Whitehead Institute, the world-renowned nonprofit research institution dedicated to improving human health through basic biomedical research, has announced that Institute Director David C. Page — a Whitehead Institute member since 1988 and director since 2004 — will complete his current term as director and president in summer 2020. An international search has been launched for Page’s successor.
“David’s tenure as director has been a period of incredible richness for Whitehead Institute,” says Charles D. Ellis, chair of the Whitehead Institute Board of Directors. “It has been rich in the path-breaking science that our researchers have done; in the intellectual ferment and creative environment that Whitehead members have fostered; and in the sense of community and common purpose that David has nurtured. He has led us with great skill and vision through a dynamic period of growth and continuous exploration, and he will pass to his successor an organization primed to tackle the challenges offered by a swiftly evolving bioscience landscape.”
Since its founding in 1982, Whitehead Institute has been one of the world’s most influential biomedical research centers — producing a continual stream of significant discoveries and new research tools and approaches. Whitehead Institute is a legally and financially independent organization closely affiliated with MIT, and Whitehead Institute members hold MIT faculty appointments. The 17 Whitehead Institute members include two National Medal of Science winners, nine National Academy of Sciences members, four National Academy of Medicine members, and four Investigators of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute. In addition, the institute’s prestigious Whitehead Fellows Program has fostered generations of biomedical science leaders — including Harvard Medical School Dean George Daley, celebrated MIT cancer researcher and professor of biology Angelika Amon, Broad Institute President and Founding Director Eric Lander, and NASA astronaut and space biologist Kate Rubins.
Whitehead Institute and MIT have been Page’s professional home since he earned an MD from Harvard Medical School and the Harvard-MIT Health Sciences and Technology Program and completed research in David Botstein’s lab at MIT in 1984. After serving as the institute’s first Whitehead Fellow, he became a Whitehead member and MIT faculty member in 1988. Page was appointed associate director of the institute in 2002, interim director in 2004, and director in 2005.
Throughout his 35 years at Whitehead Institute, Page has run a thriving and productive research lab. His groundbreaking studies on the Y chromosome changed the way biomedical science views the function of sex chromosomes. That work earned him wide recognition, including a Macarthur Foundation Fellowship and a Searle Scholar Award; and he has been an Investigator of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute since 1990. His research twice earned inclusion in Science magazine’s “Top 10 Breakthroughs of the Year,” first for mapping a human chromosome and then for sequencing the human Y chromosome. Today, his lab is pursuing a deep understanding of the role of sex chromosomes in health and disease — work with the potential to fundamentally change the practice of medicine and improve the quality of care for women and men alike.
As director, Page has made a mark on all facets of the Whitehead Institute organization. During his tenure, he oversaw the creation of the Institute’s Intellectual Property Office; strengthened its core facilities; and established new platforms, such as the Metabolomics Center. He also enhanced the leadership structure by appointing three associate directors; and he supported the creation of the child care center. Perhaps most important for the long run, Page has guided a robust renewal of faculty and has helped to prepare the organization for the eventual retirement of the Institute’s founding generation of members.
The search for Page’s successor will be guided by a committee of noted leaders in education, biomedical research, and nonprofit organizations, including Susan Hockfield (chair), MIT professor of neuroscience and president emerita; Laurie H. Glimcher, president and CEO of the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and former dean of Weill Cornell Medical College; Alan Grossman, the Praecis Professor of Biology and head of the MIT Department of Biology; Paul L. Joskow, former president and CEO of Alfred P. Sloan Foundation and the Elizabeth and James Killian Professor of Economics Emeritus at MIT; Amy E. Keating, professor in the departments of Biology and Biological Engineering at MIT; David Sabatini, Whitehead Institute member and associate director, and professor of biology at MIT; Phillip A. Sharp, Nobel laureate and MIT Institute professor and professor of biology; and Sarah Williamson, CEO of FCLT Global and former partner at Wellington Management Company (Joskow, Sharp, and Williamson are also members of the Whitehead Institute Board of Directors.)
The committee will be assisted by global executive search firm Russell Reynolds Associates.
“Whitehead Institute is one of the world’s premier research institutions,” says Hockfield. “It possesses an innovative and collaborative culture; rich talent and intellectual capital; a robust relationship with MIT; and a place at the heart of the Kendall Square innovation community. These factors make it an ideal opportunity for a director with vision, scientific courage, and a passion to address basic biomedical science’s most significant challenges.”
“The scientists of Whitehead Institute have helped to drive biomedical research forward and onto exciting new paths,” says Page. “In coming years, the Institute itself will experience a generational evolution, and my successor will help define the organization's future — and by extension, help shape the direction of biomedical research for decades to come.”
The new director will have an impressive line of predecessors: Whitehead Institute’s founding director was Nobel laureate and former Caltech president David Baltimore; he was succeeded by globally respected researcher and science enterprise leader Gerald Fink, and then by National Medal of Science recipient Susan Lindquist — Page’s immediate predecessor.