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Paul Allen Frontiers Group Awards $7.5M in Life Science Research Grants

NEW YORK (GenomeWeb) – The Paul G. Allen Frontiers Group today awarded five Allen Distinguished Investigator grants to researchers working on epigenetics, aging, and evolution.

Each award is for $1.5 million spread over three years, for a total of $7.5 million in funding.  One grant will support work by Fei Chen and Jason Buenrostro of the Broad Institute and Harvard University, respectively,  to develop methods to directly visualize the regulatory structure of the genome and sequence individual regulatory elements in cells.

Another grant, awarded to Jan Ellenberg and Ralf Jungmann of, respectively, the European Molecular Biology Laboratory and the Max Planck Institute and LMU Munich, will support development of a technique that uses barcoded fluorescent proteins to bind DNA sequences with specific epigenetic marks so that they can then be visualized at the single gene-level using super-resolution microscopy.

Meanwhile, grants were also awarded to Charles Gersbach of Duke University to work on technology to induce specific epigenetic states in a given cell type or tissue, which he plans to use to study epigenetic regulation in brain tissue; Steve Horvath of the University of California, Los Angeles, to refine a method his lab has developed to determine the age of human tissue by analyzing its epigenetic changes; and Rachel Whitaker of the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign to develop models of mobile genetic elements to better understand how these elements, which are involved in phenomena including bacterial antibiotic resistance, evolve within humans.

"Epigenetics, aging, and evolution are all fields with great impact on human health and wellbeing, but that currently face significant gaps in knowledge," Tom Skalak, executive director of the Frontiers Group said in a statement. "With these awards, we hope to make strides toward the kind of breakthrough insights that can change the direction of an entire area of research."

Founded in 2016 by Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen, the Frontiers group has committed $100 million to funding biological research. Last year, the organization announced its first four projects and provided them with $1.5 million grants.