Allen Institute Launches $125 Million Immunology Division

Allen Institute Launches $125 Million Immunology Division

The Seattle-based Allen Institute has announced a $125 million commitment from founder Paul G. Allen, who died in October, to launch a division dedicated to studying the human immune system.

The commitment will establish the Allen Institute for Immunology with the aim of improving human immune health and laying the groundwork for better approaches to the diagnosis, treatment, and prevention of immune-related diseases. In its startup phase, the institute will focus on studies of two cancers — multiple myeloma and melanoma — and three autoimmune disorders — rheumatoid arthritis, ulcerative colitis, and Crohn's disease. Researchers also will investigate the immune systems of healthy volunteers with the goal of better understanding what makes a "normal" immune baseline and how to help patients get back to that healthy state.

The new institute will build on the model of large-scale team science established by the Allen Institute's two other research divisions, the Allen Institute for Brain Science and the Allen Institute for Cell Science. In partnership with five leading research organizations — the Benaroya Research Institute at Virginia Mason, the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, the University of California-San Diego, the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus, and the University of Pennsylvania — the institute will work directly with samples and data from patients and healthy volunteers and make that data openly available online to anyone in the scientific community.

Thomas F. Bumol, executive director of the new institute, worked at Lilly Research Laboratories for more than thirty-five years, most recently as senior vice president of its biotechnology and immunology research component and as head of the company's biotechnology center in San Diego.

"By unraveling the mysteries of the dynamic immune system in healthy individuals and focusing the same cutting-edge tools on patients in various disease states, we believe we will find new ways to diagnose and ultimately treat disease," said Bumol. "We are looking at problems that have large unmet needs. Patients are not only suffering from these immune-based illnesses, patients are dying from some of these disorders, and we would like to change that."