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The Eli & Edythe Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard evolved from a decade of informal and successful research collaborations among scientists in the MIT and Harvard communities.

In 1990, the Whitehead Institute/MIT Center for Genome Research (WICGR) was founded, and it soon became an international leader in the field of genomics and a flagship of the Human Genome Project. As early as 1995, WICGR scientists recognized the need to bring the power of genomics to the understanding of human disease. It launched pilot projects in genomic medicine, forming an unofficial collaborative network among scientists from across MIT and Harvard who pioneered new approaches to cancer and human genetics.

In parallel, Harvard Medical School-based scientists established the Institute of Chemistry and Cell Biology (ICCB) in 1998, to facilitate the pursuit of chemical genetics as an academic discipline and a tool to further understand human biology and disease. In 2002, the ICCB was awarded an Initiative for Chemical Genetics (ICG) grant from the National Cancer Institute, and its successful Investigator-Initiated Screening Program facilitated small molecule screening projects for more than 80 research groups worldwide.

These projects demonstrated the power of enabling scientists to collaborate to tackle the major challenges in molecular medicine. It was clear that a new type of formal organization was required — open, collaborative, interdisciplinary, and able to organize projects at any scale. In addition, it was important that the complementary expertise of the genomic scientists and the chemical biologists across MIT and Harvard be brought together in one place to drive the transformation of medicine with molecular knowledge.

Discussions in 2002-2003 among Eli and Edythe Broad, MIT, Harvard and its affiliated hospitals, and the Whitehead Institute shaped the vision for this new institute. The extraordinary generosity of Eli and Edythe Broad, through their founding gift of $100 million (later doubled to $200 million) made it possible to formally announce the new institute in June 2003 and to launch it in May 2004. Less than four years after its launch, the Broads gave an unprecedented gift of $400 million in September 2008 to permanently endow the institute, providing long-term sustainability for its unique model of collaborative, inter-institutional research. In 2013, they committed an additional $100 million to empower Broad scientists to pioneer new research directions—a vital step in tackling the biomedical challenges of tomorrow.