With an eye to sponsoring groundbreaking research, the Howard Hughes Medical Institute is funding a $600 million effort to back advanced medical research by 56 of the country's most notable scientists. At a time that the federal government has reined in research spending, the institute is pushing ahead with plans to back risky research projects that have the potential to offer major advances. The scientists' work, which was selected from more than a thousand applications, will be endowed over several years, allowing the scientists the freedom to concentrate on their work.
"We identify the best people and then free them up to do what they want to do and to be flexible and change directions and follow their noses into new fields," Hughes Institute President Thomas R. Cech told the Washington Post.
The projects that are being backed include research into the impact of global warming on infectious diseases as well as the application of engineering principles in other fields to the human immune system. The 56 selected scientists will continue to work at various universities and research institutes around the country, but will be employed by the Howard Hughes Medical Institute.