Two Yale scientists are part of a team that was recently awarded $1.44 million by the Paul G. Allen Family Foundation in a larger effort to fund innovative biotech research, Xconomy reported.

Thierry Emonet, assistant professor of molecular, cellular, and developmental biology; Steve Zucker, professor of biomedical engineering and computer science; and Thomas S. Shimizu of the Netherlands’ FOM Institute for Atomic and Molecular Physics plan to use the money to investigate how simple organisms coordinate while taking advantage of, rather than suppressing, their diversity. The team hopes their project will provide insight into general computational principles about collective interactions that could have applications “to other biological and social systems,” according to the Paul G. Allen Family Foundation website.

The team, whose project is entitled “Crowd computing with bacteria: Balancing phenotypic diversity and coordinated behavior,” will look at cells with the same genotype, or set of genes, but different phenotype, or observed behavior. They are interested in understanding how coordination and diversity among these types of cells relates to the success of the entire population.

The Paul G. Allen Family Foundation’s grant, which will also fund the research of four other projects by scientists at MIT, Stanford, University of California, San Diego and University of California, San Francisco, seeks to “help propel far-out research that wouldn’t otherwise be able to get support from traditional, conservative funding sources like the National Institutes of Health,” according to Xconomy.

Emonet, who wrote the grant proposal to the foundation, said organizations like the National Institutes of Health are risk-averse because they use taxpayer dollars, though he stressed the importance of funding very novel ideas.

“In research, if you minimize risk too much, then you don’t advance the field so fast,” Emonet told the News.

The Paul G. Allen Family Foundation awarded a total of $7.5 million to the five projects.