The title is “investigator” with a lower case “i” but it comes with a very upper case award from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI)—five years of complete research support for each of the 26 mid-career scientists whose appointments were just announced. The new HHMI investigators include four current ASCB members—Jennifer Zallen, Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center; Tobias C. Walther, Harvard University; Kim Orth, University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center; and Sue Biggins, Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center.
The idea for the investigator awards, says HHMI, is to fund “people, not projects.” The awards are personal and not linked to any specific research project or outcome. HHMI investigators stay at their home institutions, but as HHMI employees with HHMI supplying their full salary, benefits, and the lab research budget including overhead for research space and funding for the purchase of critical equipment. The award runs five years and is renewable after an intense scientific review.
Supporting this year’s 26 new investigators over five years will cost HHMI $153 million. These 26 investigators were chosen from a self-nominated field of 894, cut to 59 semi-finalists, and chosen after a marathon round of research talks at HHMI’s Janelia Farms campus in northern Virginia. These appointments bring the total number of HHMI investigators to 330.