The new Allen Institute for Immunology will benefit Allen's hometown and people around the world, by helping researchers better understand the immune system and develop new disease treatments.
Paul Allen continues to give gifts benefiting Seattle and the rest of the world.
Last week, two months after the Microsoft co-founder’s death from cancer, the Allen Institute for Immunology was launched in Seattle’s South Lake Union neighborhood. This expands what’s already a strong cluster of biomedical research expertise in Seattle.
The institute’s mission is to increase understanding of how healthy immune systems work and of system failures that enable disease to occur. Like Allen’s institutes for brain and cell science, it will produce a knowledge base that will be shared with researchers, helping them diagnose and develop treatments for immune-related diseases.
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The Allen Institute for Immunology will work in partnership with the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, Benaroya Research Institute at Virginia Mason and the universities of Pennsylvania, Colorado and California San Diego. They’ll draw on medical information provided by research subjects, including healthy ones and people suffering from cancer, rheumatoid arthritis and inflammatory bowel disease.
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The field is poised for such an undertaking, according to Leroy Hood, a pioneer in genomics and systems biology.
“I think it’s exactly the right time,” said Hood, who was lured to Seattle by Allen’s friend and Microsoft co-founder, Bill Gates, in the early 1990s.
Allen was working to launch this institute before he died of complications from non-Hodgkin lymphoma at age 65. He provided $125 million for the institute’s launch and first five years of operation. It will include 60 to 70 workers at the Allen Institute building along Mercer Street in Seattle.
That’s likely just the beginning.
“Paul always said the institute is going to be around for a long, long time, so there will be lots of interesting things to come,” said Allan Jones, president and chief executive officer of the Allen Institute.
Jones noted that the first Allen research institute, for brain science, started 15 years ago with $100 million. That’s grown to more than $600 million since, and the overall institute now has multiple specialty divisions.
Over the last two years Allen also broadened the reach of the institute, establishing “discovery centers” at Stanford University, Tufts University, Harvard Medical School and UW Medicine. He also created the Paul G. Allen Frontiers Group, which funds pioneering bioscience researchers elsewhere in the world.
“The big investments, where we build these foundational tools, we share them with everybody, that’s all Seattle based and goes out to the world,” Jones explained. “And then we have the frontiers group, which funds out in the world, to bring ideas back.”
Put another way, Seattle benefits as Allen’s intentions continue to fund research that benefits mankind. What a wonderful legacy.