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Eddy, Myers Among First Group Leaders Hired by HHMI s Janelia Farms

NEW YORK, June 29 (GenomeWeb News) - The Howard Hughes Medical Institute revealed that Sean Eddy of Washington University and Gene Myersat Berkeley are among the initial seven group leaders hired for the new Janelia Farm campus, which will open in the summer of 2006.

 

Located in Ashburn, Va., about 30 miles west of Washington, DC, "the Farm" is HHMI's first freestanding campus. Scientists there will direct their research to understanding how the brain functions.

 

Director Gerry Rubin - best known in this field for his work on Drosophila - said Farm researchers will be "trying to understand the basic principles by which information is stored and processed in neural systems" using in particular optical imaging technology.

 

Eddy and Myers will be among the first to move in when the facility opens next year. Other group leaders are Dmitri Chklovskii and Karel Svoboda from the Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory; Nikolaus Grigorieff from Brandeis University; Julie Simpson from the University of Wisconsin-Madison; and Roland Strauss from the University of Wurzburg.

 

Janelia Farm will also have two senior fellows responsible for advising Rubin: the Salk Institute's Sydney Brenner and Charles Shank, formerly director of the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory.

 

Rubin said the Farm aims to have 24 group leaders by 2010, and the campus will represent about 10 percent of HHMI's research efforts. Collaboration will be given priority; Rubin noted that about a quarter of the Farm's positions will be held for visiting scientists, and that the campus was designed with 30 apartments on site. "We can bring scientists from all over the world to come collaborate with each other and with our people," he said.

 

The neuroscience focus was selected for its high-risk and slow payoff characteristics because funding for such efforts is unlikely to come from the usual agencies, Rubin said. "We're willing to do things that may not have medical implications for 10 to 20 years," he said. With HHMI's private funding, the Farm can afford to be more patient than NIH, for example.

 

The kind of brain research Rubin has in mind will "require someone who's going to fund high-risk research patiently - not someone who's going to say, 'Well, you haven't had any papers for three years, we're going to pull the plug,'" he says.

 

The initial seven scientists were chosen from a field of some 300 applicants, Rubin said. This fall, HHMI will invite a second round of applications as the Farm ramps up to full capacity.

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