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Microsoft Co-Founder Commits $100M to New Institute, Gene Expression Brain Atlas

NEW YORK, Sept. 16 (GenomeWeb News) - Investor, philanthropist, and Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen today committed $100 million in seed money to launch the nonprofit Allen Institute for Brain Science - a Seattle-based neuroscience research organization whose first project will be creating a map of the mammalian brain at the cellular level.

The so-called Allen Brain Atlas will present gene expression data within the context of brain circuitry and cell location. The project is expected to take approximately five years, with the first release of data scheduled for the first quarter of 2004.

"Over the last decade I have become increasingly interested in the fields of genomics and neuroscience, and their important role in human development, behavior, and health," Allen said in a statement.

The Atlas will be accessible in the public domain, Allen said. "[B]y collaborating with scientific experts around the world, we believe this is a historic opportunity to unite the genome and the brain - and use the data and technology to tackle the challenges of neurodevelopmental, neurodegenerative, and psychiatric disease."

The project will initially build a gene expression atlas of the brain of a mouse using publicly available mouse genome data, relying on comparative genomics to transfer findings about the mouse brain to human. Further information about the project is available here.

Mark Boguski, formerly senior vice president of R&D for Rosetta Inpharmatics, will lead the multidisciplinary team of researchers "recruited from both academia and industry" to carry out the Atlas project. Scientific advisors include David Anderson from the California Institute of Technology; Gregor Eichele from the Max Planck Institute; Richard Gibbs of Baylor College of Medicine; Steven Paul of Lilly Research Laboratories; Gregory Schuler from the National Center for Biotechnology Information; Joseph Takahashi of Northwestern University; Marc Tessier-Lavigne of Genentech; and Arthur Toga from the Laboratory of Neuro Imaging at UCLA. James Watson is also an advisor to the Allen Institute.

The institute said it plans to hire around 75 more scientists over the next few years.

In addition to Allen's investment, the Allen Institute for Brain Science is exploring "other sources of private and government funding" to support the Atlas project.