updated 10/31/2003 5:58:47 PM ET 2003-10-31T22:58:47

Microsoft Corp. co-founder Paul Allen is donating $100 million to establish a new brain research center, he announced Tuesday. The first project for the nonprofit Allen Institute for Brain Science will be the Allen Brain Atlas, a project to map the role of genes in brain development.

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Starting with the brain of a mouse, the project seeks to discover which genes are active in different regions of the brain and help expand understanding of the human brain, the Allen Institute said in a statement.

Eventually, the project hopes to define the molecular makeup of brain cells that are responsible for learning, memory, emotions and cognition. That research, which will be publicly available, can help spur biological and medical advances, the Allen Institute said.

Allen’s startup gift for the initiative boosts to $600 million the total he has donated from a fortune estimated at $20 billion, including $240 million to build the Experience Music Project, a museum about rock music, in Seattle.

The Allen Brain Atlas is expected to take about five years and will release data starting in the first quarter of 2004.

“By making the Atlas data accessible in the public domain, and by collaborating with scientific experts around the world, we believe this is a historic opportunity to unite the (human) genome and the brain — and use the data and technology to tackle the challenges of neurodevelopmental, neurodegenerative and psychiatric disease,” Allen said in a statement.

The center already has a project team of scientists and technology specialists to be led by Allen’s sister, Jo Allen Patton, and project director Dr. Mark Boguski, a bioinformatics and genomics researcher. It plans to hire about 75 scientists over the next several years.

Other private donors and government grants will be sought for the project, organizers said.

Allen’s holding company, Vulcan Inc., oversees his interests in more than 50 technology, media and other companies. He is chairman of Charter Communications and owns the Seattle Seahawks football team and the Portland Trail Blazers basketball team.

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