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Allen Institute for Cell Science announces leadership changes

Ruwanthi (Ru) Gunawardane, Ph.D., has been named Executive Director.


3 min read

The Allen Institute headquarters located in Seattle, Washington.
The Allen Institute headquarters located in Seattle, Washington.

“I am confident that this leadership evolution, coupled with a new focus on biological discovery and dissemination, will set us all up for success over the coming years, sustaining the culture we have all created, opening opportunities for personal growth, fulfilling Paul Allen’s scientific vision, and enhancing our collective scientific impact,” said Horwitz.

The organizational changes in the Institute align with its new focus on programmatic science while still facilitating foundational resource generation. Other, equally important goals were to open up scientific and career growth opportunities at all levels throughout the Institute and to enhance the impact of the research.

“It’s an honor to lead such a talented team,” said Gunawardane. “I look forward a dynamic and productive year ahead for the Institute.”

Gunawardane joined the Allen Institute for Cell Science in 2015. She has served as Director of the Stem Cells and Gene Editing program as well as co-Deputy Director. Gunawardane came to the Institute from Amgen where she worked on assay development for multiple drug targets spanning oncology, inflammation, and cardiovascular diseases.

Rafelski is a quantitative cell biologist and has served as the Director of Assay Development at the Allen Institute for Cell Science since 2016 and more recently as its Co-Deputy Director. Prior to joining the Institute, Rafelski was an Assistant Professor in the Department of Developmental and Cell Biology, the Department of Biomedical Engineering, and the Center for Complex Biological Systems at UC Irvine.

Horwitz came to the Allen Institute in 2014 from the University of Virginia School of Medicine, where he was a University Professor, the Harrison Distinguished Professor of Cell Biology, Director of the Cell Migration Consortium, and Associate Vice President for Biosciences. He is a pioneer in the fields of cell adhesion and migration and has made important contributions to quantitative live cell imaging.

The Allen Institute for Cell Science launched in late 2014 with a contribution from the Institute’s founder, Paul G. Allen. The mission of the Institute is to create dynamic and multi-scale visual models of cell organization, dynamics and activities that capture experimental observation, theory and prediction to understand and predict cellular behavior in normal, regenerative, and pathological contexts. The Institute’s tools, data and resources have been used by scientists and educators worldwide and are available to the public on the Allen Cell Explorer:

About the Allen Institute

The Allen Institute is an independent, 501(c)(3) nonprofit medical research organization founded by philanthropist and visionary, the late Paul G. Allen. The Allen Institute is dedicated to answering some of the biggest questions in bioscience and accelerating research worldwide. The Institute is a recognized leader in large-scale research with a commitment to an open science model. Its research institutes include the Allen Institute for Brain Science, launched in 2003, the Allen Institute for Cell Science, launched in 2014, and the Allen Institute for Immunology, launched in 2018. In 2016, the Allen Institute expanded its reach with the launch of The Paul G. Allen Frontiers Group, which identifies pioneers with new ideas to expand the boundaries of knowledge and make the world better. For more information, visit

Science Programs at Allen Institute