Whitehead Institute

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search
Whitehead Institute for Biomedical Research
Whitehead Institute.jpg
The Whitehead Institute for Biomedical Research
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
DirectorDavid Page
AffiliationsMassachusetts Institute of Technology

Whitehead Institute for Biomedical Research is a non-profit research 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 Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), where its 16 Members all hold faculty appointments in the MIT Department of Biology or MIT Department of Bioengineering. Two Members (Rudolf Jaenisch, 2010,[1] and Robert Weinberg, 1997[2]) are National Medal of Science recipients; ten have been elected to the National Academy of Sciences[3] and four have been elected to the National Academy of Medicine;[4] and four are Howard Hughes Medical Institute Investigators.[5]


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".[6][7][8] 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".[9] As Whitehead Institute's Founding Director, Baltimore handpicked Harvey Lodish, and Robert Weinberg from MIT, Gerald Fink from Cornell University, and Rudolf Jaenisch from University of Hamburg, Germany, to be Whitehead Institute's Founding Members. 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.[10] Whitehead Institute’s Center for Genome Research became the single largest contributor to the Human Genome Project, and reportedly contributed one-third of the human genome sequence announced in June 2000.[11]

In the early 2000’s, 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.[8] 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.[12]

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,[13] Sanofi Genzyme,[14] Ironwood Pharmaceuticals,[15] Rubius Therapeutics,[16] and Verastem.[17]


The Whitehead faculty currently comprises 16 members whose laboratories focus on biology’s most fundamental questions. The Members, who are all also MIT faculty members, are:

  • David Bartel - co-discovered the abundance of microRNAs and has since played a leading role in defining these short RNAs and how they act to regulate genes in plants and animals[18]
  • Iain Cheeseman - studies the kinetochore, the group of proteins that assemble at the centromere and that are required for chromosome segregation and cell division; defining the roles of the different components of the kinetochore may enhance understanding of mechanisms underlying a variety of diseases[19]
  • Gerald R. Fink
  • Mary Gehring - studies how gene expression in plants is modulated by epigenetics (heritable information that influences cell function but is not encoded in DNA) [20]
  • Piyush B. Gupta - studies how changes in the mechanisms underlying cellular differentiation and cell-fate decisions contribute to cancer pathobiology [21]
  • Rudolf Jaenisch - investigates the genetic and epigenetic basis of diseases including Parkinson’s, autism, and Rett and Fragile X syndrome. He has used patient-derived induced pluripotent stem cells to develop sophisticated models of conditions such as Alzheimer’s and diabetes. Jaenisch created the first transgenic animal model and was the first to demonstrate therapeutic cloning in mice [22]
  • Harvey F. Lodish - studies red blood cell formation and diseases associated with this process. He is recognized for pioneering work on erythropoietin, the hormone controlling red blood cell formation, as well as for studies of the formation of fat cells and their role in diseases such as obesity and diabetes.[23]
  • Sebastian Lourido - investigates the biology of apicomplexan parasites, which include the etiologic agents of many common human diseases, such as toxoplasmosis (Toxoplasma gondii), cryptosporidiosis (Cryptosporidium spp.), and malaria (Plasmodium spp.). His lab uses Toxoplasma to model conserved aspects of apicomplexan biology, and recently used CRISPR-based genetic screens to identify parasite genes that contribute to infection.[24]
  • Terry L. Orr-Weaver - studies how cell size and proliferation are controlled during development; she has discovered important regulators of chromosome segregation and DNA replication, and made major advances in deciphering the complex regulation of meiosis.[25]
  • David C. Page - is the Director of Whitehead Institute and studies genomics of sex chromosomes; he has made pioneering discoveries about the Y chromosome, is investigating the differential impact of XX and XY chromosomes on cellular function throughout the body, and is elucidating the resulting sex-biased effects on health and disease.[26]
  • Peter W. Reddien - studies how regenerative organisms regrow body parts. Using the flatworm planaria, he has identified important components of the molecular and developmental programs specifying the body parts to be replaced, and shown that they require pluripotent stem cells called neoblasts, as well as expression of position control genes and signals from the muscle.[27]
  • David M. Sabatini
  • Hazel L. Sive
  • Robert A. Weinberg - studies the molecular and genetic basis of human cancer, cancer stem cells, and the factors involved in cancer metastasis. Having discovered the first human oncogene and the first tumor suppressor gene, he is studying how cancer stem cells contribute to tumor invasion and metastasis.[28]
  • Jing-Ke Weng - focuses on understanding the origin and evolution of specialized metabolic systems in plants; he is particularly interested in developing new therapeutics inspired by traditional herbal medicines of the world.[29]
  • Richard A. Young

Fellows Program[edit]

The Whitehead Fellows Program provides an opportunity for highly accomplished recent PhDs to direct their own labs, rather than work in a senior researcher’s lab as a traditional postdoctoral researcher. Fellows receive dedicated lab space and funds for equipment, lab operations, salary, and core staffing. They also receive mentoring from Whitehead Faculty Members, who serve as resources and integrate the Fellows into the Institute’s collaborative culture.[30]

Past Whitehead Fellows include George Q. Daley, Dean of Harvard Medical School; Angelika Amon, MIT professor and cancer researcher; Eric Lander, President and Founding Director of Broad Institute; Kathleen Rubins, NASA astronaut and space biologist; David C. Page, Whitehead Institute Director; and Peter S. Kim, former President of Merck Research Laboratories.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "National Science Foundation". Retrieved 16 July 2018.
  2. ^ National Science Foundation https://www.nsf.gov/od/nms/recip_details.jsp?recip_id=379. Retrieved 16 July 2018. Missing or empty |title= (help)
  3. ^ National Academy of Sciences http://www.nasonline.org/member-directory/?q=Massachusetts+institute+of+technology&site=nas_members&client=nas_members&proxystylesheet=nas_members&output=xml_no_dtd&filter=0&GSAhost=search.nationalacademies.org&unitsite=nas_members&unitname=NAS+Member+Directory&theme=gray&requestencoding=utf-8&s=Massachusetts+institute+of+technology&access=p&entqr=3&getfields=member_institution.member_section.member_secondary.member_fullname.member_lastname.member_firstname.member_date_of_birth.member_date_of_death.member_photopath&ie=UTF-8&ip= Retrieved 16 July 2018. Missing or empty |title= (help)
  4. ^ National Academy of Medicine https://nam.edu/directory-search-form/. Retrieved 16 July 2018. Missing or empty |title= (help)
  5. ^ HHMI https://www.hhmi.org/scientists/browse?kw=&f%5B1%5D=field_scientist_institutionstate%253Atid%3A17384&field_scientist_classification%5B0%5D=17367&items_per_page=96. Retrieved 16 July 2018. Missing or empty |title= (help)
  6. ^ https://www.nytimes.com/1992/02/04/nyregion/edwin-c-whitehead-72-dies-financed-biomedical-research.html The New York Times
  7. ^ http://wi.mit.edu/about/history. Missing or empty |title= (help); External link in |website= (help); Missing or empty |url= (help); |access-date= requires |url= (help)
  8. ^ a b "About Us". Whitehead Institute for Biomedical Research. Retrieved 3 July 2018.
  9. ^ http://wi.mit.edu/about/history/vision. Missing or empty |title= (help); External link in |website= (help); Missing or empty |url= (help); |access-date= requires |url= (help)
  10. ^ http://wi.mit.edu/about/history. Retrieved 16 July 2018. Missing or empty |title= (help)
  11. ^ Kumar, Seema (2000-07-12). "Whitehead scientists enjoy genome sequence milestone". Whitehead Institute. Retrieved 2018-07-16.
  12. ^ "Best Places to Work Postdocs 2013". The Scientist.
  13. ^ Whitehead Institute http://wi.mit.edu/news/archive/2005/knockout-punch-promise-rnai. Retrieved 16 July 2018. Missing or empty |title= (help)
  14. ^ Lodish HF (2017). "Fifty years of mentoring and advising". Mol Biol Cell. 28: 2908–2910. doi:10.1091/mbc.E17-07-0481. PMC 5662247. PMID 29084906.
  15. ^ Ironwood Pharmaceuticals https://www.ironwoodpharma.com/management-team. Retrieved 16 July 2018. Missing or empty |title= (help)
  16. ^ . Technology Review https://www.technologyreview.com/s/544281/turning-red-blood-cells-into-versatile-drug-carriers/. Retrieved 7 August 2018. Missing or empty |title= (help)
  17. ^ . Xconomy. 2010-11-16 https://www.xconomy.com/boston/2010/11/16/verastem-led-by-mit-big-names-raises-16m-to-fight-cancer-stem-cells/. Retrieved 16 July 2018. Missing or empty |title= (help)
  18. ^ http://wi.mit.edu/people/faculty/bartel. Retrieved 16 July 2018. Missing or empty |title= (help)
  19. ^ http://wi.mit.edu/people/faculty/cheeseman. Retrieved 16 July 2018. Missing or empty |title= (help)
  20. ^ http://wi.mit.edu/people/faculty/gehring. Retrieved 16 July 2018. Missing or empty |title= (help)
  21. ^ http://wi.mit.edu/people/faculty/gupta. Retrieved 16 July 2018. Missing or empty |title= (help)
  22. ^ http://wi.mit.edu/people/faculty/jaenisch. Retrieved 16 July 2018. Missing or empty |title= (help)
  23. ^ http://wi.mit.edu/people/faculty/lodish. Retrieved 16 July 2018. Missing or empty |title= (help)
  24. ^ http://wi.mit.edu/people/faculty/lourido. Retrieved 16 July 2018. Missing or empty |title= (help)
  25. ^ http://wi.mit.edu/people/faculty/orr-weaver. Retrieved 16 July 2018. Missing or empty |title= (help)
  26. ^ http://wi.mit.edu/people/faculty/page. Retrieved 16 July 2018. Missing or empty |title= (help)
  27. ^ http://wi.mit.edu/people/faculty/reddien. Retrieved 16 July 2018. Missing or empty |title= (help)
  28. ^ http://wi.mit.edu/people/faculty/weinberg. Retrieved 16 July 2018. Missing or empty |title= (help)
  29. ^ http://wi.mit.edu/people/faculty/weng. Retrieved 16 July 2018. Missing or empty |title= (help)
  30. ^ Whitehead Institute http://wi.mit.edu/people/fellows/selection. Retrieved 16 July 2018. Missing or empty |title= (help)

External links[edit]