Allen Institute for Immunology launches with $125 million from Paul Allen's estate

Allen Institute for Immunology launches with 125 million from Paul Allen's estate

Linda Sloate found out she had rheumatoid arthritis when she was 30-years-old, that was 38 years ago. It’s an often crippling autoimmune disease that can gnarl hands and feet -- that’s what happened to Linda.

“I raised three kids, barely was able to put on pins when they were babies and do their diapers or run across a soccer field," said Sloate.

Every three months, she goes to the Virginia Mason clinic for a blood draw so her doctor can monitor the medicine she is taking. But some of that blood goes to the Benoroya Research Institute. It may now end up at the brand new Paul Allen Institute for Immunology.

What the late Paul Allen did for brain science, he hopes to do for the human immune system – essentially mapping it out - so doctors can better diagnose, treat and prevent immune-related diseases like rheumoatorid arthritis.

“I’m very happy to participate in something like this," Sloate said.

The Allen Institute for Immunology launched on Wednesday with a commitment of $125 million by the billionaire philanthropist. In August, before he died, Allen made the commitment to fund the institute for at least five years.

“Paul Allen has always asked us to look at complex problems and to unravel that complexity,” said Dr. Thomas Bumol, the Institute’s new Executive Director.

The Institute will follow the models set by Allen’s two other research divisions, the Allen Institute for Brain Science and the Allen Institute for Cell Science.

Six organizations, including the Benaroya Research Institute, have the ability to supply samples from volunteers like Sloate, who will be working with the Institute. The samples can be tracked at the cellular level and categorized in what one scientist say is the “deep dive we’ve been waiting for”.

“The beauty of the immune system is we can sample it from the blood," Bumol said. “These are going to be repetitive studies where we can follow people over long periods of time.”

An Institute document says there are more than 80 different autoimmune diseases and more than 100 human cancers affecting tens of millions of people around the world.

The hope is researchers at the Institute can find the triggers that turn one’s immune system against the body. It’s something Sloate would like to have known 38 years ago when she was diagnosed.

“Being this R.A. is a genetic disease, I will probably be able to have this research done," Sloate said. “So they will be able to check on my grand kids and future grand kids”.

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