Established in 2010, the program awards grants of $1.5 million over three years to innovative early-stage research projects in biology and medical research that might not otherwise be supported by traditional research funding programs. This year, five projects received funding, including investigations focused on the nucleus, the largest organelle in our cells, and the information center that houses our genome, and two projects that are continuations of 2019 awards, one in human stem cell biology and the other in single-cell technology development.
The 2020 Allen Distinguished Investigators include Megan King (Yale School of Medicine) and Simon Mochrie (Yale University), who are studying the physical and molecular forces that maintain the correct size of the nucleus; Nikolai Slavov (Northeastern University), who is investigating the changes over time in hundreds of different proteins across human cells that ultimately could lead to therapies to treat diseases like cancer or Alzheimer's disease; Daniel Starr and GW Gant Luxton (University of California, Davis), who are studying a protein complex known as LINC, whose role is to physically connect the nucleus to the cell's interior scaffolding system; Gene Yeo (University of California, San Diego), whose work is focused on the earliest developmental changes caused by mutations in human stem cells and brain organoids, tiny clusters of lab-grown brain tissue that bear genetic mutations linked to certain forms of ALS or muscular dystrophy; and Katharine Ullman (Huntsman Cancer Institute at the University of Utah) and Maho Niwa (UC San Diego), who are examining the interactions between the nucleus and the endoplasmic reticulum, a neighboring organelle.
"All eight of these researchers are doing pioneering, outside-the-box research that likely wouldn't be funded by traditional means but could have incredible implications for their fields," said Frontiers Group director Kathy Richmond. "Our new Allen Distinguished Investigators studying nuclear biology will further our knowledge of the inner workings of the cell, and we're also delighted to expand last year's cohorts to support additional stellar research ideas."
(Image credit: Allen Institute)