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HHMI to Award $14 Million in New International Program to Support Research on Infectious and Parasitic Diseases

HHMI to Award $14 Million in New International Program to Support Research on Infectious and Parasitic Diseases

Summary

HHMI to award $14 million through new international initiative to combat diseases with worldwide impact.

The Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI) today announced plans to award $14 million in grants through a new international initiative to help scientists devise new approaches for combating infectious and parasitic diseases that have a worldwide impact, particularly in developing countries.

The five-year program will support approximately 40 outstanding biomedical researchers working outside the United States. The grants, ranging from $40,000 to $90,000 annually and beginning in the fall of 2000, will help the scientists to uncover the mechanisms of infectious and parasitic diseases and identify possible new strategies for preventing or treating them.

"Microbial, viral and parasitic diseases are global health problems," said Purnell W. Choppin, HHMI's president. "Hundreds of millions of people are infected with the organisms that cause diseases such as tuberculosis and malaria. Advances in molecular biology give us powerful new tools for understanding how these organisms cause disease and how to overcome them. This program will help scientists throughout the world to put these tools to work."

The Institute is a medical research organization whose primary purpose is the direct conduct of biomedical research in HHMI laboratories located at universities and other research institutions across the United States. HHMI also has a complementary grants program, which includes an international program that has awarded $53 million since 1991 to support biomedical scientists in 19 selected countries. This total will rise to $82 million with this new initiative and the announcement by HHMI on April 29 that it plans to award $15 million in grants to support the research of biomedical scientists in the Baltics, Central and Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union.

This new initiative is the first HHMI international competition to focus on scientists conducting research on a specific group of diseases rather than in a particular geographic region. HHMI plans to carry out the competition through nominations rather than applications by individual scientists. It is contacting experts in infectious and parasitic diseases at leading scientific organizations, soliciting nominations. Nominees will be invited to participate in the competition via the World Wide Web.

To be eligible, scientists must hold a full-time appointment at a university or other nonprofit scientific institution outside the United States. They must have published significant articles in international, peer-reviewed, English-language scientific journals in the areas of infectious diseases or parasitology.

An expert panel will help HHMI evaluate the nominees. The scientists will be assessed on the basis of their research accomplishments, their potential for making significant contributions, and the scientific merit and potential benefit of their proposed research. HHMI anticipates that grants will be made to scientists working in basic science, as well as those using therapeutic and preventive approaches.

"Recent techniques in genomic sequencing have revealed the complete genetic material of organisms that cause devastating diseases," said Joseph G. Perpich, HHMI's vice president for grants and special programs. "HHMI has a historic opportunity to become involved at a pivotal point in research that promises to unlock the secrets of these pathogens through molecular genetics and immunology, and to develop treatments that target specific functions of the organisms."