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Purnell Choppin Dies

Purnell Choppin, a virologist who led the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, has died, the Washington Post reports. He was 91.

Choppin led HHMI for 12 years and developed its investigator program, it adds. Through the investigator program, HHMI directly employs medical researchers at different universities around the US on seven-year, renewable contracts and, according to the Post, Choppin came up with the "people, not projects" slogan to describe the institute's approach. "We bet on people who look like they are going to be winners," Choppin once told the Post. "You look for originality. How they pick a problem and stick to it. Their instinct for the scientific jugular."

In his own work, Choppin studied viral replication and how viruses attach to cells, focusing on influenza and measles viruses, though the New York Times notes that his research and methods has also contributed to the understanding of SARS-CoV-2.

"Not only was Purnell a giant in the field of virology, his contributions to the entire biomedical research community are profound," Francis Collins, the director of the National Institutes of Health, says in a statement, according to the Post. "I had the good fortune of being an HHMI investigator under his leadership and benefited on numerous occasions from his wisdom and sage advice."