developing into tissues, particularly in the brain; and Jay Shendure and Marshall Horwitz, professors of genome sciences at the University of Washington School of Medicine, who are  pursuing a new approach for mapping  how a cell becomes one type or another.

"With the ADI program, we seek out scientists and ideas that are not proven or tested — but promise big impact. We look for the curious and the bold," said Allen Family Foundation co-founder and president Jody Allen. "This particular ADI focus on human cell lineage has the potential to unlock some of the most fundamental mysteries about human life and reveal deeper understanding in the field of science."

"New Grants for Groundbreaking Human Cell Lineage Research." Paul G. Allen Family Foundation Press Release 04/11/2014.