Philanthropists Eli & Edythe Broad of Los Angeles Give $100M to Create Institute with MIT, Harvard, and Whitehead to Fulfill Genome’s Promise for Medicine

June 19, 2003

CAMBRIDGE, Mass. — In an unprecedented alliance, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Harvard University, and Whitehead Institute announced today they have joined forces with Los Angeles philanthropists Eli and Edythe L. Broad to create a new type of biomedical research institute, aimed at realizing the promise of the human genome to revolutionize clinical medicine and to make knowledge freely available to scientists around the world.

The Eli and Edythe L. Broad Institute, which will begin operation in the Kendall Square area of Cambridge later this year, represents a unique research collaboration among MIT, Harvard and its affiliated hospitals, and the Whitehead Institute for Biomedical Research.

The Broad Institute was catalyzed by a founding gift, expected to total $100 million over 10 years, from the founder and chairman of SunAmerica and his wife. The Broad Institute, with MIT and Harvard working together, plans to raise up to $200 million in private support for its research programs over the next decade. In addition, there will be federal research support for work at The Broad Institute.

Eric Lander will be the director of The Broad Institute. Lander is a faculty member at both MIT and Whitehead Institute, the founder and director of the Whitehead Institute/MIT Center for Genome Research, and a member of the MIT Center for Cancer Research. As director of the new institute, he will maintain these faculty appointments. In addition, Lander is expected to join the faculty of the Harvard Medical School later this year.

The Broad Institute will leverage the world-class strengths and geographic proximity of its three founding institutions. Together, the institutions bring expertise in molecular biology, genomics, chemistry and chemical biology, computational science, and engineering, as well as breadth and depth in medicine.

Purpose and Mission

The Broad Institute’s purpose will be to fulfill the promise of the Human Genome Project (HGP) for medicine. The HGP, a 13-year international collaboration completed in April under budget and ahead of schedule, was biology’s first program to create comprehensive information broadly applicable to a wide range of medical challenges. It has already had a major impact on biomedical research. The HGP, however was only the first step in creating the foundations of genomic medicine – whose ultimate promise is to transform medical practice through diagnosis and therapy based on the cellular mechanisms underlying disease rather than symptoms.

The Broad Institute’s mission will have two parts:

  • To create comprehensive tools for genomic medicine and make them broadly available to scientists around the world.
  • To pioneer applications of these tools to the study of disease, in order to propel the understanding, diagnosis, prevention, and treatment of disease.

‘Comprehensive tools for genomic medicine’ refers to the complete set of information, laboratory reagents and analytical methods needed to study human biology and disease processes. This includes the ability to understand and monitor all genes and proteins in cells, tissues, and organisms, and to establish their role in disease; to understand human genetic variation and its association with susceptibility to disease; and to define the wiring diagram of cellular circuitry and its malfunction in disease.

In keeping with the tradition of the international Human Genome Project, The Broad Institute plans to make such tools broadly available to scientists worldwide and to collaborate closely with other efforts to produce such tools.

The applications to disease will include using the tools to understand the molecular basis of broad aspects of medicine, such as cancer; metabolic disorders, including diabetes, obesity and heart disease; and inflammatory and infectious diseases. Work will range from research on basic models related to disease mechanisms to the collection and molecular analysis of clinical materials, employing the toolkit for genomic medicine to take global views of biological systems.

New Model

The Broad Institute represents a new model for a biomedical research institute in several respects.

Set within one of the world’s strongest scientific and biomedical research communities, The Broad Institute will aim to complement existing research efforts by serving as a catalyst and nucleus for larger collaborative projects that cannot readily be accomplished in the traditional setting of individual academic laboratories—for reasons such as a need for scale; scientific or organizational infrastructure; or multidisciplinary expertise.

Organizationally, The Broad Institute will include both individual research laboratories and larger, team-based programs to produce and employ genomic tools.

Scientifically, it will include research ranging from basic biology to clinical medicine, and will draw upon a multidisciplinary staff with strengths in computational science, chemistry and engineering.

A key aim of The Broad Institute will be to empower the next generation of young scientists in Boston and beyond, by providing access to the most powerful concepts and tools of genomics to enable them to tackle biomedical problems.

An important aspect of The Broad Institute’s work will be computational biology, which is increasingly central in converting the explosion in biological information into useful biomedical knowledge.

The Broad Institute’s unique environment will also contribute to the universities’ educational missions by engaging students in diverse research opportunities.

Faculty and Programs

The Broad Institute will bring together world-class faculty and prominent, large-scale projects ranging from medical genomics to clinical medicine.

The Broad Institute will grow to have 12 core faculty members and about 30 associated faculty members from MIT, Harvard and Whitehead Institute. The core faculty will be appointed on a long-term basis and will lead major programs within The Broad Institute, while associated faculty will be appointed on a rotating basis.

The initial core faculty will include: Eric Lander, Director; Stuart Schreiber, Chair and Morris Loeb Professor of Chemistry and Chemical Biology at Harvard University and an Investigator of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute at Harvard University; David Altshuler, Assistant Professor of Genetics and Medicine at the Harvard Medical School and Massachusetts General Hospital and Director of the Medical and Population Genetics program at Whitehead Institute/MIT Center for Genome Research; and Todd Golub, Associate Professor of Pediatrics at Harvard Medical School, Associate Investigator of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, and Director of the Cancer Genomics program at Whitehead Institute/MIT Center for Genome Research. Additional core faculty will be added over time.

It is also expected that at least 15 associated faculty members will be appointed before The Broad Institute is launched later this year.

The Broad Institute will bring together the intellectual efforts of two prominent research centers: the Whitehead Institute/MIT Center for Genome Research and the Harvard Initiative for Chemical Genomics. The Whitehead Institute/MIT Center for Genome Research has been a flagship of the Human Genome Project, and it includes programs on genome sequencing and analysis, medical and population genetics, and cancer genomics. The Harvard Initiative for Chemical Genomics is one of the world’s leading programs using chemistry’s power to probe biology. The Broad Institute will thus launch with a substantial staff and multiple programs, and will grow in the coming years.

The Broad Institute will be located in a new facility to be sited in Kendall Square in Cambridge, which is close to MIT and the Whitehead Institute and within a short distance of the major Harvard affiliated teaching hospitals, Harvard Medical School in Boston and the Harvard University campus in Cambridge. MIT will administer The Broad Institute on behalf of the three institutions.


"Creation of The Broad Institute will launch one of the most revolutionary and important scientific ventures of the 21st Century,” said Charles M. Vest, president of MIT. “This venture will be an important nexus of Boston and Cambridge’s contributions in the future. We are deeply grateful to Eli and Edye Broad for their visionary commitment and for their extraordinary leadership as philanthropists."

Harvard President Lawrence H. Summers said, “This is a great collaboration between outstanding institutions, between scientific disciplines, between basic and applied research, toward a great objective: using our understanding of the human genome to comprehend and help cure human disease. Harvard is deeply grateful to Eli and Edye Broad and to all our partners in this important venture.”

“We stand at a moment of extraordinary promise in biomedical research,” says Lander. “The Human Genome Project has sparked a historic transformation in biology, and the scientific community now has an opportunity to transform medicine. The Broad Institute will draw on the leadership and scientific excellence of its founding institutions, the depth of Boston’s biomedical community, and the generosity of a visionary donor to bring together the diversity of expertise, critical mass, and organization needed to contribute to building the foundations for biology and medicine in the 21st Century.”

“Edye and I decided to make this gift because we believe that biomedical research is uniquely poised to revolutionize the understanding and treatment of disease. Who better than the founding institutions to make this next historic revolution happen?” says Eli Broad.

“Whitehead's mission is to identify people of extraordinary talent, nurture them, and empower them to fulfill their greatest potential. We want them to produce work that is of fundamental importance, establishes new paradigms, and benefits humankind. It is with enormous pride that we point to the work that Eric Lander and all members of the Genome Center team have done at Whitehead and eagerly await the landmarks that lie ahead in this great and bold new partnership,” says Susan Lindquist, Director of the Whitehead Institute.

“The creation of The Broad Institute builds on the increasingly numerous and successful inter-disciplinary and inter-institutional collaborations in our community,” said Joseph B. Martin, Dean of the Harvard Faculty of Medicine. “It is this type of synergy among our various faculty that will accelerate the transition of the genomic revolution into medical practice.”


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