Events

Allen Frontiers Symposium 2022

The Paul G. Allen Frontiers Group hosted a virtual edition of our annual Allen Frontiers Symposium on Tuesday, March 29, 2022. This year’s event offered unique opportunity for a global audience to hear presentations that deepen our understanding of the frontiers of human biology research from seven of the current Allen Distinguished Investigator projects.

The talks covered cell fate, aging, evolution, the immune system, and health and disease. If you missed this live event, you can view a full recording and learn more about the speakers below.

TUESDAY, MARCH 29, 2022
9:00am-12:15pm Pacific Time

Watch on YouTube

Please contact Events@alleninstitute.org with any questions. 

Event Recording

Tuesday, March 29, 2022 
All times Pacific
9:00am | Welcome and introduction by Kathryn Richmond, The Paul G. Allen Frontiers Group
9:05am-9:30am | Steve Horvath, University of California, Los Angeles 
9:30am-9:55am | Samantha Morris, Washington University in St. Louis 
9:55am-10:20am | Gene Yeo, University of California, San Diego
10:20am-10:45am | Henrique Veiga-Fernandes, Champalimaud Foundation
10:45am-11:00am | Break 
11:00am-11:25am | Michelle Digman and Jennifer Prescher, University of California, Irvine 
11:25am-11:50am | Will Bailis, University of Pennsylvania  
11:50am-12:15pm | Rachel Whitaker, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign

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Allen Distinguished Investigators

On February 9, 2022, The Frontiers Group announced 23 new Allen Distinguished Investigators, totaling $15.5M in funding. Including the new awards, a total of 114 Allen Distinguished Investigators have been appointed during the past 11 years. 

LEARN MORE ABOUT ALLEN DISTINGUISHED INVESTIGATORS

 

Featured Speakers

Will Bailis, Ph.D.

University of Pennsylvania

"Understanding the interplay of diet and the immune system: viewing metabolism in 3D"

Abstract: Diet and organismal metabolism profoundly influence the immune system, and in turn, immune cells play a major role in controlling metabolism.  The molecular and cellular details of these interactions, however, remain mysterious.  In this talk we will describe our efforts to understand how metabolism at the levels of the entire organism, tissues, and immune cells operate as a single circuit to sustain homeostasis, and how dysfunction in the multi dimensional circuit contribute to disease.

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Chris Bennett, M.D.

University of Pennsylvania

"Understanding the interplay of diet and the immune system: viewing metabolism in 3D"

Abstract: Diet and organismal metabolism profoundly influence the immune system, and in turn, immune cells play a major role in controlling metabolism.  The molecular and cellular details of these interactions, however, remain mysterious.  In this talk we will describe our efforts to understand how metabolism at the levels of the entire organism, tissues, and immune cells operate as a single circuit to sustain homeostasis, and how dysfunction in the multi dimensional circuit contribute to disease.

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Michelle Digman, Ph.D.

University of California, Irvine

"Understanding how the immune system uses energy: bioluminescent tools for real-time imaging of immunometabolism"

Abstract: Leveraging the body’s natural defense system to fight disease remains a central goal in medicine. To realize this vision, a clearer picture of the pathways and metabolites controlling immune cell behavior is required. We are building a new technology—bioluminescent phasor—to “see” these critical features in real time. The platform merges the sensitivity and broad dynamic range of bioluminescence with the multiplexing capabilities of phasor analysis. We are using bioluminescent phasor to image key signaling molecules and metabolites, examining their impacts on immune function over various time and length scales.  Such analyses will deepen our understanding of immune cell behavior and potentially reveal new ways to treat disease.

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Steve Horvath, Ph.D.

University of California, Los Angeles

"Understanding aging: gathering insights from epigenetic clocks"

Abstract: DNA methylation based biomarkers of aging known as collectively as "epigenetic clock" can be used to measure the age of any tissue or nucleated cell type. DNA methylation age captures aspects of biological age, e.g. it predicts human lifespan and it relates to validated anti-aging interventions in mice. Recent studies demonstrate that one can build clocks that apply to all mammalian species. Overall, epigenetic clocks link developmental processes to biological aging, giving rise to a unified theory of life course.

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Ruaidhri Jackson, Ph.D.

Harvard Medical School

"Understanding the interplay of diet and the immune system: viewing metabolism in 3D"

Abstract: Diet and organismal metabolism profoundly influence the immune system, and in turn, immune cells play a major role in controlling metabolism.  The molecular and cellular details of these interactions, however, remain mysterious.  In this talk we will describe our efforts to understand how metabolism at the levels of the entire organism, tissues, and immune cells operate as a single circuit to sustain homeostasis, and how dysfunction in the multi dimensional circuit contribute to disease.

LEARN MORE

Samantha Morris, Ph.D.

Washington University in St. Louis

"Understanding cell fate: new genomic technologies to deconstruct cell identity"

Abstract: A mechanistic understanding of how cell identity is established and maintained is fundamental to the precise engineering of cell fate. Here, I will present new genomic technologies developed by my lab to permit single-cell lineage tracing throughout reprogramming, accompanied by recording of TF-binding and chromatin accessibility profiling. Integrating this information using our unique computational tools for interrogating gene regulatory networks delivers a systems-level understanding of how cell identity can be manipulated via lineage reprogramming. We also apply these methods to understand how cell identity is naturally programmed during differentiation and development. The deconstruction of cell identity via these approaches supports precision engineering of cell fate.

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Jennifer Prescher, Ph.D.

University of California, Irvine

"Understanding how the immune system uses energy: bioluminescent tools for real-time imaging of immunometabolism"

Abstract: Leveraging the body’s natural defense system to fight disease remains a central goal in medicine. To realize this vision, a clearer picture of the pathways and metabolites controlling immune cell behavior is required. We are building a new technology—bioluminescent phasor—to “see” these critical features in real time. The platform merges the sensitivity and broad dynamic range of bioluminescence with the multiplexing capabilities of phasor analysis. We are using bioluminescent phasor to image key signaling molecules and metabolites, examining their impacts on immune function over various time and length scales.  Such analyses will deepen our understanding of immune cell behavior and potentially reveal new ways to treat disease.

LEARN MORE

Henrique Veiga-Fernandes, D.V.M., Ph.D.

Champalimaud Foundation

"Understanding the language between neurons and the immune system"

Abstract: The nervous and immune systems are body interfaces allowing us to perceive and respond to variable environments. For example, immune cells recognize microbes, and vaccination against infectious diseases has transformed medical practice. Recently, scientists made the astonishing observation that the nervous system informs immune cells of ongoing infections, triggering body responses that re-establishes health. These findings are challenging our understanding of how the body works, creating new opportunities for innovative therapies. We will discuss how neurons and immune cells interact and talk to each other, unravelling the languages of neuroimmune communication that promise to improve the outcome of disease.

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Rachel Whitaker, Ph.D.

University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign

"Understanding the role of evolution in health and disease: infection genomics in multiscale microbial systems"

Abstract: Nested within the genomes of all organisms are viruses and other genetic elements that are sources of rapid evolutionary innovation created through infection. Although networks of infectious genetic elements connect organisms, their impact on the tempo and mode of evolution is outside the context of classical modern evolutionary synthesis.   We integrate mathematical modeling and simulations and large-scale genomic analyses to describe how infection genomics changes natural populations of microbes over time and space.  Our comparative population genetic approach expands the evolutionary parameters that must be considered to understand microbial dynamics in the natural world.

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Gene Yeo, Ph.D., MBA

University of California, San Diego

"Understanding the root causes of cognitive disease: subcellular organization, stress, and neurodegeneration"

Abstract: Cells are not a mixed and random bag of proteins and RNA, but instead are organized into sub-compartments akin to tiny municipalities each with dedicated influxes and effluxes. These packets of information are also not random and we hypothesize that degenerative-specific mutations that cause neurodegenerative diseases such amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), Alzheimer’s disease, Huntington’s disease and muscular dystrophy will alter their composition and prevent these cities from surviving stress conditions. By systematically characterizing their subcellular compositions, we will gain an understanding of how mutations affect neurons and provide important clues about the robustness of cells. New therapeutic insights can and will be achieved by our efforts as we uncover the bridge between development, cell-type specificity in subcellular organization and degenerative disease-linked mutations.

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