Having overcome early skepticism to create a successful brain research institute, Microsoft ($MSFT) co-founder Paul Allen has once again dipped into his personal fortune to advance science. The latest venture sees Allen, one of Fierce's 2013 Top 10 Biotech Techies, donate $100 million to create a cell science center with a heavy reliance on IT.
Induced pluripotent stem (iPS) cells are top of the agenda at the Allen Institute for Cell Science. The center will focus initially on creating computer models of how iPS cells develop into heart muscle and epithelial cells, the Washington Post reports. As the program advances and the institute moves toward its goal of hiring 70 people, the scope of the work will expand. The ultimate goal of the Seattle, WA-based institute is to build a visual database and predictive models for all cells.
Rick Horwitz, the cell biologist tasked with directing the institute, sees the work as complementary to earlier big science projects such as the Human Genome Project. "The genome is like the white pages and we're like Google maps," Horwitz told Forbes contributor F.D. Flam. While we now know certain genes are involved with cancer and other diseases, understanding of how these factors affect the development of cells has lagged behind. Allen's $100 million donation is intended to close the gap.
Knowledge of how cells develop could lead to new therapeutic targets. And models could predict how a cell's development may change when it is exposed to a drug or other stimulus. The institute will make such findings available to the public.
Special Report: Fierce's Top 10 Biotech Techies- 2013 - Paul Allen