By Kevin Davies
April 15, 2005 | The Howard Hughes Medical Institute has selected 43 scientists as new HHMI investigators, following a nationwide competition to identify the most talented and innovative biomedical researchers in the United States.
The new appointees join a group of 300 investigators who receive lavish funding with minimal red tape from the institute. According to president Thomas Cech, HHMI will provide its new crop of investigators with the freedom and flexibility they need in order to make lasting contributions to mankind. We want and expect them to be daring.
The chosen investigators were selected from a pool of more than 300 scientists, nominated by their host universities and medical schools. The 2005 competition was geared toward investigators in the early phase of their faculty appointments. The new appointments represent a broad selection of traditional fields, particularly neuroscience, as well as newer disciplines, including computer science, chemical biology, and bioengineering. About one-fifth are from the fields of chemistry and physics.
In addition to Cech, 10 HHMI investigators have won the Nobel Prize, including six in the past five years: Richard Axel, Linda Buck, Robert Horvitz, Eric Kandel, Rod Mackinnon, and Gunther Blobel. Funding the new investigators will push HHMI’s annual research budget toward $500 million. Next year, HHMI will open its multidisciplinary Janelia Farm facility in Virginia.
Some of the new HHMI appointments include:
Ronald R. Breaker (Yale University), who studies cellular RNA machinery and industrial applications of bioengineering.
• Joseph DeRisi (University of California at San Francisco), who developed the Virochip DNA microarray; also has major interest in malaria gene expression.
• Evan Eichler (University of Washington), a bioinformatician studying the role of genome duplications in genetic disease and evolution.
• David Liu (Harvard University), a rising star in chemical biology; emphasis on DNA-templated organic synthesis.
• Dorothee Kern (Brandeis University), a biophysicist who uses nuclear magnetic resonance techniques to study the “dynamic personality” of proteins.
• Stephen Quake (Stanford University), who harnesses microfluidics technology for large-scale automation of biology at the nanoliter scale, including lab-on-a-chip and single-molecule DNA sequencing.
• Thomas Tuschl (The Rockefeller University), one of the pioneers of RNA interference in mammalian cells; also co-founded Alnylam Pharmaceuticals.