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HHMI to Award $90 Million to Medical Schools

HHMI to Award $90 Million to Medical Schools

Summary

Grants will help selected institutions to sustain their critical biomedical research activities amid major changes in the U.S. health care system.

The Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI) plans to award $90 million in four-year grants to help selected medical schools sustain their critical biomedical research activities amid major changes in the U.S. health care system.

The grants will range from $2.5 million to $4 million, with the first payment in September 1999. They build on a similar series of grants totaling $80 million that HHMI awarded to 30 medical schools in 1995.

The Institute has sent invitations to all of the nation's 125 medical schools to submit proposals for the new grants competition. A panel of distinguished biomedical scientists and scientific administrators will evaluate the proposals, which are due by January 14, 1999. The Institute's Trustees will authorize funding based on the final recommendations of HHMI management.

"Medical schools have contributed to many of our greatest medical advances, but they are now having great difficulty supporting their research infrastructure and meeting the full costs of biomedical research," said Purnell W. Choppin, HHMI's president. "Changes in the health care system, particularly the growth of managed care and new federal cost-containment policies, have placed great stress on the systems that have allowed medical research to thrive. We are awarding these grants to help medical schools continue the revolutionary advances in knowledge of biological processes and disease mechanisms and the application of that knowledge to the prevention and cure of diseases."

HHMI's initiative will provide medical schools with resources to conduct basic, disease-oriented and patient-oriented research. Each medical school that applies will be asked to determine its own priorities and needs. HHMI anticipates that many of the proposals will address needs such as junior faculty start-up, core facilities, major equipment, updating of research laboratories and pilot research projects.

The 30 medical schools that received the 1995 grants allocated more than half of the money to faculty start-up. Once again, HHMI seeks to assist junior faculty in establishing independent laboratories. Noting that "the pool of physician-scientists who perform disease- and patient-oriented research has failed to grow commensurately with the pool of basic research scientists," the new program announcement also emphasizes the importance of assisting scientists who combine the insights of treating patients with expertise in the research laboratory.

As in 1995, a significant share of the grants budgets may also be used for core facilities and equipment, such as transgenic and other animal care facilities, facilities for maintenance of biological stocks, imaging centers, computer services and other resources. The new competition once again provides medical schools with considerable flexibility in meeting their needs.

"These grants will enhance the scientific programs of both basic science and clinical departments, across the spectrum from basic to patient-oriented research," said Joseph G. Perpich, HHMI's vice president for grants and special programs. "Our goal is to foster collaborations that yield important new insights into disease mechanisms and stimulate the development of new medical interventions."

The grants are being awarded through HHMI's Research Resources program, which also provides major support to unique national research resources, such as Jackson Laboratory's transgenic mouse resource program.