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Whitehead Institute

Coordinates: 42°21′48″N 71°05′22″W / 42.363471°N 71.089361°W / 42.363471; -71.089361
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42°21′48″N 71°05′22″W / 42.363471°N 71.089361°W / 42.363471; -71.089361

Whitehead Institute for Biomedical Research
The Whitehead Institute for Biomedical Research
Established1982; 42 years ago (1982)
Research typeA scientific community exploring biology's most fundamental questions for the betterment of human health
Field of research
Cancer, Stem Cell, Immunology, Developmental Biology, Regenerative Medicine, Genetics, Genomics
DirectorRuth Lehmann
$521.3 million (2020)[1]
AffiliationsMassachusetts Institute of Technology

Whitehead Institute for Biomedical Research is a non-profit research institute located in Cambridge, Massachusetts, United States that is dedicated to improving human health through basic biomedical research. It was founded as a fiscally independent entity from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), where its 19 members all hold faculty appointments in the MIT Department of Biology or the MIT Department of Bioengineering. As of 2023, Ruth Lehmann is its director; she succeeded David C. Page.



Whitehead Institute was founded in 1982 by industrialist and philanthropist Edwin C. “Jack” Whitehead (1920–1992), who sought to establish a research institute "dedicated to improving human health through basic biomedical science".[2][3][4] Whitehead believed that while such an institution should be closely affiliated with an academic institution, it should remain wholly independent and self-governing. In David Baltimore (1975 Nobel Laureate in Physiology or Medicine), Whitehead found a partner who agreed that this approach would create an "optimum environment for basic research".[5] As Whitehead Institute's Founding Director, Baltimore handpicked Harvey Lodish,[6] and Robert Weinberg from MIT,[7] Gerald Fink from Cornell University,[8] and Rudolf Jaenisch from University of Hamburg, Germany, to be Whitehead Institute's Founding Members.[9] This group then identified promising younger scientists to be the first generation of Whitehead Members; and they established the Whitehead Fellows Program as a vehicle for accelerating the careers of highly promising young investigators.

Less than a decade after its founding, the Institute for Scientific Information in Philadelphia identified Whitehead as the top research institution in the world in molecular biology and genetics, based on the impact of its scientific publications.[3] Whitehead Institute's Center for Genome Research (CGR) became the single largest contributor to the Human Genome Project, and reportedly contributed one-third of the human genome sequence announced in June 2000.[10]

In 2004 the CGR formed the independent Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard, of which then-Whitehead Member Eric Lander was named Founding Director and President.

Whitehead Institute's influence continues - over a 10-year period, papers published by Whitehead scientists had more impact in molecular biology and genetics than those from any of the 15 leading research universities and life sciences institutes in the United States.[4] Training and education is integral to Whitehead Institute's mission and approximately 300 undergraduates, graduate students, post-doctoral researchers, and visiting scientists are integrally engaged in its research programs. Four times since 2009, the Whitehead Institute has been ranked first as the Best Place to Work for Postdocs in USA by The Scientist magazine.[11]

Today, Whitehead scientists run research programs in cancer biology, developmental biology, genetics and genomics, metabolism, neurodevelopment and neurodegenerative disease, and regenerative medicine. In addition, numerous biotech companies have been launched by Whitehead Members or based on intellectual property developed at the institute, such as Alnylam Pharmaceuticals,[12] Sanofi Genzyme,[13] Ironwood Pharmaceuticals,[14] Rubius Therapeutics,[15] and Verastem.[16]

In 2019, according to the NACUBO report, the institute had an endowment of $527.9 million.[17]



The Whitehead faculty currently comprises 19 members whose laboratories focus on biology's most fundamental questions.[18] The Members, who are all also MIT faculty members, are:

Fellows Program


In addition to faculty-led labs, the Whitehead Fellows Program, established in 1984, provides an opportunity for highly accomplished recent PhDs and MDs to direct their own labs as Principal Investigators, rather than work in a senior researcher's lab as a traditional postdoctoral researcher.[20] Fellows receive dedicated lab space and funds for equipment, lab operations, salary, and core staffing.[21] More than a dozen similar programs have since been established around the country, including those at the University of California/San Francisco, Carnegie Institution, and Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory.[22][23]

Past Whitehead Fellows include George Q. Daley, Dean of Harvard Medical School;[24] Angelika Amon, the late MIT professor and cancer researcher;[25] Kathleen Rubins, NASA astronaut and space biologist;[26] and Stanford University professor Peter S. Kim, who is former President of Merck Research Laboratories.[27] Current Whitehead Fellows include Lindsey Backman, who studies the human microbiome; Tobiloba Oni, who studies pancreatic cancer; and Kipp Weiskopf, who studies activation of myeloid cells in tumors to treat cancer.[28]

See also



  1. ^ As of June 30, 2020. U.S. and Canadian Institutions Listed by Fiscal Year 2020 Endowment Market Value and Change in Endowment Market Value from FY19 to FY20 (Report). National Association of College and University Business Officers and TIAA. February 19, 2021. Retrieved February 20, 2021.
  2. ^ Teltsch, Kathleen (February 4, 1992). "Edwin C. Whitehead, 72, Dies; Financed Biomedical Research". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved January 31, 2023.
  3. ^ a b "Whitehead Institute – History". wi.mit.edu. Retrieved February 22, 2019.
  4. ^ a b "About Us". Whitehead Institute for Biomedical Research. Retrieved July 3, 2018.
  5. ^ "Whitehead Institute – History – Pioneering Vision". wi.mit.edu. Retrieved February 22, 2019.
  6. ^ Harvey F. Lodish
  7. ^ The Deadly Side of Cancer: How Cancer Spreads with Robert Weinberg
  8. ^ Biotechnology, National Research Council (US) Committee on Research Standards and Practices to Prevent the Destructive Application of (2004). "Biographical Sketches of Committee Members". National Academies Press (US). {{cite journal}}: Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  9. ^ Founders
  10. ^ Kumar, Seema (July 12, 2000). "Whitehead scientists enjoy genome sequence milestone". Whitehead Institute. Retrieved July 16, 2018.
  11. ^ "Best Places to Work Postdocs 2013". The Scientist.
  12. ^ "Whitehead Institute – News – 2005 – Knockout punch: the promise of RNAi". wi.mit.edu. Retrieved February 22, 2019.
  13. ^ Lodish HF (2017). "Fifty years of mentoring and advising". Mol Biol Cell. 28 (22): 2908–2910. doi:10.1091/mbc.E17-07-0481. PMC 5662247. PMID 29084906.
  14. ^ "Management Team". www.ironwoodpharma.com. Retrieved February 22, 2019.
  15. ^ Orcutt, Mike. "Startup Says Engineered Blood Cells Can Deliver Drugs to the Body". MIT Technology Review. Retrieved February 22, 2019.
  16. ^ "Xconomy: Verastem, Founded by MIT Big Names, Raises $16M to Fight Cancer Stem Cells". Xconomy. November 16, 2010. Retrieved February 22, 2019.
  17. ^ As of June 30, 2019. "U.S. and Canadian Institutions Listed by Fiscal Year (FY) 2019 Endowment Market Value and Change in Endowment Market Value from FY 2018 to FY 2019". National Association of College and University Business Officers and TIAA. Retrieved February 28, 2020.
  18. ^ "Whitehead Institute of MIT".
  19. ^ "Whitehead Institute – Faculty – Ankur Jain". wi.mit.edu. May 31, 2017. Retrieved March 19, 2019.
  20. ^ "Gale - Product Login". galeapps.gale.com. Retrieved February 1, 2023.
  21. ^ "Whitehead Institute of MIT". Whitehead Institute of MIT. Retrieved February 1, 2023.
  22. ^ "About the Program". Sandler Fellows Program. Retrieved February 1, 2023.
  23. ^ "Other Programs". Sandler Fellows Program. Retrieved February 1, 2023.
  24. ^ "George Q. Daley". hms.harvard.edu. Retrieved February 1, 2023.
  25. ^ "Angelika Amon, cell biologist who pioneered research on chromosome imbalance, dies at 53". MIT News | Massachusetts Institute of Technology. October 30, 2020. Retrieved February 1, 2023.
  26. ^ Whiting, Melanie (February 21, 2016). "Kathleen "Kate" Rubins (PH.D.) NASA Astronaut". NASA. Retrieved February 1, 2023.
  27. ^ "CAP Profile". CAP Profiles (in Samoan). Retrieved February 1, 2023.
  28. ^ "Whitehead Institute of MIT". Whitehead Institute of MIT. Retrieved February 1, 2023.