Markus Covert, an assistant professor of bioengineering at Stanford University, has been awarded a $1.5 million Distinguished Investigator exploratory grant from the Paul G. Allen Family Foundation. Covert was one of five recipients of this year's award, which, according to the foundation, "aims to unlock fundamental questions in biology."
Covert's research involves building complex computer models of living organisms. Last year, he announced completion of the world's first whole-cell computer model of a simple bacterium. The three-year Allen grant will support Covert's on-going work to develop models of cells of increasing complexity, including human cells.
"Recently our lab built a computer model that takes every single gene into account for a single cell, but we still have a long way to go before this technology is ready to apply to complex organisms," said Covert, who works in the Department of Bioengineering, a joint effort of the School of Engineering and the School of Medicine. "The Allen Foundation's generous award will enable us to solve some of the most critical challenges posed by more complicated cells."
The competitive Allen Distinguished Investigators program funds only a handful of ambitious, creative projects each year--the sort that do not typically receive support from traditional sources. This year's winners were united in pursuing questions of cellular decision making and modeling of dynamic biological systems, said the Allen Foundation in a press release.
"I've always been drawn to the big open questions of science. But the pioneering scientists working to answer them can't promise quick discoveries and often find it difficult to get funding from traditional sources," said Paul G. Allen. "For us to make progress, we must take risks and invest now in this early-stage, cutting-edge research."
"It's a real thrill to get an award like this, alongside other awardees that I greatly admire and especially from Paul Allen, whose cutting-edge innovations have had such an impact on computation and the world," said Covert.