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HHMI gets DMS's genetics funding off to good start

An important piece of the funding for DMS's new Department of Genetics is now in place, following a recent decision by the Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI) to award Dartmouth $3.4 million in support of its genetics initiative. It was the sixth-largest of 41 grants made to medical schools by the HHMI, all in support of new ways to combine basic biomedical research and clinical treatment of patients.

Vanguard: The four-year grant will serve as a cornerstone for Dartmouth's broad-based genetics program, which has been a major initiative for Dean John Baldwin, M.D. "Genetics is the vanguard of molecular biology," he explains, "and its intersection with computational advances is perhaps the most compelling aspect of science in the new millennium. It is the quintessence of the explosion of knowledge about basic mechanisms of normal and abnormal biology."

Baldwin, who is principal investigator on the grant, noted in announcing it that DMS was "deeply gratified that . . . one of the nation's foremost biomedical research organizations has looked favorably on our proposal for genetics at Dartmouth." According to Baldwin, the new department is planned as a highly collaborative effort. It will bridge basic and disease-oriented research, drawing on the patient- care programs at DHMC and on the biological science, information technology, and engineering resources of Dartmouth College, as well as on other DMS departments.

Heading up the new department is Jay Dunlap, Ph.D., a noted researcher who has been on the Dartmouth faculty since 1984. Dunlap calls the HHMI grant "a sterling validation of our vision for a world-class department that connects the many facets of genetics at Dartmouth." He says the HHMI funding will be used primarily to support the recruitment of junior faculty, as well as to build research in genetic model systems, particularly vertebrate genetics.

The establishment of the department is expected to ultimately require $32.5 million. Sources of the funding will include monies from both the Medical School and the College, plus additional grants and gifts to a $12.9-million campaign that has been approved by the Dartmouth Trustees and that will be conducted jointly by DMS and the College. Besides the HHMI grant, $200,000 in gifts are already in hand.

Hali Wickner

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