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Allen Frontiers Group awards $10M to set up research center for neuroimmunology

David Artis and Brian Kim
Weill Cornell Medicine’s David Artis and Mount Sinai’s Brian Kim will lead the Allen Discovery for Neuroimmune Interactions. (Photos via Weill Cornell Medicine and Mount Sinai)

The Paul G. Allen Frontiers Group, a division of the Seattle-based Allen Institute, is launching a research center in New York to focus on interactions between the nervous system and the immune system.

The Allen Discovery Center for Neuroimmune Interactions, headquartered at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, will receive $10 million over the course of four years from the Paul G. Allen Family Foundation, with a total potential for $20 million over eight years.

The award is the result of an open call for research proposals exploring fundamental questions at the intersection of neuroscience and immunology. It’s the latest open-science initiative celebrating the legacy of Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen, who died five years ago at the age of 65 from complications of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. Several other Allen Discovery Centers have been created over the years to focus on fields including human brain evolution and cell lineages.

“Understanding of the complex crosstalk that occurs between peripheral nervous and immune systems will provide this emerging field with an exciting opportunity to change the way we think about physiology at this dynamic interface, both in health and disease,” Kathy Richmond, who is executive vice president and director of the Frontiers Group and the Office of Science and Innovation at the Allen Institute, said today in a news release.

The neuroimmunology research center will be led by Brian Kim of Mount Sinai and David Artis of Weill Cornell Medicine. They’ll bring together a multidisciplinary team to trace interactions between the nervous system and the immune system that occur at sites distant from the brain — for example, at the skin, lung and gut surfaces — and analyze how those interactions relay sensations back to the brain and regulate organ physiology and immune responses.

Kim said the center’s goal will be “to exponentially accelerate the frontier of neuroimmunology by bringing together the pioneers who helped shape the emerging field.”

Artis said the team will include researchers from Mount Sinai, New York University, Weill Cornell Medicine and Yale. The effort represents “a tremendous opportunity to leverage cutting-edge technologies to provide new insights into how the nervous and immune systems communicate with each other to regulate immunity, inflammation and tissue homeostasis,” he said.

If the center lives up to its promise, the resulting research could “transform numerous fields of biology and medicine, including allergy, autoimmunity, cancer, infection and metabolism,” Kim said.

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