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Parents and others who care about children should be interested in the new Eli and Edythe L. Broad Institute, director Eric Lander said during a news conference announcing the creation of the Institute and the $100 million gift that catalyzed it.
Lander was responding to a reporter's query about why the person on the street should care about the new Institute, which aims to realize the promise of the Human Genome Project for medicine. Genomic medicine could transform medical practice by tackling disease at the molecular level rather than treating symptoms.
"I'd explain they should be interested for the same reason I'm interested. I have kids," said Lander.
Pointing to his children in the audience, Jessica, 15, Daniel, 12, and David, 8, he said, "I'm hoping by the time that they grow up and they need medical attention for some of the common diseases that afflict us all, they will be able to have access to a medicine that is based on an understanding of actual causes.
"I believe that will be a much more powerful medicine, one that's based on understanding what's really wrong in a disease, where the Achilles' heel of a disease process may lie.
"It's not going to be an easy process, and none of us should imagine that this happens in the time frame of next year or a few years, but anyone who cares about the health of our children has to recognize that this is the time to invest now. And this is the way to invest now, in a true understanding of the basis of disease, because that will pay the biggest dividends in the years ahead."
MIT President Charles M. Vest and others thanked the Broads for their generous gift.
"It has enabled us to join forces to take the next great step in biomedicine," said Vest. The gift also "will ensure that the Boston/Cambridge region will remain the epicenter of biomedical research."
Why did the Broads, who live in California, create the institute in Cambridge? "The science is more important than the geography," said Eli Broad.
"There's no place in America or elsewhere in the world, we believe, that has the combined scientific quality and leadership that's here in Cambridge."
Lander and others also praised the alliance of MIT, Harvard, the Whitehead Institute for Biomedical Research and the Harvard-affiliated hospitals in creating the new Institute.
"Most great institutions would decide to go it alone," Lander said. "What is extraordinary here is that these great institutions decided to come together."
Other speakers at Thursday's news conference were Susan Lindquist, director of the Whitehead Institute; Lawrence Summers, president of Harvard; and Gary Gottlieb, president of Brigham and Women's Hospital.