Research Areas


Cancer is a disease, or set of diseases, in which abnormal cells in the body experience uncontrolled growth. Cancer biology is complex, with many potential factors contributing to a given cancer’s development and outcome. Researchers at Whitehead Institute are investigating the fundamental biology of cancer cells and have helped drive steady advances in biomedicine’s understanding of cancer, contributing to innovative strategies in both diagnosis and therapy.

Our researchers seek to understand the activity of and interactions between the many molecules that make up the complex world of the cell. They investigate how the molecules and specialized structures inside of our cells work in concert with each other, in a precisely choreographed dance, to ensure that biological processes happen when and how they should.

Whitehead Institute’s core facilities set it apart. The cores, staffed by experts and providing state-of-the-art instrumentation and tools, allow our scientists to pursue more ambitious investigations.

Our researchers are investigating important questions about how organisms develop —How does one generation beget the next? How does a single cell give rise to a complex organism?—and, with the help of new tools and innovative approaches, revealing answers that give us a better understanding of the fundamental aspects of life.

Whitehead Institute has been a trailblazer in the fields of genomics and genetics since it became the single largest contributor to the Human Genome Project—and the Institute continues to be a world leader in genetics and genomics research.

Our researchers are working to understand the biology underlying infectious diseases and the microbes and viruses behind them, using innovative genetic approaches and  new tools and methods.

Whitehead Institute researchers are making important insights into the biology of the brain, from how it develops to what goes awry in neurodegenerative diseases and neurodevelopmental disorders.

Whitehead Institute researchers are shedding light on the intricacies of plant biology in order to provide insights into plant development that could contribute to improved crop yield and global food security; discover plant-derived medicines and other valuable natural products; and improve our fundamental understanding of biological processes, including gene regulation and protein folding.