Whitehead Institute establishes the David Baltimore Chair in Biomedical Research

Honoring one of the world’s most accomplished and respected scientists—and the Founding Director of Whitehead Institute for Biomedical Research—Whitehead Institute has established the David Baltimore Chair in Biomedical Research. The Chair will both honor Baltimore’s six decades of scientific, academic, and policy leadership and advance his vision of innovative basic biomedical research.

Announcing the Chair’s creation, Whitehead Institute president and director Ruth Lehmann observes, “David Baltimore has fundamentally shaped the development of key fields of science. He has guided the strategic direction of dozens of science and education-focused organizations. And he has advanced the careers of generations of individual scientists.

“But David’s legacy of impact shines most distinctly in Whitehead Institute: the organization that he partnered with Jack Whitehead to plan and create; which he led for eight years and guided to become one of the world’s preeminent biomedical research centers; and where his example and his wisdom continue to guide its scientists.”

"David’s legacy of impact shines most distinctly in Whitehead Institute...where his example and his wisdom continue to guide its scientists." - Ruth Lehmann

Baltimore’s career has traversed research, teaching, academic administration, and science policy advocacy. His extraordinary range of achievements include Nobel prize and the National Medal of Science winning research on reverse transcriptase, immunology, and cancer; leadership of Whitehead Institute, Rockefeller University, California Institute of Technology, and the American Association for the Advancement of Science; and pioneering advocacy of policies addressing recombinant DNA, AIDS research and treatment, and genomic editing. Recognizing the breadth of his tremendous impact, the Lasker Foundation awarded Baltimore the 2021 Lasker-Koshland Special Achievement Award in Medical Science.

“David has also been a role model and mentor, colleague and collaborator for hundreds of scientists,” says Lehmann, who is also a professor of biology at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). “And, as he intended, the heart of Whitehead Institute is its extraordinary faculty and Fellows, whose intellectual risk-taking and deeply collaborative approach encourages startling new ideas to propel science forward.”

The Baltimore Chair will be held by a senior Member of the Institute and—in addition to providing a tangible investment in that eminent investigator’s long-term research program—will be a vibrant recognition of their distinguished record of accomplishment.

The Chair’s first incumbent will be Whitehead Institute Member Mary Gehring, who currently holds the Institute’s Landon T. Clay Career Development Chair and is a professor of biology at MIT. Gehring studies how plant epigenetics modulate plant growth and development. Her long-term goal is to provide the scientific foundations for the development of food crop plants that are more resilient, increasing the seed production of “orphan crops” that are already able to withstand heat, drought, and changing soil conditions that will become more widespread with climate change. Thus, her work promises key insights into ensuring food security for the world’s growing population.

The Chair is underwritten through a $5 million endowment created by a growing group of donors, including many of Baltimore’s present and former colleagues, former students and trainees, and friends from around the world. Fundraising for the Baltimore Chair endowment has been guided by a leadership committee comprising: Irving Weissman, Professor of Pathology and of Developmental Biology at Stanford University; Phillip A. Sharp, Nobel Laureate, Institute Professor at MIT, and Whitehead Institute board member; and Institute board members Susan Whitehead, Jono Goldstein, and Churchill Franklin.

The Institute will celebrate David Baltimore and the establishment of the Baltimore Chair this coming autumn.



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