23andMe Science Advisors Honored with Howard Hughes Grants

pritchard.jpgJonathan Pritchard

Congratulations to 23andMe’s scientific advisors Michael Eisen and Jonathan K. Pritchard, part of the latest class of Howard Hughes Medical Institute investigators.

Eisen and Pritchard were selected along with 54 others from over 1,000 applicants vying for this year’s HHMI research grants. The Institute has earmarked $600 million in funds for what they described as “56 of the nation’s top scientists.” Altogether the institute funds the work of about 300 investigators.

eisen.jpgMichael Eisen

Eisen, a biologist at UC Berkeley, has been studying fruit flies to find out how differences in their genetic information — when certain genes are turned on and off — affect how they appear and behave. In the long run, the Eisen lab hopes to apply what they learn about genetic variation in flies to humans.

Pritchard, a geneticist at the University of Chicago, studies human genetic variation. His research plans include cataloging all the common human genetic variations, figuring out how they affect gene regulation and then associating them with various traits, including disease risk.

The CBS News program “60 Minutes” recently included a re-broadcast of their story on Howard Hughes, the reclusive billionaire who unknowingly started the philanthropic biomedical research organization that emphasizes scientific innovation over writing grant proposals. HHMI currently has the second-largest endowment of any philanthropic organization in the nation — $11 billion, according to president Tom Cech.