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Allen Institute for Brain Science Awarded $100M in NIH Grants for Brain Cell Atlas Projects

NEW YORK (GenomeWeb) –  The Allen Institute for Brain Science announced today that it has been awarded nearly $100 million in funding from the National Institutes of Health to help build comprehensive atlases of brain cell types.

The funding is being awarded in the form of three five-year grants under the auspices of the NIH's BRAIN Initiative Cell Census Network (BICCN), which aims to establish reference cell atlases of the brain by supporting collaborations that will create resources to be shared throughout the research community, the Allen Institute for Brain Science said.

The first grant is worth $65.5 million and will support the creation of a comprehensive atlas of cell types in the whole mouse brain. Allen Institute for Brain Science researchers will conduct a large-scale single-cell gene expression analysis across the entire mouse brain, and sample neuronal shape and connectivity in a wide range of brain areas. They also plan to analyze the correspondence of molecular, anatomical, and functional properties in the same cells, as well as generate a census of the number and location of different cell types.

The second grant, worth $19.4 million, will be used to create a multimodal atlas of human brain cell types, beginning with a gene expression survey of single cells in the brain and spinal cord, plus analyses of samples from the cortex and hippocampus. Researchers will also analyze human neurosurgical and postmortem tissue samples, and characterize the spatial distribution and relative proportions of cells expressing different sets of genes. This grant will also fund the formation of an international consortium that will classify live human cells based on shape, physiology, and connective properties, and correlate these properties to gene expression data.

The final grant, worth $14.5 million, will allow the Allen Institute to work with external collaborators to develop and house the BRAIN Cell Data Center — a resource for sharing single-cell brain data, tools, and knowledge generated by BICCN partners.

"We are enormously honored to receive these grants and to be the hub for these ambitious collaborative consortia that will build upon our pursuit of cataloging the cellular building blocks of the brain," Allen Institute for Brain Science President and Chief Scientist Christof Koch said in a statement.