What is the Howard Hughes Medical Institute?
HHMI is a nonprofit medical research organization that engages in the direct conduct of research in the basic life sciences. The Institute also has a vibrant grants program focused on strengthening education in biology and related sciences.
The Institute's charter states, “The primary purpose and objective of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute shall be the promotion of human knowledge within the field of the basic sciences (principally the field of medical research and medical education) and the effective application thereof for the benefit of mankind.”
Who founded the Institute?
Howard R. Hughes, who founded HHMI, was a man of restless intellect, great energy, and diverse talents. He dabbled in movies; designed, constructed, and raced airplanes; made TWA a premier international airline; and built the Hughes Aircraft Company into one of the country's largest and most important defense contractors. Although he retreated into a reclusive existence dominated by illness in the years before his death, his life was one of remarkable achievement.
The creation of the medical institute that bears his name stands as Hughes's most enduring accomplishment. His vision of scientific philanthropy was neither modest nor ordinary. He wanted his medical institute to be committed to basic research, to probe “the genesis of life itself.”
When was the Institute founded?
The Howard Hughes Medical Institute and the Hughes Aircraft Company were chartered in Delaware on December 17, 1953. Howard Hughes became the sole trustee of the Institute and the company's stock was transferred to the Institute to be used for medical research.
How did the Institute evolve after the death of Howard Hughes?
The Delaware Court of Chancery designated eight business and academic leaders as successor trustees to Howard Hughes in 1984. The charter trustees, initially led by George W. Thorn, M.D., reaffirmed the Institute's biomedical research mission, named a president, and elected a ninth trustee. The following year, the Trustees decided to sell the Hughes Aircraft Company and devote the proceeds to a major expansion of the research program. The $5 billion generated by the sale of the company to the General Motors Corporation established the Institute's endowment.
Where is HHMI based?
HHMI's administrative headquarters is located at
4000 Jones Bridge Road
The main telephone number is 301.215.8500.
Chevy Chase, Maryland 20815
How does HHMI approach biomedical research?
HHMI's research programs are grounded on the conviction that scientists of exceptional talent and imagination will make fundamental contributions of lasting scientific value and benefit to mankind when given the resources, time, and freedom to pursue challenging questions. The Institute prizes intellectual daring and seeks to preserve the autonomy of its scientists as they pursue their research.
The Institute is classified by the U.S. Internal Revenue Service as a medical research organization—not a foundation. This distinction means that, rather than awarding grants for research projects, it engages in the direct conduct of research with its own scientific teams.
What is the HHMI investigator program?
This is HHMI's flagship research program, in which leading scientists—called investigators—direct Institute laboratories on the campuses of universities, research institutes, and medical centers throughout the United States.
Since the early 1990s, the Institute has selected HHMI investigators through rigorous national competitions. These scientists receive renewable, five-year appointments as employees of HHMI.
By appointing scientists as Hughes investigators—rather than awarding them research grants—HHMI is guided by the principle of “people, not projects.” HHMI investigators are free to explore and, if necessary, to change direction in their research. Moreover, they have support to follow their ideas through to fruition—even if that process takes a very long time.
Who are the HHMI investigators?
Currently, the Institute employs about 330 HHMI investigators, all of whom head Institute laboratories while also serving as faculty members at the host institutions with which HHMI has entered into long-term collaborations. The scientists are supported by approximately 1,000 research associates, technicians, and other personnel employed by the Institute as well as by staff at HHMI field offices throughout the country and at HHMI headquarters. More
What are some of the key discoveries made by HHMI investigators?
HHMI scientists have made many significant discoveries that have transformed our understanding of basic biological systems by working directly on human problems as well as in model organisms such as worms, flies, and mice. More
Widely known for their creativity and productivity, the current group of HHMI investigators includes 15 Nobel Prize winners. More
What is the Janelia Farm Research Campus?
In 2006, HHMI opened its first freestanding laboratory, the Janelia Farm Research Campus in Ashburn, Virginia. The stunning campus—named for Jane and Cornelia Pickens, whose parents owned the original farm—is home to small groups of researchers who work in a highly collaborative environment. These scientists focus on understanding how networks of neurons enable complex behavior and on developing tools and computational methods for image analysis.
What is the Early Career Scientist program?
In 2007, HHMI began to look for other opportunities to diversify its research portfolio. As the Institute's scientific leadership considered where HHMI's resources could have the greatest impact, the answer was clear: The problems facing early career faculty had reached a point where the situation had become a threat to the vitality of the nation's biomedical research capabilities.
The Institute responded to this challenge by establishing the Early Career Scientist program to provide much needed support to some of the nation's best early career faculty at a time when they most need the help. The nonrenewable, six-year appointment enables them to pursue their boldest ideas without having to worry about obtaining grants to fund those experiments.
What is the KwaZulu-Natal Research Institute for Tuberculosis and HIV?
A groundbreaking partnership between HHMI and the University of KwaZulu-Natal in Durban, South Africa, is establishing an international research center focused on making major scientific contributions to the worldwide effort to control the devastating coepidemic of tuberculosis and HIV and on training a new generation of scientists in Africa.
How else does HHMI support biomedical discovery?
Collaborative Innovation Awards. This four-year pilot program is enabling selected HHMI investigators to join with scientists outside HHMI to undertake projects that are new and so large that they require a team covering a range of fields. More
Support for projects that benefit the scientific community. HHMI provides support for infrastructure and other projects at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, the Jackson Laboratory, Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, and the Marine Biological Laboratory.
Support for postdoctoral researchers. HHMI is collaborating with the Jane Coffin Childs Memorial Fund, the Helen Hay Whitney Foundation, the Damon Runyon Cancer Research Foundation, and the Life Sciences Research Foundation to increase support for outstanding postdoctoral researchers selected by these organizations. More
How does HHMI support science education?
Over the past two decades, HHMI has provided more than $119 billion in grants to enhance science education for students from the earliest grades through graduate school and beyond. It is one of the largest private educational initiatives in U.S. history.
Grants awarded by HHMI fit within two general categories: research training grants for individuals and science education grants for institutions. They focus on four broad areas:
- Graduate-level research training
- Undergraduate science education at universities and liberal arts colleges
- Precollege science education
- International science
Can I apply for a grant?
Most HHMI grants are awarded through competitions that have specific objectives and eligibility criteria; thus, HHMI does not encourage and rarely funds unsolicited grant proposals.
What science education resources does HHMI offer?
The Institute has produced a variety of award-winning publications, videos, and other free materials that can be ordered through HHMI's online catalog. Visit www.hhmi.org/catalog.
Cool Science is a collection of innovative science education resources—produced by HHMI and its grantees—for curious people of all ages. The resources include virtual labs, biological animations and videos, lesson plans, and much more. Visit www.hhmi.org/coolscience.
The News section features the latest developments in biomedical research and related fields. Visit www.hhmi.org/news/.