Two Children's Hospital Boston researchers among 15 new HHMI investigators
Appointments give boost to patient-oriented research on stem cells, eye-movement disorders
October 11, 2007
Two physician-scientists at Children's Hospital Boston are among 15 selected by the Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI) to be appointed as HHMI investigators. Their selection reflects HHMI's commitment to ensuring that basic research discoveries are translated into improved treatments for patients.
The Institute has committed approximately $150 million to the 15 researchers for their first term of appointment. "These 15 physician-scientists are changing the way we think about and treat a variety of diseases," said HHMI President Thomas R. Cech. Despite the potential benefit that can come from nurturing the careers of physician-scientists, there is abundant anecdotal evidence that the number of them pursuing careers in patient-oriented research is declining in the United States, he said.
The two new HHMI investigators from Children's are:
George Daley, MD, PhDHematologist George Daley, MD, PhD, associate director of the Stem Cell Program at Children's Hospital Boston, whose work on blood stem cells is aimed at improving therapies for patients with bone marrow disease. HHMI support will also enable Daley to work toward his larger goal of reprogramming a patient's own cells to revert to an embryonic state, from which different types of healthy replacement tissues can be made, and to expand his research on human embryonic stem cells lines (currently, government funding only supports work with embryonic stem cell lines that existed before August 9, 2001)."It is tremendously exciting that HHMI funding will give me greater flexibility to do research on newer embryonic stem cell lines and take it in a direction that won't be as limited," says Daley, current president of the International Society for Stem Cell Research.
Elizabeth Engle, MDPediatric neurologist Elizabeth Engle, MD, who is studying how errors in the development of motor neurons can create complex congenital disorders that rob patients of normal control of their eye movements. Working with families from around the world, Engle has explored the features and genetic causes of many previously unrecognized eye-movement disorders, including a group known as congenital cranial dysinnervation disorders. She heads a laboratory at Children's Hospital Boston that is designated by the National Eye Institute as a diagnostic center for strabismus--defects in the coordinated movement and fixation of the eyes (often called "crossed eyes" or "lazy eye"). "Thus far, our translational research has been primarily from the bedside to the bench. With the generous support of HHMI, one of our ultimate goals will be to move our research back to the bedside by finding better treatments for these early developmental defects," she says.
Daley and Engle join 10 other researchers at Children's Hospital Boston who have HHMI appointments. They and the other 13 new HHMI investigators, from 12 other institutions across the country, were selected in a nationwide competition seeking researchers who lead patient-oriented research programs and whose scientific work is guided by their interaction with patients. These physician-scientists spend their professional lives crossing the boundaries between the laboratory bench and the bedside, convinced that patient care informs and enhances their research.
The Institute received 242 applications from eligible candidates, of which 15 were selected to become HHMI investigators. Applicants were eligible if they met the following requirements:
- Have an MD or MD/PhD degree or the equivalent
- Have a current license to practice medicine in the United States
- Be a tenured or tenure-track (or equivalent) faculty member at one of the 121 eligible host institutions on the date of submission of the application
- Have between four and 16 years of experience as an independent investigator
- Be engaged in the conduct of patient-oriented research
- Be the principal investigator on a funded NIH R01 grant or a project leader on a NIH P01 grant
HHMI enters into long-term collaboration agreements with universities and other academic research organizations, where its investigators hold faculty appointments. Under these agreements, HHMI investigators, who are directly employed by the Institute, and their research teams carry out their research in HHMI laboratories located on various campuses. Through its flagship investigator program, HHMI has joined with more than 60 distinguished U.S. universities, hospitals, institutes, and medical schools to create an environment that provides flexible, long-term support for 291 Hughes scientists and members of their research teams.
Children's Hospital Boston
Children's Hospital Boston is home to the world's largest research enterprise based at a pediatric medical center, where its discoveries have benefited both children and adults since 1869. More than 500 scientists, including eight members of the National Academy of Sciences, 11 members of the Institute of Medicine and 12 members of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute comprise Children's research community. Founded as a 20-bed hospital for children, Children's Hospital Boston today is a 377-bed comprehensive center for pediatric and adolescent health care grounded in the values of excellence in patient care and sensitivity to the complex needs and diversity of children and families. Children's also is the primary pediatric teaching affiliate of Harvard Medical School. For more information about the hospital and its research visit: www.childrenshospital.org/newsroom.
The Howard Hughes Medical Institute, a non-profit medical research organization that ranks as one of the nation's largest philanthropies, plays a powerful role in advancing biomedical research and science education in the United States. In the past two decades HHMI has made investments of more than $8.3 billion for the support, training, and education of the nation's most creative and promising scientists.
HHMI's principal mission is conducting basic biomedical research, which it carries out in collaboration with more than 60 universities, medical centers and other research institutions throughout the United States. 291 HHMI investigators, along with a scientific staff of 2,200, work at these institutions in Hughes laboratories. The Institute's scientific research expenditures at the close of fiscal year 2007 totaled $613 million. HHMI grants totaled $86 million at the close of fiscal year 2007. The Institute's philanthropic grants program emphasizes initiatives with the power to transform graduate and undergraduate education in the life sciences. It also supports the work of biomedical researchers in many countries around the globe. Through aggregate investments of more than $1.2 billion, the Institute has sought to reinvigorate life science education at both research universities and liberal arts colleges and to engage the nation's leading scientists in teaching.
At the end of its 2007 fiscal year, HHMI had an endowment of $18.7 billion. Its headquarters are located in Chevy Chase, Maryland, just outside Washington, D.C.
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George Daley, MD, PhD
Elizabeth Engle, MD