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MIT to name new director of McGovern brain center

The McGovern Institute for Brain Research at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology will announce today that Robert Desimone, scientific director of the National Institute of Mental Health, has been chosen as its new director, according to MIT officials.

Desimone will replace Phillip A. Sharp, the Nobel laureate biologist who has led the McGovern Institute since it was created four years ago with a $350 million gift from International Data Group founder Patrick J. McGovern and his wife, Lore Harp McGovern. It was the largest gift ever pledged to a university at the time, and the McGovern Institute is a key part of MIT's efforts to develop the best neuroscience program in the world.

Though a highly regarded scientist and inveterate MIT insider, Sharp is not a neuroscientist, a fact that raised eyebrows when he was first appointed to lead an institute at the cutting edge of brain research. He said the plan had always been that he would help get the center off the ground, then move on.

"It will be much easier and more effective for [Desimone], as a distinguished neuroscientist, to articulate the promises of this science than it is for me," said Sharp, adding that he can spend more time now in his own lab. "I feel fortunate to have been able to help make this happen over the last four years, with my extraordinary colleagues."

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