May 23, 2018
By Meghan Rosen

Beth Shapiro has dug for prehistoric bones in Siberia. Ralph DeBerardinis has improved the lives of kids with metabolic diseases. Jesse Bloom has uncovered genetic secrets that could help fight the flu.

Shapiro, DeBerardinis, and Bloom are among 19 scientists whose work is dramatically advancing our understanding of cells, the brain, metabolism, and more. Today, these scientists all share a new title: Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI) Investigator.

On May 23, 2018, HHMI announced that it will invest $200 million in this new cadre of investigators, a group of individuals known for pushing the boundaries of biomedical research. “We selected these scientists because they know how to ask hard and interesting questions with skill and intellectual courage,” says David Clapham, HHMI’s vice president and chief scientific officer. “We believe they have the potential to make breakthroughs over time.”

Each of the 19 new investigators will receive roughly $8 million over a seven-year term, which is renewable pending a scientific review. In addition, investigator support includes a guaranteed two-year transition period. This new group of investigators is the first to be appointed to a seven-year term (previous terms lasted five years). HHMI selected the new investigators from a pool of 675 eligible applicants. The scientists represent 15 U.S. institutions and will join an investigator community that now numbers over 300.

“Every scientist is unique, but they all need one thing: time,” says HHMI President Erin O’Shea. “HHMI is dedicated to providing outstanding biomedical scientists with the time and resources to do their best work. We think of this as investing in people, not just projects.”

To date, 28 current or former HHMI scientists have won the Nobel Prize. Investigators have made big leaps forward in HIV vaccine development, microbiome and circadian rhythm research, immunotherapy, and the genome editing tool known as CRISPR/Cas9, among other fields.

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