Howard Hughes was a man of restless intellect, great energy, and diverse talents. An accomplished inventor and aviator, the institute he founded in 1953 stands as his most enduring legacy. Today, HHMI is a recognized leader in biomedical research. Discoveries made in HHMI laboratories are fundamentally changing the way the world is viewed. Ideas born in Hughes laboratories are also increasing our understanding of some of society’s most vexing health problems—including AIDS, cardiovascular disease, cancer, and diabetes—with the ultimate aim of improving the lives of people everywhere.
“People, Not Projects”
At HHMI, the engines of discovery are powered by approximately 330 HHMI investigators who direct laboratories on the campuses of nearly 70 universities and other research organizations throughout the United States. By appointing scientists as Hughes investigators—rather than awarding them research grants—HHMI is guided by the principle of “people, not projects.” Investigators have the freedom to explore and, if necessary, to change direction in their research. Moreover, they have support to follow their ideas through to fruition—even if that process takes a very long time.
Through another initiative, HHMI identified some of the nation’s most promising scientists to receive support at a critical early stage of their careers. Each early career scientist has a six-year, nonrenewable appointment to the Institute and along with it the freedom to focus on his or her boldest—and potentially transformative—research ideas without having to worry about obtaining grants to fund those experiments.
A Collaborative, Interdisciplinary Approach
The scientific program at the Janelia Farm Research Campus (www.janelia.org) complements HHMI’s investigator program. Resident and visiting scientists at this world-class research center work in a collaborative, interdisciplinary environment to pursue biology’s most challenging problems. Goals include identifying the general principles that guide how neuronal circuits process information, in addition to developing imaging technologies and computational methods for image data analysis.
An HHMI collaboration with the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation is boosting much-needed funding for plant science research—research that can help address a range of issues facing society, such as food production, human health, protecting the environment, and identifying renewable energy resources. The HHMI-GBMF investigators are working with a variety of plants, such as wheat, maize, tomato, Arabidopsis, moss, and algae. They will receive, over five years, the flexible support necessary to move their research into creative new directions.
Through the Collaborative Innovation Awards, selected HHMI investigators are joining with scientists, most of them unaffiliated with HHMI, to tackle projects that are new and so broad in scope that they require a team covering a range of fields.
On the international front, HHMI is partnering with the University of KwaZulu-Natal in Durban, South Africa, to establish an international research center— the KwaZulu-Natal Research Institute for Tuberculosis and HIV (K-RITH)—to help address one of the world’s greatest health challenges, that of HIV and tuberculosis coinfection. K-RITH will conduct research on HIV and tuberculosis, including pathogenesis, diagnostics, therapeutics, vaccines, and prevention.
HHMI's new International Early Career Scientist Program has launched a competition to support up to 35 outstanding scientists working outside the United States. In this pilot program, HHMI seeks to identify researchers who are, or have the potential to become, scientific leaders. The competition is open to scientists who have trained in the United States, run their own labs for less than seven years, and work in one of 18 eligible countries. Those countries are Argentina, Brazil, Chile, China, Czech Republic, Egypt, Hungary, India, Italy, Mexico, Poland, Portugal, Russia, South Africa, South Korea, Spain, Taiwan, and Turkey.