The Allen Institute for Brain Science announced yesterday that Paul Allen would commit $300 million to their medical research nonprofit over the next ten years. The press release explains that this additional commitment has “charged the Institute with tackling some of the most fundamental and complex questions in brain science today.”
The press release explains this contribution will fund the first four years of a 10-year plan which will grow the size and scope of the institute. “The plan calls for a doubling of the Institute’s staff to launch three new and complementary scientific initiatives that address critical questions that are central to understanding how the brain works,” the institute explains.
The “critical questions” and barriers this funding will attack include the following:
- Learning how the brain stores, encodes, and processes information
- Identifying the “cellular building blocks that underlie all brain function, and are often targets of disease”
- Figuring out how those cells develop, and then form the circuits that dictate our “behavior, thought and brain dysfunction”
According to the chief executive officer of the institute, Allan Jones, PhD., Paul Allen’s contributions have allowed research advancements that wouldn’t have been possible any other way. Jones said the following about this financial contribution to the institute:
“This new funding enables us to apply our structured, industrial-scale approach to science to tackle increasingly complex questions about how the brain works—questions that must be answered if we are to understand and treat autism, Alzheimer’s disease, depression, traumatic brain injury and the myriad other brain-related diseases and disorders that affect all of us either directly or indirectly.”
The New York Times explains that Paul Allen is a co-founder of the software giant, Microsoft. This $300 million commitment to the institute brings his total brain science investment to $500 million. According to the article, Allen said his contributions to this research are both intellectually and personally motivated, as his mother has Alzheimer’s disease.
However, Allen is not the only technology industry representative to wade into the brain injury support arena recently. Last summer, an app called It’s Done! was released to assist those living with brain injuries. This program allows brain injury survivors who experience short-term memory loss to easily check off and verify which daily tasks they completed, such as locking the door, shutting off the oven, or taking medication.
This app, which is available for users of the iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch, represents another push towards recognizing and supporting those with a traumatic brain injury (TBI). Although breakthroughs in understanding the complexities of the human brain and its injuries are coming slowly, the growing awareness and support provided by major research efforts like the Allen Institute for Brain Science, as well as new technologies like It’s Done!, are moving things in the right direction.
As noted by a brain injury survivor on her blog, Beth’s Brain Injury Blog, “Although traumatic brain injury has been talked about for many years, not until fairly recently has the general public begun to understand that it is not the end of the road for the survivors and their families.”