Originally named the Armenise-Harvard Centers for Advanced Scientific Research Grant, the interdepartmental Grants have provided the head of each of the Basic Science Departments with a yearly discretionary monies to support them in many ways such as purchasing equipment, salary support, seminar series, etc.
The Foundation has invested over USD 10.2 M in this program supporting the following departments:
The Department of Cell Biology at Harvard Medical School is committed to understanding on a molecular and mechanistic level every process involved in the life of a cell. The cell is composed of chemicals and communicates with itself and its neighbors through chemical messages. Learning the language of these messages has allowed enormous advances. Nevertheless, even after great progress, molecular biology may reach its limits in allowing scientists to put the pieces together. Researchers in the department move beyond approaches that take snapshots of how cells look or that list the ingredients of cells, to examine the cell in its wider context.
The Department of Genetics at Harvard Medical School is dedicated to creating knowledge from the recent wealth of data about the human genome and other genomes. The department helps develop computational tools to translate information about the genome into function. High-throughput technology takes the place of a least some of classical wet-lab activities to interpret the vast scale of data. This technology also serves the established genetic investigations that touch on the nature of heritable heart disease, cancer, resistance to bacterial pathogens and toxins, developmental aspects of the nervous system and, in particular, the retina.
Studies on the brain are rapidly expanding in two complementary directions. On the one hand, the functions of genes can be manipulated with remarkable elegance in a variety of nervous systems to elucidate the molecular basis of the brain’s behavior, plasticity, function and development. But the brain is more than its genes and synapses—it is also an amazing computational machine, and dramatic technical advances have begun to make it possible to study entire networks of neurons as they function in the living brain, or as they might theoretically work as modeled on powerful computers. These advances have transformed the fields of psychology, linguistics, and other social sciences so that the brain and behavior can for the first time be dissected functionally.
Systems biology seeks to understand the logic and function of biological design. To achieve this goal we first need precise measurements of exactly how much of a molecular species is present in a single living cell, where it is, and what it is binding to, tracked over time as the cell responds to specific stimuli. Next, we have to learn to draw on approaches and tools from theoretical and computational disciplines to understand how changes in these quantitatively defined states are translated into information that cells and organisms can use to make decisions. And finally, we must seek to understand how a particular design evolved and what makes some designs good at supporting the process of evolution. The Harvard Medical School Department of Systems Biology will take the lead in obtaining and assembling quantitative, dynamic information into a theoretical framework, and using the result to define new areas for experiment.
Structural biology is the study of the biomolecular architecture of cells. Structural biologists at Harvard Medical School analyze the three-dimensional structures of proteins, protein assemblies, and protein complexes with nucleic acids and carbohydrates, all of which can act as chemical messengers, chemical regulators, and receptors. To accommodate such a broad job description, proteins and their assemblies come in many shapes and sizes. By studying the 3-D structure of a protein molecule, scientists can probe the fine points of function of a particular protein or protein complex and work out how that protein interacts with other molecules. This understanding is crucial to developing pharmacological interventions. Analysis of 3-D structures will contribute directly to the rational design of drugs and vaccines.
Interdisciplinary research in the Department of Microbiology and Immunobiology focuses on microbiology, immunology, virology and the creation of new collaborations and research platforms for immune-based therapies. Scientists in the department are applying state-of-the-art technologies in genetics, genomics, imaging, chemistry and computational biology to develop novel treatments to global health threats like AIDS, cholera and influenza, as well as to those that pose major challenges like diabetes, cancer, and antibacterial and multidrug resistance. Our goal is to push the traditional boundaries of research in microbiology and immunology to understand and discover new and more effective ways to treat human disease.