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Broad Institute hopes to transform medical practice

Professor Eric Lander reported on plans for the new Broad institute at the Oct. 15 faculty meeting.

Lander, who was founding director of the Whitehead Institute/MIT Center for Genome Research and is now director of the Broad Institute, said the new institute's mission is to act on the work of the Human Genome Project to transform medicine into the diagnosis and treatment of disease based on an understanding of the cellular mechanisms behind it.

The Broad Institute, which was announced in June, is being founded by a $100 million gift from Eli and Edythe Broad of Los Angeles, whose 10-year donation will be matched by additional fund-raising. The institute--which will be based at and administered by MIT--is a collaboration involving MIT, Harvard, Whitehead and the Harvard University hospitals. For now, the institute is keeping the space used by the Center for Genome Research, but is expected to move closer to the MIT campus next year.

About 12 long-term core members will be selected, including current core members Lander, Stuart Schreiber of Harvard, and Todd Golub and David Altshuler of Harvard Medical School. Core members will have their primary research space at the Broad Institute.

At least 30 associate members will retain their primary research space in their home institutions but will be active members of Broad scientific programs and lead projects using Broad space and resources as appropriate. A larger number of affiliate members also will be involved in specific projects for shorter periods.

Lander said the scientific mission is to create comprehensive tools for genomic medicine and make them broadly available to the scientific community. The institute will make possible large collaborative projects difficult to accomplish in individual labs. For instance, it will have the capacity to do large-scale gene sequencing, genotyping, RNA and protein profiling, and chemical screening.

In other business at the meeting, professors Karen Gleason and Robert Armstrong of chemical engineering presented a proposal for a new S.B. degree in chemical-biological engineering (10B), which would be offered through the Department of Chemical Engineering. The degree program would prepare graduates to meet industry's need for integration of chemistry and biology. Armstrong gave examples of the department's success in this area, including Professor Robert Langer's work in biomedical engineering, the Biotechnology Process Engineering Center and the Biological Engineering Division.

A version of this article appeared in MIT Tech Talk on October 22, 2003.

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