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HHMI Funds Genomics, Related Areas with $600M in 2008 Investigator Awards

NEW YORK (GenomeWeb News) – The Howard Hughes Medical Institute will fund 56 new HHMI investigators with more than $600 million for biomedical research, including genomics, genetics, RNA, proteomics, and other areas, the institute said today.

HHMI said it will fund the scientists, who were selected from over 1,000 applicants, with support needed to “follow their ideas through to fruition – even if that process takes many years.”
HHMI said the $600 million will cover the first terms of the investigators’ appointments. The institute said that by appointing scientists as Hughes investigators, instead of giving out research grants, it is supporting people instead of focusing on specific projects.
“These 56 scientists will bring new and innovative ways of thinking about biology to the HHMI community,” HHMI President Thomas Cech said in a statement. “They are poised to advance scientific knowledge dramatically in the coming years, and we are committed to providing them with the freedom and flexibility to do so,” he added.
The scientists were selected from a nationwide competition that was open to researchers with between four and ten years of experience as faculty members.
“Opening the competition to a direct application process allowed us to identify new investigators who are working in areas that have historically been core strengths of the institute,” HHMI VP and CSO Jack Dixon said, adding that the institute has “added research fields that have not been strongly represented in the past.”
The awardees include a number of genomics and genetics researchers, such as:
  • Paul Bieniasz, a staff investigator at the Aaron Diamond AIDS Research Center and associate professor and head of the laboratory of retrovirology at Rockefeller University. Bieniasz studies the molecular interplay and co-evolution between viruses and their hosts.
  • David Chan, an associate professor of Biology at the California Institute of Technology who studies the roles played by mitochondria within a cell in human disease.
  • Jue Chen, an associate professor of biological sciences at Purdue University who studies the structure of proteins that may be involved in cystic fibrosis and cancer.
  • Andrew Dillin, an associate professor of molecular and cell biology at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies. He investigates the role proteins play in the aging of cells and organisms and how diet may affect the connection between proteins and aging.
  • Michael Eisen, an associate professor of molecular and cell biology at the University of California, Berkeley, is studying how gene sequences and how they affect form and function, how gene expression is regulated, and how that regulated expression effects organisms' development and evolution.
  • Adrian Ferré-D'Amaré, who is an associate member of the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, studies how the structure affects RNA functioning.
  • Christine Jacobs-Wagner, who is an associate professor of molecular, cellular, and developmental biology at Yale University and researches the molecular mechanisms of bacterial internal organization.
  • Leemor Joshua-Tor, a professor at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, studies the protein components of the RNAi machinery involved in gene silencing.
  • Leonid Kruglyak, a professor of integrative genomics and ecology and evolutionary biology at Princeton University who investigates how changes in DNA are caused by molecular and evolutionary changes and how they cause observable differences within a single species.
  • Wendell Lim, a professor of cellular and molecular pharmacology at the University of California, San Francisco, who focuses on the function and evolution of signaling pathways in cells and how to reprogram these protein networks.
  • Zhe Lu, a professor of physiology at the University of Pennsylvania, who is studying proteins that selectively allow ions to move across cell membranes and to perform important tasks.
  • Danesh Moazed, who is a professor of cell biology at Harvard Medical School and studies how small RNAs control gene transcription and how transcription patterns are inherited.
  • John Moran is a professor of human genetics and internal medicine at the University of Michigan Medical School. He is studying how human jumping genes move between different parts of the genome and how they are linked to diseases such as hemophilia, muscular dystrophy, and colon cancer.
  • Duojia Pan, who is associate professor of molecular biology and genetics at the Hopkins University School of Medicine and studies how molecular and developmental pathways control organ size.
  • Tanya Paull, an associate professor of molecular genetics and microbiology at the University of Texas at Austin who studies how double-stranded breaks in DNA are recognized and repaired in eukaroyotic cells.
  • Jonathan Pritchard, a professor of human genetics at the University of Chicago who is using evolutionary biology and biostatistics to study human genetic variation.
  • Yigong Shi, a professor of molecular biology at Princeton University who investigates the molecular events that lead to apoptosis.
  • Jack Taunton, an associate professor of cellular and molecular pharmacology at the University of California, San Francisco, who is focused on chemical tools that could be used to selectively modulate proteins in living cells.
  • Thomas Walz, a professor of cell biology at Harvard Medical School, who uses electron microscopy to study how proteins and lipids interact.
  • Michele Wang, an associate professor of physics at Cornell University, who studies the biophysics involved in the interactions between proteins and DNA.
  • Philip Zamore, a professor of biomedical sciences at the University of Massachusetts Medical School who is investigating how RNA silencing pathways work and what proteins are required for them to function.

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