Our Approach

To define new paths into the complexity of bioscience, we seek creative scientists, engineers, and theorists with the vision, capability and passion to ask and answer foundational scientific questions. We are searching for new solutions, new theories and new approaches that will drive change and make a significant difference. 

Landscape perspective

To find ideas truly on the frontier, we embrace the spirit of exploration and take an expansive view. We believe that seeing the whole landscape offers the best perspective to determine gaps, opportunities and unexplored territories, as well as to make comparative judgments about the significance of particular areas of inquiry. Our holistic perspective enables us to think creatively, connect disparate points on the landscape, and commit patient capital to directions overlooked by more traditional or mission-driven funding sources. Our continuous worldwide listening tour ensures that we stay at the cutting edge, allowing us to remain agile and adaptive. We are able to be responsive when big ideas, new dreams or provocative insights come along.

Funding new ideas

We use two primary funding mechanisms to support frontier research projects:

The Allen Distinguished Investigator (ADI) program supports early-stage research with the potential for catalytic impact, or even to transform entire fields. Allen Distinguished Investigators are passionate thought leaders, explorers and innovators who seek world-changing breakthroughs. With grants typically between $1 million and $1.5 million each, we provide these scientists with the support to produce momentum in their new directions.

Allen Discovery Centers are a new type of center for leadership-driven, compass-guided research, in partnership with major research organizations and universities. We provide up to $20 million over eight years with $10 million in partner leverage, for a typical total scope of $30 million for these new centers.

For both funding mechanisms, we use a combination of invited curation and open or limited competitions to identify and select awardees. For some research programs and centers, we will seek additional partners to scale up the activities to larger impact and reach.

Creative synthesis

We search for the next big ideas at the intersections of science, technology, art, culture and society. Often, ideas in one area of bioscience can spark new approaches in a previously separate area. Connecting the dots is a powerful force for innovation and new insight. We encourage creative thinking across disciplines, and our ongoing events and workshops with scientists, visionaries and innovators from around the world foster conversations and new habits of work and imagination that lead to the pursuit of groundbreaking ideas.