Savas Tay, a professor at the Pritzker School of Molecular Engineering at the University of Chicago, is among the 2019 class of Allen Distinguished Investigators. Today, the Allen Institute announced the latest group of award recipients. The Allen Distinguished Investigator award will provide Tay with $1.5 million in research support over the course of three years.
Tay and his team are working to develop a new, highly sensitive method for measuring many proteins in individual human cells and tissues. The group plans to combine these single-cell measurements with the study of gene expression. The results could lead to the development of computational models to better understand the organization, function, and dynamics of human tissues during health and disease.
Tay’s research team will study samples of healthy and diseased gut tissue and blood from patients with Crohn’s disease, an autoimmune disease characterized by chronic inflammation of the intestines. Capturing the molecular variation in these individual cells could lead to new insights into Crohn’s, other autoimmune diseases, and conditions such as developmental disorders, infection, and cancer.
“The Allen Institute brings the much-needed funds and attention necessary for tackling this extremely important but challenging problem," Tay said. "This funding will allow us to hire new researchers and buy the lab supplies to go full-throttle in developing this technology and demonstrating its potential in understanding and modeling complex tissues."
The Allen Distinguished Investigator program began in 2010 with the goal of supporting early-stage research that is less likely to be supported by traditional funding sources—research with the potential to significantly advance the understanding of biology. Each award recipient receives $1.5 million in support over three years. This year, five awards were conferred, for a total of $7.5 million to support studies of human diseases using stem cells and the development of new technologies to examine single cells in tissues, such as the gut.
“Savas and his team are breaking new ground in the study of gene expression and single-cell protein measurement,” said Matthew Tirrell, dean of Pritzker Molecular Engineering. “This well-deserved honor will allow Savas to take his research to the next level, potentially creating a deeper understanding of autoimmune diseases and other challenges to human health.”