CAMBRIDGE, Mass.—Early October saw new growth at the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard with the announcement of a new commitment by Dr. Richard Merkin, president and CEO of Heritage Provider Network. This new commitment will establish the Merkin Institute for Transformative Technologies in Healthcare at the Broad, an institute that will seek to support the development of new technologies “by funding novel, early-stage ideas aimed at advancing powerful technological approaches for improving how we understand and treat disease.”
“I am honored to establish this institute at the Broad,” said Merkin. “For over three decades I have been deeply committed to transforming healthcare through encouraging innovation and challenge, and I see this partnership as essential to realizing this vision. I am excited to see the transformative technologies that this new endeavor will yield.”
Dr. David R. Liu, a Broad core institute member and the Richard Merkin Professor, will lead the new organization as director of the Merkin Institute for Transformative Technologies. The press release announcing the new Institute reported that “Initial projects are expected to span areas such as genome editing, pathogen detection, cancer diagnostics and monitoring and data sciences for genomic medicine.”
“Our vision for the Merkin Institute of Transformative Technologies in Healthcare is to serve as a scientific connector and stimulator that inspires, identifies and incubates novel research opportunities to improve how we detect, prevent and treat disease,” remarked Liu, a Harvard University professor of chemistry and chemical biology and a Howard Hughes Medical Institute investigator. “We plan to use Dr. Merkin’s support to initiate and test early-stage, high-impact projects—and to help turn these ideas into promising realities for doctors and patients.”
“Biomedicine is in the midst of a remarkable revolution driven by advances in technologies that allow scientists to collaborate and gain insights in ways that were hardly imaginable just a few years ago,” Eric S. Lander, president and founding director of the Broad Institute, commented in a statement. “These technologies are letting us pinpoint the causes of disease, identify biomarkers, screen many thousands of potential therapeutics and collect and share information in novel ways. Putting these tools in the hands of scientists around the world can have a huge effect on biomedical progress, and the Merkin Institute for Transformative Technologies in Healthcare will be a key player in advancing this.”
This is far from the first contact between Merkin and the Broad, as the relationship between the two now spans nearly a decade. In June 2009, the Merkin Family Foundation made a three-year gift to establish the Richard Merkin Foundation for Stem Cell Research at the Broad Institute. As noted in the press release detailing the launch, “By combining the foundation’s deep interest in stem cells with the Broad Institute’s scientific expertise and vision, the funds will foster groundbreaking research that harnesses genome-based tools and knowledge to realize the promise of stem cells for human health.”
A few years later, in April 2012, a commitment from the Merkin Family Foundation created the Merkin Institute Fellows program, which supports “some of the most promising and ambitious scientists pursuing bold research at the Broad Institute.” As per the 2012 press release, the funds were used to establish the first endowed fellowship program at the Broad, and a Broad Institute press release noted that the program has supported 14 early-career scientists since its creation.
“Establishing the Merkin Institute Fellows program at the Broad Institute is deeply significant to me,” said Merkin at the time. “I’ve dedicated my life’s work to transforming global healthcare delivery and encouraging promising scientists to pursue much-needed, bold research projects that will help us move from care to cure.”