Hopkins invests $100 million in institute to focus on basic science

The Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine will invest $100 million in an institute to focus on the role of basic science in medical advancements.

Officials with the medical school announced Thursday they would make the investment in its Institute for Basic Biomedical Sciences over the next five years.

They called the focus on basic science unprecedented for the medical school.

Basic science discoveries “underpin virtually every major medical breakthrough,” officials said in a statement.

Structural biologist James Berger will direct the institute under the new initiative. Berger is a professor of biophysics and biophysical chemistry at the school of medicine and co-director of the cancer chemical and structural biology program for the Johns Hopkins Kimmel Cancer Center.

“The first step in research is to understand how and why biology works the way it does,” said Berger, whose research focuses on DNA replication and chromosome superstructure, in a statement.

Berger succeeds Dr. Stephen Desiderio, who retired in July, as the director. Berger has been deputy director since October 2017.

Hopkins executives said advances in medical technology make it a good time to focus on this research.

“The time is now to place a big bet on basic science research,” said Dr. Paul B. Rothman, dean of the medical faculty and CEO of Johns Hopkins Medicine, in a statement. “We are at an unprecedented time when advances in technology have positioned us to make the greatest achievements in biomedical research that mankind has ever seen.”

The investment is part of a new Hopkins initiative dubbed “Betting Big on Basic Science.” Most of the money will be used to support salaries and lab teams and to recruit new faculty. New graduate programs also will be created.

As institute director, Berger will oversee nine departments and 178 faculty members, including two Nobel laureates.

“Our ability to discover, decipher and visualize the molecular underpinnings of biology is key to the larger goal of improving human health,” Berger said in a statement.

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