It’s well known that Massachusetts fights above its weight when it comes to science. It rakes in more biomedical research funding per capita from the National Institutes of Health than any other state. A recent paper by Northeastern University scientists analyzed citations in scientific papers and found that Boston is the leading city in the production and consumption of physics research worldwide, and has been for about two decades.
On Thursday, more evidence of Boston’s research strength arrived, as the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, a major funder of biomedical research, announced its new class of investigators—scientists whose salaries, benefits, and research budgets are fully covered for five years. Of the 27 new scientists who have won the coveted funding, a third are from Massachusetts—a greater concentration than any other region in the U.S.
The Howard Hughes model for funding is slightly different than the traditional one that supports the majority of biomedical research in the U.S. Instead of funding researchers to carry out specific projects, Howard Hughes picks the best individuals, who they think can make the most progress. The model is often referred to as “people, not projects,” and there’s some evidence that the freedom may result in more influential research results.
The Boston-area scientists who have been named investigators study a wide range of subjects, including neurobiology, the power plants within cells, genomics, and evolutionary biology. They have also earned this honor at a critical time, when many researchers are struggling to get funding.
The new investigators include: biologist Adam Cohen from Harvard University, evolutionary biologist Hopi Hoekstra from Harvard University, systems biologist Vamsi Mootha of Massachusetts General Hospital, biologist Peter Reddien of the Whitehead Institute for Biomedical Research, computational biologist Aviv Regev of the Broad Institute, population geneticist David Reich of Harvard Medical School, biologist Johannes Walter of Harvard Medical School, neurobiologist Rachel Wilson of Harvard Medical School, and neurobiologist Marc Freeman of the University of Massachusetts Medical School.
See the full list of the new investigators here.