Breaking News (that is just too cool to miss)

Q: What is Microsoft Co-founder, Paul Allen’s connection to a mouse?

(No, it’s not “that thing you click,” and it’s not his friend Laura Harring’s role in the movie, “Willard”)………………

So, what is it?

A: Remember when I told you about James Watson–the guy who won the
Nobel Peace Prize for discovering the structure of DNA and who is right
now a Senior Advisor to Paul Allen’s Institute for Brain Science?

Well, apparently Watson has just made lightning strike twice.

The Brain Institute has unveiled a complete, 3-D map of the brain of a mouse. It’s all available free to the public at

So why is an atlas of the brain of a mouse so important? It sounds
pretty creepy, but it’s actually a really important medical breakthrough because mice and men share 90% of the same kinds of genes, and so often brain research is conducted using mice.

What that means is that medical researchers can take the Brain
Institute’s findings and build their own ideas on top of them, getting
that much closer to finding cures for diseases of the mind such as autism, Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s.

And apparently this discovery is big—really big.


It’s such a breakthrough discovery that Allen’s Brain Atlas has been
touted as doing for the brain what Watson’s Human Genome Project did for

A few years ago at the World Economic Forum in Davos Switzerland,

 Paul Allen asked the question, “Does secrecy harm scientific progress?”


See:  Tim O’Reilly’s Webblog, February 10, 2002

“Paul Allen , who came to the session, asked a key question but didn’t get a satisfactory response. He wanted to hear about intellectual property issues — in particular, if I understood his question, whether the growing secrecy in science is harming progress. Science is supposed to be about sharing data, not hoarding it. Not anymore, and that’s an alarming trend.”

It’s a big debate because today ideas themselves are the new
commodities, and people like fellow Microsoft Alum Nathan Myhrvold trade
them like stocks.


An argument can be made that secrecy protects an important
investment–that the money for research wouldn’t be provided without
some corresponding profit, but it is a big problem when it comes to
advancing scientific progress, because breakthroughs tend to come from
the collaboration of ideas–in other words, you have to invent the wheel
before you can build a car.

Paul Allen’s answer to his own question about secrecy and progress comes as a $40 million dollar Christmas present–he’s giving the findings from
his research away–gratis.

The results of millions of dollars worth of research by some of the top
minds in the field, can be freely accessed by the public at

Companies specializing in medical research will certainly benefit from
the information, but the true beneficiaries are ultimately the people
who suffer from Multiple Sclerosis, Parkinson’s, Alzheimers and other disorders of the mind, and who are now that much closer to receiving a cure.

Just as Crick and Watson’s double helix resulted in far
more scientific discovery than anyone could have imagined, so there is far more to
this current research breakthrough than meets the eye.

In addition to curing diseases of the mind, if you use your imagination,
this knowledge could end up resulting in some really Sci Fi futuristic

It’s either really cool or really scary when you think about it;).

But whatever else happens, serious kudos to Paul Allen for answering his
own question in a way that’s good for everybody.

This is the third lightning strike for Allen, who has played an integral
role in at least 3 of the major scientific breakthroughs of this
century: technology, space travel and now medicine.

I’ve really got to find out where he’s been keeping that obelisk….