Howard Hughes Medical Institute
|Focus||Biological and Medical research and Science Education|
The Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI) is a United States non-profit medical research organization based in Chevy Chase, Maryland. It was founded by the American businessman Howard Hughes in 1953. It is one of the largest private funding organizations for biological and medical research in the United States. HHMI spends about $1 million per HHMI Investigator per year, which amounts to annual investment in biomedical research of about $825 million. The institute has an endowment of $18.2 billion, making it the second-wealthiest philanthropic organization in the United States and the second best endowed medical research foundation in the world. HHMI is the former owner of the Hughes Aircraft Company - an American aerospace firm which was divested to various firms over time.
Initially, the institute was formed with the stated goal of basic research including trying to understand, in Hughes' words, "the genesis of life itself." Despite its principles, in the early days it was generally viewed as largely a tax haven for Hughes' huge personal fortune. Hughes was the sole trustee of HHMI and transferred all his stock of Hughes Aircraft to the institute, in effect turning the large defense contractor into a tax-exempt charity. For many years the Institute grappled with maintaining its non-profit status; the Internal Revenue Service challenged its "charitable" status which made it tax exempt. Partly in response to such claims, starting in the late 1950s it began funding 47 investigators researching at eight different institutions; however, it remained a modest enterprise for several decades. The institute was initially located in Miami, Florida in 1953. Hughes's internist, Dr. Verne Mason, who treated Hughes after his 1946 plane crash, was chairman of the institute's medical advisory committee. The institute moved to Coconut Grove, Florida, in the mid-1970s and then to Bethesda, Maryland, in 1976. In 1993 the institute moved to its current headquarters in Chevy Chase, Maryland.
It was not until after Hughes' death in 1976 that the Institute's profile increased from an annual budget of $4 million in 1975 to $15 million by 1978. In this period it focused its mission on genetics, immunology and the rapidly growing field of molecular biology. Since Hughes died without a will as the sole trustee of the HHMI, the Institute was involved in lengthy court proceedings to determine whether it would benefit from Hughes' fortune. In April 1984, a court appointed new trustees for the institute's holdings. (The original trustees were: Helen K. Copley, Donald S. Fredrickson, M.D., Frank William Gay, James H. Gilliam, Jr., Esq., Hanna H. Gray, Ph.D., William R. Lummis, Esq., Irving S. Shapiro, Esq., George W. Thorn, M.D.). In January 1985 the trustees announced they would sell Hughes Aircraft either by private sale or public stock offering. On June 5, 1985 General Motors (GM) was announced as the winner of a secretive five month, sealed-bid auction. The purchase was completed on December 20, 1985 for an estimated $5.2 billion, $2.7 billion in cash and the rest in 50 million shares of GM Class H stock. The proceeds caused the institute to grow dramatically.
HHMI completed the building of a new research campus in Ashburn, Virginia called Janelia Research Campus in October 2006. It is modeled after AT&T's Bell Labs and the Medical Research Council's Laboratory of Molecular Biology. With a main laboratory building nearly 1,000 feet (300 m) long, it contains 760,000 square feet (71,000 m2) of enclosed space, used primarily for research. The campus also features apartments for visiting researchers.
In 2007, HHMI and the publisher Elsevier announced that they have established an agreement to make author manuscripts of HHMI research articles published in Elsevier and Cell Press journals publicly available six months following final publication. The agreement takes effect for articles published after September 1, 2007. In 2008, the Trustees of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute selected Dr. Robert Tjian as the new president of HHMI. In 2009, HHMI awarded 50 researchers, as part of the HHMI Early Career Scientist Competition. In 2016, the HHMI Trustees selected Dr. Erin O'Shea as the new president of HHMI.
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