Allen Institute for Brain Science

Allen Institute for Brain Science
Formation 2003
Founders Paul Allen, Jody Allen
Type Independent, nonprofit medical research organization
(IRS exemption status): 501(c)(3)
Purpose Neuroscience, Brain Research, Biology, Technology
Headquarters Seattle, Washington, United States
Area served
Key people
Paul Allen, Founder
Jody Allen, Founder,
Allan Jones, Ph.D., CEO
Christof Koch, Ph.D., President and Chief Scientific Officer
Website Allen Institute for Brain Science

The Allen Institute for Brain Science is a Seattle-based independent, nonprofit medical research organization dedicated to accelerating the understanding of how the human brain works. The Allen Institute promotes the advance of brain research by providing free data and tools to scientists worldwide with the aim of catalyzing discovery in disparate research programs and disease areas.

Started with $100 million in seed money from Microsoft co-founder and philanthropist Paul Allen in 2003, the Institute tackles projects at the leading edge of science—far-reaching projects at the intersection of biology and technology. The resulting data create free, publicly available resources that fuel discovery for countless researchers.[1]

Online public resources

The Allen Institute for Brain Science provides researchers and educators with a variety of unique online public resources for exploring the nervous system.[2] Integrating extensive gene expression data and neuroanatomy, complete with sophisticated data search and viewing tools, these resources are all openly accessible via the Allen Brain Atlas data portal.

Allen Mouse Brain Atlas

The inaugural project of the Allen Institute was announced on September 26, 2006.[3] Named the Allen Brain Atlas, it was a web-based, three-dimensional map of gene expression in the mouse brain detailing more than 21,000 genes at the cellular level.

Since the project’s launch, it has been renamed the Allen Mouse Brain Atlas to distinguish it from subsequent Atlas projects.

Allen Spinal Cord Atlas

On 17 July 2008, the Allen Institute for Brain Science launched the online “Allen Spinal Cord Atlas.[4] The spinal cord atlas is an interactive, genome-wide map showing where each gene is expressed, or "turned on", throughout the mouse spinal cord. It is set up like the Allen Institute's earlier atlas of the adult mouse brain.[5] The map could help reveal new treatments for human neurological disorders. The map points researchers toward places where genes are active[6][7][8]

The Allen Spinal Cord Atlas led to the discovery of a new class of cells in the spinal cord that behave like stem cells, according to researchers at the University of British Columbia. Jane Roskams, the neuroscientist who led the study, said that, “By using the Allen Spinal Cord Atlas, we were able to discover a brand new cell type that has previously been overlooked and that could be an important player in all manner of spinal cord injury and disease, including multiple sclerosis and ALS.”[9]

Allen Developing Mouse Brain Atlas

On November 14, 2008, the Allen Institute for Brain Science announced the launch of the Allen Developing Mouse Brain Atlas, providing a highly detailed map of gene activity in the mouse brain at several time points across development,[10] including four embryonic ages, three postnatal, and aging time points.[11] The in situ hybridization data is accompanied by a set of reference atlases drawn by neuroanatomist Luis Puelles.

Allen Human Brain Atlas

On May 24, 2010, the Allen Institute announced it was expanding its tools from the mouse into the human brain with the launch of the Allen Human Brain Atlas.[12] This highly comprehensive atlas integrates several different kinds of data, including data collected by magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), diffusion tensor technology (DTI), as well as histology and gene expression data derived from both microarray and in situ hybridization (ISH) approaches.[13]

The Allen Human Brain Atlas allows researchers to see where a gene is turned on. “The location of where these genes are active is at the very center of understanding how brain diseases work,” neurologist Jeffrey L. Noebels told the Wall Street Journal in April 2011.[14]

The Allen Human Brain Atlas was profiled in the journal Nature on September 19, 2012.[15]

Allen Mouse Brain Connectivity Atlas

The Allen Mouse Brain Connectivity Atlas was launched online on November 3, 2011, and moved the Allen Institute’s mapping efforts beyond its historical focus on gene expression toward neural circuitry. The atlas is a three-dimensional, high-resolution map of neural connections throughout the mouse brain, designed to help scientists understand how the brain is wired, offering new insights into how the brain works and what goes awry in brain diseases and disorders.[16]

Allen Cell Type Database

Launched in 2015, the Allen Cell Types Database is a new tool to help scientists understand the building blocks of the brain and a major step toward creating a comprehensive map of the brain. The database will help create a common language for researchers around the world to use in observing, measuring and ultimately sorting cells into types much like the periodic table sorts different chemicals elements. The first release of data includes information on more than 240 cells in the mouse brain. Future releases will contain genetic profiles of each individual cell and will also include information on human cells.[17]

Other online resources

In addition to the Atlas resources, the Allen Institute has generated several other online research tools, including:



The Allen Institute for Brain Science was launched in 2003 with seed funding from founder and philanthropist Paul Allen and is supported by a diversity of public and private funds. The Institute employs a unique business model, marrying the operational agility and accountability of a for-profit enterprise with the founding vision to take on ambitious, unprecedented projects at the leading edge of neuroscience.

In 2012, the institute received an additional pledge of $300 million from Paul Allen, bringing his total commitment to date to $500 million.[20]

Pivot Art + Culture

In July 2015, it was announced that Pivot Art + Culture, a new nonprofit arts institution would be located inside the new Allen Institute building.[21] This new art space will be open to the public with a mission to curate a variety of arts installations, programming and exhibitions. The two-room gallery will feature work from private and public collections as well as pieces from Paul Allen's collection.


  2. "Open Science Resources". Allen Institute for Brain Science. Retrieved 11 January 2015.
  3. "Allen Institute for Brain Science completes brain atlas" (Press release). Allen Institute for Brain Science. 26 September 2006.
  5. "Institute unveils full atlas of mouse brain". Science. 26 September 2006.
  6. "Gene Search :: Spinal Cord". Retrieved 2012-09-25.
  7. "Gene map charts spinal cord mysteries - Health - Health care - More health news | NBC News". MSNBC. 2008-07-17. Retrieved 2012-09-25.
  8. "MapQuest For The Mouse Spinal Cord". Science News. Retrieved 2012-09-25.
  9. Science Daily, "New class of stem cell-like cells discovered offers possibility for spinal cord repair"
  10., "Allen Institute for Brain Science launches new atlas resource and enhances others with new data and tools"
  11. Thompson CL, Ng, L, et. al. (2014) A high-resolution spatiotemporal atlas of gene expression of the developing mouse brain. Neuron 83(2):309-23.
  12., "Allen Institute for Brain Science launches Allen Human Brain Atlas with first data set charting genes at work in the adult human brain"
  13., "Allen Institute for Brain Science announces first comprehensive gene map of the human brain"
  14. Wall Street Journal, "Atlas Gives Scientists New View of the Brain"
  15. Nature, "An anatomically comprehensive atlas of the adult human brain transcriptome"
  16., "Allen Institute for Brain Science launches new brain atlas and updates four others with new data and tools"
  19., "Public data release from Allen Institute for Brain Science enhances Allen Brain Atlas resources"

External links

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Coordinates: 47°39′00″N 122°21′09″W / 47.650114°N 122.352457°W / 47.650114; -122.352457

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