Emily Singer

A View from Emily Singer

The Broad Institute Gets $400 Million

The MIT-Harvard joint institute garners the world’s largest financial commitment for university biomedical research.

  • September 4, 2008

Scientists at the Broad Institute, in Cambridge, MA, must have done a dance of joy this morning, having won some respite from the serious dearth of funding for biomedical research. Eli and Edythe L. Broad, philanthropists who launched the institute in 2003 with $100 million in funding, announced a $400 million endowment this morning, bringing their total contribution to $600 million. (They contributed another $100 million in 2005.)

In the past few years, the Broad has spearheaded major genetic studies, identifying genes involved in diseases like diabetes, Crohn’s, and irritable bowel syndrome. Broad scientists have successfully isolated genetic links to diseases that have been resistant to genetic analysis, including schizophrenia, bipolar disease, and autism.

“Of all of our philanthropy, the Broad Institute has been the investment that has yielded the greatest returns,” said Eli Broad, founder of The Eli and Edythe Broad Foundation, in a press release from the Broad Institute. “This truly is a new way of doing science, and the Institute’s unique collaborative model for scientific research has resulted in remarkable accomplishments in a very short period of time. Although this is a large gift–the largest that we have ever made–it is only a fraction of what will be needed to unlock the enormous promise of biomedical research at MIT and Harvard. We are counting on others to step forward as partners in the next phase of this grand experiment. We are convinced that the genomics and biomedical work being conducted here by the world’s best and brightest scientists will ultimately lead to the cure and even the prevention of diseases.”

An article in the New York Times reflects on the unique joint nature of the institute:

The Broad Institute is a rare joint effort between two fiercely competitive institutions, Harvard and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. While Broad has its own scientists, most of the researchers working there are linked to other institutions around the world.

Broad offers them a place to collaborate while maintaining their positions elsewhere and draws together teams of mathematicians, engineers, physicists and scientists from other disciplines to work toward common goals.

“This idea of breaking down the barriers so that scientists view Broad as a sort of free-trade zone for research has been fantastic,’ said Eric S. Lander, the founding director of the institute and a leader of the Human Genome Project, which sequenced the human genome.

A selection of Technology Review articles on research from the Broad Institute:

A New Genetic Globe

DNA Deletion Linked to Autism

Wired to Eat

Dog DNA May Lead to Cures

Testing the Toxicity of Nanomaterials

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