The Paul G. Allen Frontiers Group has announced 23 new Allen Distinguished Investigators who will share in $15.5 million in research funding that supports cutting-edge projects in mammalian synthetic biology, the neuroscience of under-studied animals, and tiny proteins involved in immunity. Hunter College of the City University of New York’s Mandë Holford, PhD, an associate professor of chemistry, is one of those selected and the first CUNY faculty to be named an Allen Distinguished Investigator by the Frontiers Group.
Dr. Holford will work with The Rockefeller University’s Li Zhao, PhD, on a project to better understand how immune genes that code for tiny proteins known as micropeptides arise in evolution. Building on their combined interests in evolutionary novelty and molecular innovation, the team will focus on a new research question in which they examine evolutionarily new immune-related micropeptides to better understand how they function in the immune system and how they evolved. This timely project combines Drs. Holford’s and Zhao’s expertise in chemistry, molecular biology, and evolution to characterize these largely unknown micropeptides.
This year’s researchers are the largest single cohort of Allen Distinguished Investigators announced since the program’s inception. The funding is from the Paul G. Allen Family Foundation, as recommended by the Frontiers Group, to support cutting-edge, early-stage research projects that promise to advance the fields of biology and medicine. The Frontiers Group looks for emerging fields where an investment could be catalytic to advance scientific progress — not just for awardees, but for all in that particular field.
“We are so pleased to see Mandë Holford recognized for her creative and cutting-edge research,” said Hunter College President Jennifer J. Raab. “Her innovative work at Hunter truly benefits students and faculty who have the opportunity to work and learn from her and the results of her research benefit all of us.”
The Allen Distinguished Investigator program was launched in 2010 by the late philanthropist Paul G. Allen to back creative, early-stage research projects in biology and medical research that would not otherwise be supported by traditional research funding programs. Including the new awards, a total of 105 Allen Distinguished Investigators have been appointed during the past 11 years. Each award spans three years of research funding.