Sir John Templeton believed research in genetics holds enormous promise for alleviating future sickness and poverty while helping realize humanity’s fullest physical and material potential. The department seeks to aggressively accelerate the rate of progress in genetics by funding novel approaches and contrarian research, especially research that is undervalued by traditional funding sources. In addition to basic and translational research, the department is also committed to supporting educational programs that increase public awareness throughout the world about how genetics-related research and its applications can advance human flourishing at the individual, familial, and societal levels. Specific areas of funding interest at this time include the following:
Human Development and Physical Health
This theme supports non-incremental and highly ambitious projects which advance progress related to human evolution and development, the results of which may lead to an empowered sense of personal health and wellbeing. The current research and outreach focus is on fundamental genetic and epigenetic mechanisms regulating transgenerational transmittance of biological information, how early life choices and environmental exposures causally impact development and the early onset of disease, the effects of microchimerism on human identity and immune function, and the development of personalized and targeted genetic and epigenetic therapeutics associated with orphan diseases.
Behavioral Genetics and Epigenetics
Programs under this theme will support basic research that uncovers the molecular mechanisms influencing behaviors which make us distinct from other humans at an emotive, cognitive and psychological level. Topical emphases include research leading to the establishment of new animal model systems for complex traits, the effects of environmental contagions on the development of personality and mental illness, and the causal role that mindfulness disciplines have in enhancing human capacity for positive virtues. This theme will also support exploratory therapeutic studies relevant to positive behavioral traits such as empathy, grit, work ethic, self-control, thrift, generosity and others.
Critical Emerging Technologies in Genetics
Significant advancements in biomedical research are driven in part by the creation of novel technologies which open horizons of further inquiry. For example, the recent explosion in information yielded by the sequencing of the human genome has required greater facility with bioinformatics analyses and its integration into existing clinical databases. Projects under this theme will support major innovations in diverse sectors of genetics/epigenetics research, such as the development of analytic tools used in programming and creating synthetic cells, enhanced genetic screening diagnostics, and ever more powerful means of probing the inner machinations of the cell.
Public Engagement with Genetics
The implications of genomics research on issues of human individuality, morality and public policy remain highly controversial, and there is an ever-growing interest in the popular consciousness regarding how an individual’s genome impacts one’s behavior, cognitive ability, and health. Projects in this theme will raise awareness and appreciation for the implication of genetics research on diverse demographic audiences, and encourage productive public discourse on contentious public policy issues including the use of genetically modified crops worldwide, genetic screening, gene therapy, and cloning.