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Howard Chang named HHMI investigator | News Center

Howard Chang named HHMI investigator | News Center

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Howard Chang, MD, PhD, professor of dermatology and of genetics at the School of Medicine, is among 19 scientists from 15 institutions announced as new Howard Hughes Medical Institute investigators.

HHMI provides each investigator with a full salary, benefits and a research budget over the initial seven-year appointment, which may be renewed for additional terms. The institute also covers other expenses, including research space and the purchase of critical equipment.

Stanford’s other new HHMI investigator is Elizabeth Sattely, PhD, assistant professor of chemical engineering. With today’s appointments, the university now has 24 HHMI investigators.

“Every scientist is unique, but they all need one thing: time,” said HHMI President Erin O’Shea in announcing the new recipients. “HHMI is dedicated to providing outstanding biomedical scientists with the time and resources to do their best work. We think of this as investing in people, not just projects.”

Chang’s research focuses on understanding how small molecules attached to the DNA affect gene expression and coordinate cell fate and function, as well as on the role played by long noncoding RNAs and other RNA structures in biological regulation. 

Noncoding RNAs do not code for proteins and until relatively recently had been considered to be biologically inconsequential. But research by Chang and others have shown that these molecules, particularly long noncoding RNAs, or lncRNAs, are critical to many processes, including those involved in normal development and cancer.

“I am delighted and honored to receive the HHMI appointment,” Chang said. “HHMI’s long-term support will allow my team to pursue high-risk and high-reward projects that may take a long time to pay off. The flexible funding of HHMI will also allow us to pursue new technologies and ideas as they emerge about how to control genes to enhance human health.”

Chang is the director of the Center for Personal Dynamic Regulomes at Stanford, and the Virginia and D.K. Ludwig Professor of Cancer Genomics. He is a core investigator at the Parker Institute for Cancer Immunotherapy at Stanford. He is also a member of Stanford’s Child Health Research InstituteCancer InstituteNeurosciences InstituteChEM-H and Bio-X.

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