A tribute to our founder, Paul G. Allen

A tribute to our founder, Paul G. Allen

What I would say to Paul is, I’m grateful
for how genuine he was. How genuine he was in his objections to things, his enthusiasm for things and his basic optimism that
resulted in all this great work. The positive results of his commitment to science are going to be felt more and more over the next few years. And it is just sad that he won’t be here
to have witnessed that. I think in bioscience Paul’s legacy will be that he enabled us to embrace the complexity of biology… and not to be fearful of it, and actually
harness that complexity to gain insight… into what’s actually going on in both
health and disease and to see if we can use those mechanistic insights to advance new therapies. Having this individual generate a foundation that is wanting people to go out of their comfort zone to do something different, to really tackle big problems from a different — in a different way. I think it’s amazing and we have far too little of it nowadays in science. We are too conservative in the way of funding science and I think his legacy is going
to be a source for very long time. I think that legacy is just starting to be written. You know, I think he’s created these remarkable Institute’s and a culture around doing high-risk, transformative science. There may be things that we can point to that say… “This happened because of the Allen Institute, this happen because of Paul Allen’s vision.” But I think by creating a culture where the highest-risk, most important science is valued… that can have ramifications that are very hard to measure… as directly from him and his vision, but nonetheless may be the most important consequences. It was just visionary the way that he thought about… “What does the field need to move it forward?” And instead of picking these tiny little problems he picked a big problem that sort of helped everybody. As a neuroscientist, the Allen Brain Atlas
has been transformational. Everybody I know uses that brain atlas. If I think into the Middle Ages and how people were thinking about the New World… and there were no maps, and kind of, “What is the extent of this world that we live in?” I view him as a person who viewed biological science and medicine in that way. How can we look beyond the territories that we now see? How can we move forward? How can we create a cartography or a kind of structure that can help us understand what we can’t even imagine? Two things stand out for me. One is generosity, the idea that you would build and do research and immediately make it available to everybody else, in a format that’s user-friendly. That concept, I think, is catching on and other people are seeing it. It’s not just doing your work and you know getting the results and somehow putting them out there in a complicated way. It’s making them available to the community. I think that’s going to be a big part of what we consider to be the most important things that are resolved from this Institute. Paul has completely changed my life and my career. So, I think there’s the support, obviously… the generous philanthropy… and then there’s the support of feeling like… you’ve just been pushed onto, let’s say the football field — just for a good analogy. You’ve been pushed out on the football field and someone’s like, “Here — we’re giving you the ball, right, we want to see great things.” So, I think that’s, I mean — it’s meant the world, really. If it’s worth doing it should be done, it
should be done well. And to be done and done well, it has to be supported at a sufficiently high level. And I think that’s this kind of uncompromising attitude to discover, right? If it’s worth doing, you know, just go for it. And here’s the resource to do that. And that, you know — if we could multiply
by ten that vision of Paul and have, you know, ten [or] one hundred others think the same way and do the same thing… then the rate of discovery will be accelerated by orders of magnitude. It’s really critical, I think, now more than ever… to actually believe in human ingenuity, which I do… and all it can do, and to fund that. And to fund disciplined risk-takers that are willing to take on these challenges and say… “You know what? It is possible, right. Nothing is possible until it is.” And I think he showed that in his life. And I think science and knowledge have the potential to really continue to change things. We’re nowhere near the end of our trajectory… but it needs people who have done it… to fund, to believe it and to say… “Why not?”

Comments (2)

  1. Very nice tribute! I hope his work can continue for many years to come!


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