Summary

HHMI regrets to announce that we are suspending our new Medically Trained Scientists Program (MTS). In light of the ongoing economic uncertainty triggered by the COVID-19 pandemic, we will be working to determine the right time to relaunch this important effort. Please visit the program page for more information about this decision and for program updates as they become available. (Last updated April 9, 2020.)

In 2021, the Medically Trained Scientists Program (MTS) will provide long-term support for up to 10 biomedical scientists committed to conducting fundamental research.

This new $120 million research program aims to tap scientists’ knowledge of the human body.

Today, the Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI) unveiled MTS, an initiative to support scientists who have a background in medicine. The 2021 program will offer as many as eight years of support for up to 10 early career scientists who are committed to conducting basic research. This long-term investment will begin with mentored postdoctoral training and transition through MTS fellows’ early years as independent faculty. 

Basic research gives us insight into the building blocks and underlying mechanisms of biology, says David Clapham, HHMI’s vice president and chief scientific officer. Advancing this kind of discovery science – research about the structure and function of living systems at the level of molecules, cells, behaviors, and interactions ­– is one of HHMI’s core priorities, he says. It can open windows into the most complicated problems in biology, including how to prevent and treat disease.

“We’re looking for people who are intellectually honest, inventive, and creative. They want to make a difference. They want to do something that changes the world.”

David Clapham

Clapham envisions selecting at least four cohorts of 10 MTS fellows over the next eight years. These scientists’ medical training gives them a deep understanding of human biology and disease, he says. They can provide valuable viewpoints and new perspectives, which could lead to discoveries that benefit human health. “We’re looking for people who are intellectually honest, inventive, and creative,” Clapham says. “They want to make a difference. They want to do something that changes the world.”

Medical training also offers scientists a unique outlook on biology. Clapham, an MD, PhD whose research focuses on ion channels, says that his medical training provided a firm grounding in physiology – how the body’s organs function, for example, and what can go wrong. This knowledge helped him better understand how to use the different experimental models that scientists rely on in research. A background in medicine also connects scientists directly with patients, Clapham says. Caring for people through injury or illness can kindle a scientist’s desire to uncover root causes of a disease, like cancer and heart disease.HHMI's Medically Trained Scientists Program harnesses knowledge of human biology to move discovery science forward. It will support 40 Fellows total, each for up to 8 years, for a total of $120 million investment from the program. The MTS program supports early careers scientists who are dedicated to careers in basic biomedical research, hold an MD, a DO, or an MD, PhD, and are scientifically creative and inventive.

Despite the value of medical training to basic research, the number of medically trained scientists has been projected to decline, according to a 2014 report by the National Institutes of Health. Professions in both medicine and science have become more demanding, Clapham says. Each requires ever-expanding knowledge and increasing years of training. Even people who receive MD, PhD training – currently around 700 individuals per year – don’t all become scientists. Less than five percent of MD, PhDs devote the bulk of their time to basic research, according to a 2018 study by the American Association of Medical Colleges that spanned 40 years. Solving challenging problems in science, Clapham points out, requires including people with a wide variety of different training backgrounds – from those with experience in medicine to those trained in basic research.

HHMI values the knowledge that researchers with medical training bring to discovery science and has a long history of supporting them. With the MTS program, HHMI has now created a new pathway for medically trained individuals dedicated to pursuing a career in science. The program will support scientists who choose to focus on fundamental research with minimal clinical activities. Fellows will join the HHMI community, attend annual scientific meetings at HHMI, and receive opportunities for career development. “Our hope is that these fellows will become leaders in academic biomedical research,” Clapham says.

He thinks that the MTS program will foster communication between biomedical science and medicine. Each field can benefit from the other’s insights, he says – and that’s one way to accelerate progress in research that can improve people’s lives.


About the Medically Trained Scientists Program

Program Update

HHMI regrets to announce that we are suspending our new Medically Trained Scientists Program (MTS). In light of the ongoing economic uncertainty triggered by the COVID-19 pandemic, we will be working to determine the right time to relaunch this important effort. Please visit the program page for more information about this decision and for program updates as they become available.

HHMI’s Medically Trained Scientists Program (MTS) seeks early career scientists with knowledge of human biology to move discovery science forward. MTS will ultimately invest up to $120 million in up to 40 fellows. MTS fellows are creative and highly committed individuals whose research will impact significant biological problems. Fellows are committed to careers in academic research and will receive long-term support as they transition through mentored postdoctoral training to independent faculty.

See the 2021 Program Announcement for full award information and eligibility requirements. For questions, contact HHMI program staff at: MTScientists@hhmi.org.

Award

  • Grant for two to four years of postdoctoral training covers:
    • fellow’s salary
    • institutional health care benefits
    • $30,000 expense allowance
  • Potential independent faculty phase as an HHMI employee for four years includes:
    • fellow’s salary and benefits
    • annual research budget of $250,000
    • medical school loan repayment plan

Eligibility

Applicants must:

  • be accepted to join a mentor’s research program as a postdoctoral fellow at an eligible US research institution by August 11, 2020 [Please visit the program page for new dates as they become available.]; 
  • hold an MD, a DO, or an MD, PhD degree from a US institution by the award date;
  • participate in minimal or no clinical activities during the entire award period; and
  • have a record of research achievements in basic, fundamental research in a biomedical discipline.

Mentors must:

  • hold a tenured or tenure-track position (or equivalent) at the proposed training institution at the time of the application due date; and
  • have a record of research achievements in basic, fundamental research in a biomedical discipline.

Key Dates

Please visit the program page for new dates as they become available.

  • August 11, 2020, 3:00 p.m. (ET): Application due
  • August 18, 2020, 3:00 p.m. (ET): Mentor and reference letters due
  • November 2020: Finalist notification
  • December 15, 2020: Finalist symposium at HHMI headquarters in Chevy Chase, Maryland
  • January 2021: Awardee notification
  • July 1, 2021: Grants may begin

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The Howard Hughes Medical Institute plays an important role in advancing scientific research and education in the United States. Its scientists, located across the country and around the world, have made important discoveries that advance both human health and our fundamental understanding of biology. The Institute also aims to transform science education into a creative, interdisciplinary endeavor that reflects the excitement of real research. HHMI’s headquarters are located in Chevy Chase, Maryland, just outside Washington, DC.

For More Information

Meghan Rosen 301-215-8859 rosenm2@hhmi.org