UW News

May 11, 2000

Five Seattle scientists selected as Howard Hughes Medical Institute Investigators

Five Seattle researchers — three from the University of Washington and two from the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center — have been selected as Howard Hughes Medical Institute investigators. This is the first time there have been so many winners in the Seattle area. This also represents one of the highest concentrations of winners in the nation.

Drs. David Baker, Philip Green and Michael Shadlen from UW and Drs. Leonid Kruglyak and Cecilia Moens from the Hutchinson Center are among 48 scientists chosen earlier this week for this prestigious appointment. They were selected from a pool of 430 candidates nominated by more than 200 U.S. institutions.

The Howard Hughes Medical Institute, or HHMI, based in Chevy Chase, Md., is a medical research organization that enters into long-term research collaborations with more than 70 medical schools, universities and research institutes nationwide, where its investigators hold faculty appointments.

HHMI investigators and their teams carry out research with considerable freedom and flexibility, as the Institute emphasizes “people, not projects,” which differs from the traditional grant-based approach to research funding used elsewhere. HHMI spends between $500,000 and $1 million annually for each of its new investigators, including support to the host institutions for graduate training, library resources and other needs.

New HHMI investigators from the University of Washington:

David Baker, Ph.D., a biochemist, is a leader in efforts to predict the three-dimensional structures of proteins from their amino acid sequences. This is an important step in understanding the functions and interrelationships of the more than 100,000 proteins encoded in the human genome. An understanding of “protein folding” may help find therapies for disease. Baker is an associate professor of biochemistry and an adjunct professor of bioengineering. He came to UW in 1993 from the University of California, San Francisco.

Philip Green, Ph.D., a molecular biotechnologist, develops mathematical, statistical and computer methods for analyzing the genomes of humans and other organisms. He has developed a number of software packages widely used in the Human Genome Project for processing and assembling DNA sequencing data, making the genetic maps used to localize the genes for genetic diseases, and identifying genes and other biological features in the genome sequence. Green is a professor of molecular biotechnology and an adjunct professor of computer science. He came to UW in 1994 from Washington University in St. Louis.

Michael Shadlen, M.D., Ph.D., a neurologist, studies the brain’s contribution to visual perception and visual understanding. He studies the neurophysiological processes behind visual perception, and the transformation of visual information into brain activity that is responsible for making decisions about what we see. His laboratory combines cutting-edge neurologic and computational techniques. By scrutinizing the brain’s ability to make decisions about vision, Shadlen expects to gain insight into the brain’s ability to assemble information from the world around us to support cognition. Shadlen is an assistant professor of physiology and biophysics, as well as a core staff member of the university’s Regional Primate Research Center and an adjunct assistant professor of neurology. He came to UW in 1995 from Stanford University Medical Center.
New HHMI investigators from the Hutchinson Center:

Leonid Kruglyak, Ph.D., a statistical geneticist, develops statistical and computational methods for locating chromosomal regions that may be linked to disease genes implicated in cancer and other common diseases. Last year, Kruglyak was among 10 young scientists worldwide to receive a $1 million Centennial Fellowship from the James S. McDonnell Foundation. Kruglyak is an associate member of the Hutchinson Center’s Human Biology Division and holds a joint appointment in the Center’s Public Health Sciences Division. He also is an affiliate associate professor of genetics and molecular biology at UW. Kruglyak came to the Hutchinson Center in 1998 from the Whitehead Institute/Massachussetts Institute of Technology Center for Genome Research, where he participated on the team than unveiled the first detailed map of the human genome.

Cecilia Moens, Ph.D., a developmental biologist, works with zebrafish, a relatively new model of vertebrate developmental biology. Her research may shed new light on the genetics of cancer as well as craniofacial defects. Last month she received a Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers, described by the White House as the nation’s highest honor for young professionals at the beginning of their research careers. Moens is an assistant member of the Hutchinson Center’s Basic Sciences Division. She’s also is an affiliate faculty member in the UW Department of Zoology.

Once this year?s new investigators are formally appointed, the HHMI scientific staff will increase to 353 investigators, a group whose honors last year included the Nobel Prize and the Lasker Prize. Earlier this month, nine HHMI investigators were elected to the National Academy of Sciences.

# # #

About the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center: The Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center is an independent, nonprofit research institution dedicated to the development and advancement of biomedical technology to eliminate cancer and other potentially fatal diseases. The Hutchinson Center is recognized internationally for its pioneering work in bone-marrow transplantation, for which founding member Dr. E. Donnall Thomas in 1990 won a Nobel Prize. The Center’s four scientific divisions collaborate to form a unique environment for conducting basic and applied science. The Hutchinson Center is the only National Cancer Institute-designated comprehensive cancer center in the Pacific Northwest. For more information, visit the Center’s Web site at .

About the University of Washington: The University of Washington’s faculty includes four Nobel Prize winners, five MacArthur Fellows, and 41 members of the prestigious National Academy of Sciences. Its highly regarded School of Medicine has been ranked (by U.S. News & World Report) first in the nation in training primary-care physicians, and several of its graduate and professional programs are rated among the top 10 in their fields. Since 1975, the UW has been the top public university in receipt of federal research funds, and since 1992 has been second among all U.S. universities, public and private.