The Paul G. Allen Family Foundation has announced a second round of grants awarded through its Allen Distinguished Investigators program.
Grants ranging from $1.4 million to $1.6 million will fund five cutting-edge research projects that aim to unlock fundamental questions in biology. Launched in 2010, the program enables scientists to pursue ambitious, creative research over three years.
The new cohort of Allen Distinguished Investigators will use their grants to advance research in the areas of cellular decision-making and modeling dynamic biological systems. The researchers include Suckjoon Jun, assistant professor of physics and molecular biology at the University of California-San Diego, who was awarded $1.6 million to develop a method to perform long-term directed evolution experiments at the single-cell level; Jeff Gore, assistant professor of physics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, who was awarded $1.5 million to use single-celled yeast to explore how ideas from game theory can provide insight into cellular decision-making; and a team of researchers from Yale University and the FOM Institute for Atomic and Molecular Physics that was awarded $1.44 million to combine approaches from microbiology, physics, and applied mathematics to the study of computational principles enabling even the simplest biological systems, such as bacteria, to engage in coordinated behavior while exploiting rather than suppressing individuality.
The foundation also awarded $1.5 million to Markus Covert, assistant professor of bioengineering at Stanford University, who is working to develop some of the most critical technological advances required to model cells of increasing complexity, including human cells; and $1.43 million to Hana El-Samad, assistant professor in the Department of Biochemistry and Biophysics at University of California-San Francisco's, to elucidate the algorithms cells use to compute and implement responses that enable them to survive and thrive in complex, ever-changing environments.
"I've always been drawn to the big open questions of science," said Microsoft co-founder Paul G. Allen, founder and board chair of the Allen Family Foundation. "But the pioneering scientists working to answer them can't promise quick discoveries and often find it difficult to get funding from traditional sources. For us to make progress, we must take risks and invest now in this early stage, cutting-edge research. Backing these scientists is essential to achieving world-changing breakthroughs."