Leaders in Science, Medicine, and Public Policy Celebrate Dedication of Whitehead Institute's New Research Wing

September 30, 1996

Tags: Awards + Announcements

CAMBRIDGE, Mass. — Keynote speaker Dr. Harold E. Varmus, director of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), President Charles M. Vest of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), and Senator Paul E. Tsongas, Chairman of the Board of the Whitehead Institute for Biomedical Research, joined more than 400 business leaders, educators, and scientists in dedication ceremonies for the Whitehead Institute's new state-of-the-art research wing on Monday, September 30, 1996.

"This new facility, located at the heart of the biotechnology enterprise in Massachusetts, will allow Whitehead scientists to accelerate programs in cancer research, human genetics, AIDS and TB research, and basic developmental biology," says Senator Tsongas, who has chaired the Whitehead Board since 1992. "Whitehead researchers are exploring the origins of disease at the molecular level and creating entirely new strategies for developing drugs and vaccines. They are laying the foundation for medicine in the 21st century."

The Whitehead Institute, directed by genetics pioneer Dr. Gerald R. Fink, is a non-profit independent research institution affiliated with MIT through its teaching activities. Since its founding just fourteen years ago, the Whitehead has become a world leader in the Human Genome Project (the effort to identify all of the 100,000 genes that make up a human being) and gained international recognition for a variety of achievements, including: developing new vaccine candidates for AIDS, tuberculosis, and cancer; cloning the first human chromosome; and deciphering basic disease mechanisms responsible for diabetes, breast cancer, leukemia, and heart disease.

"One of the reasons behind the meteoric rise of the Whitehead Institute has been our ability to support new ideas at the very earliest stages of developmen—taking a chance on brilliant young scientists eager to extend the boundaries of their chosen fields," says Dr. Fink. "The new facilities will ensure that our young researchers continue to have the tools and resources they need to pursue novel ideas—solving basic science problems in ways that yield practical benefits for all of us."

The new wing, adding approximately 76,000 gross square feet, has enabled the Institute to construct expanded biologic containment facilities for infectious disease research; to double the size of its state-of-the-art animal facility (for studying mouse models of human disease); and to build a new Center for Structural Biology (to advance the field of molecular medicine). Overall, the addition increases space for research and training by more than 45 percent.

"Another exciting feature of the new wing is that it will provide space for expansion of our Whitehead Fellows Program," Dr. Fink says. "This program allows promising young scientists with exceptional research agendas to pursue independent research programs as an alternative to traditional post-doctoral positions. It has been hailed throughout the country as a model for bringing the very best young scientists to maturity ahead of their time."

During the dedication program, Ms. Susan Whitehead, vice chairman of the Whitehead Board of Directors, announced successful completion of the Institute's first major fundraising initiative, the Campaign for Discovery, which raised more than $12,500,000. Ms. Whitehead chaired the Campaign, which received a $1 million challenge award from the prestigious Kresge Foundation for reaching the campaign goal of $12 million by the end of June.

The Campaign for Discovery helped offset the cost of constructing the new research wing and also provided new funds for research and fellowship support. Among the major donors were The Ira W. DeCamp Fund, The W.M. Keck Foundation, The Mary Woodard Lasker Charitable Trust, The G. Harold & Leila Y. Mathers Foundation, and the Fannie E. Rippel Foundation. Leadership support also came from The Whitehead Family Foundation, the Burroughs Wellcome Fund, the Lucille P. Markey Charitable Trust, and philanthropists Patrick J. and Lore Harp McGovern and Thomas H. Lee.

Whitehead laboratories provide training for more than 250 students, post-doctoral fellows, physicians, and visiting scientists from 25 countries. In addition, the Institute has a variety of outreach programs, including a five-year-old partnership program for high school teachers in Boston, Cambridge, and surrounding communities; a popular winter lecture series for high school students; and an annual symposium on a topic at the forefront of science for more than 1,400 researchers from across the country. The Whitehead Institute is also a major resource for the biotechnology industry; it has more than fifty licensing agreements—on products ranging from AIDS vaccine candidates to new robotics technologies—with biotechnology and pharmaceutical companies throughout the United States.

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Whitehead Institute is a world-renowned non-profit research institution dedicated to improving human health through basic biomedical research.
Wholly independent in its governance, finances, and research programs, Whitehead shares a close affiliation with Massachusetts Institute of Technology
through its faculty, who hold joint MIT appointments.

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