Big3Bio congratulates those awarded by Allen’s program

SAN FRANCISCO, CA – March 23, 2016 – With an initial commitment of $100 million, philanthropist and entrepreneur Paul G. Allen has created The Paul G. Allen Frontiers Group, whose purpose will be to “explore the landscape of bioscience and fund ideas at the frontier of knowledge to advance science and make the world better.”

The Greater Boston, San Diego, and the San Francisco Bay Area (the “Big 3′ regions) play a major part in the Frontiers Group’s foundation: The first cohort of funded projects have been awarded to four new “Allen Distinguished Investigators” (ADI), three of which are from Big3Bio regions, and two Big3Bio-area universities, Stanford and Tufts, are working in partnership as “Allen Discovery Centers.”

From the press release about the Centers:

Allen Discovery Centers

Allen Discovery Centers are a new type of center for leadership-driven, compass-guided research in partnership with major research organizations and universities. The Frontiers Group will typically provide $20 million over eight years with $10 million in partner leverage, for a total scope of $30 million each. The new Allen Discovery Centers are:

  • Stanford, “Multiscale, Systems Modeling of Macrophage Infection,” led by Markus Covert, Ph.D.
    Creating multiscale computer models that span from the inner workings of cells to the interactions between thousands of cells is a grand challenge of systems biology, and successful models are poised to have tremendous impact for researchers who study disease. The Allen Discovery Center at Stanford University will combine the expertise of computational modelers, bioengineers and bioscientists to create new models that comprehensively represent large systems of whole cells, as well as their dynamic environments and interactions. Researchers will begin by focusing on Salmonella infection of immune cells called macrophages: a system that provides insight not just into how bacteria interact with the immune system, but how drug resistance in populations of bacteria first arises. The team includes researchers at Stanford University and the University of Virginia, as well as former Google software engineers.
  • Tufts, “Reading and Writing the Morphogenetic Code,” led by Michael Levin, Ph.D.
    Understanding how complex organ systems are created and repaired requires investigating the algorithms and computations performed by cell networks during pattern regulation. The Allen Discovery Center at Tufts University will seek to read, interpret and manipulate the biological code that determines anatomical structure and function during embryogenesis, regeneration and tumor suppression. A unique focus area is the processing of instructive patterning information via bioelectric signaling among cells. This work holds the potential to transform the fields of biology and medicine, as well as make crucial links in evolutionary theory and cancer biology by bridging the gap between molecular details and the larger-scale control of biological systems. The team includes researchers at Tufts University, Harvard University, Princeton University and others.”

More about the Big3Bio-area ADIs:

Allen Distinguished Investigators

The Allen Distinguished Investigator (ADI) program supports early-stage research with the potential to reinvent entire fields. Allen Distinguished Investigators are passionate thought leaders, explorers and innovators who seek world-changing breakthroughs. With grants typically between $1 million and $1.5 million each, the Frontiers Group provides these scientists with support to produce new directions in their respective fields. The new ADI recipients are:

  • Ethan Bier, Ph.D., University of California, San Diego ($1.5 million)
    “Biological Innovation and Active Genetics”
    A major unsolved mystery in evolutionary developmental biology is how biological innovation happens: where do new body forms come from? Using pioneering technology known as active genetics to produce large genetic modifications, Bier will seek to uncover the design principles used in evolution to make large-scale physical changes across species. The practical applications of this work promise to guide novel synthetic biology designs that could revolutionize medicine, agriculture and care of the environment.
  • James J. Collins, Ph.D., Massachusetts Institute of Technology ($1.5 million)
    “Synthetic Biology Approaches to Antimicrobial Resistance”
    The rise of antibiotic resistance has become a public health crisis. Collins will use principles of synthetic biology to engineer safe, frequently consumed bacteria to detect and kill dangerous bacteria such as those that cause MRSA infections, the most frequently identified drug-resistant pathogen in United States hospitals. His novel strategy of rapidly re-designing beneficial changes in bacterial genomes could usher in a new era of design-based medicine. This frontier research will also enable scientists to understand the root causes of antibiotic resistance and the mechanisms by which traditional antibiotics work to target disease.
  • Jennifer Doudna, Ph.D., University of California, Berkeley ($1.5 million)
    “Antiviral Machinery and Cell Editing Platforms”
    Nature has likely evolved multiple methods of host defense, and many remain unknown. Building on her pioneering work to develop CRISPR-Cas9 gene editing technology, Doudna will look beyond the typically employed bacterial proteins to similar proteins in diverse organism and also seek out new RNA-targeting strategies. Early research shows that archaea, which can be found in extreme environments with high temperatures, have proteins similar to Cas9 but that may be capable of reaching areas of the genome currently inaccessible in CRISPR methods. Targeting RNA would offer a way to edit cell behaviors without targeting the genome directly, opening up a vast new frontier. This work has the potential to introduce novel gene editing technologies to fight human disease, improve agriculture, and promote environmental health.”

Big3Bio congratulates The Frontiers Group on its launch and the universities and investigators on being selected. For full press release, click here, and for more information about The Paul G. Allen Frontiers Group, click here.

Additional coverage:

  • Billionaire Paul Allen bets $100 million on risky scientific research (STAT)
  • CRISPR And Beyond: UCSD-Doudna Work Attracts Paul Allen’s Millions (Xconomy)
  • Paul Allen’s Plan To Pour $100M Into ‘Out-Of-The-Box’ Biotech Research (Forbes)


About BigBio Communications/Big3Bio
BigBio Communications is a global independent communications company and the publisher of Big3Bio, the leading aggregator service for the top three life science hubs in the world: Boston, San Diego, and the San Francisco Bay Area Bay Area. Big3Bio’s newsletters and additional channels provide complete, daily coverage of the news, events, jobs, and developments in these regions to the biotech industry’s top professionals and executives. More information is available at