Three Q's

Science  23 Dec 2005:
Vol. 310, Issue 5756, pp. 1901
DOI: 10.1126/science.310.5756.1901c
CREDIT: SAM OGDEN

David Page has spent his entire career at the Whitehead Institute for Biomedical Research in Cambridge, Massachusetts, which shares faculty with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) but is run by its own board. This month, the 49-year-old geneticist was named its fourth director.

Q: An “artist colony extraordinaire” is how you describe Whitehead. Are you serious?

A: Absolutely. We live by the credo of academic freedom. We hire people, invest in their careers, and let the faculty chart their own paths. We identify the most creative people and let 'em loose.

Q: There are rumors that MIT might try to absorb Whitehead. Would you back such a move?

A: That's news to me! I do not report to the president of MIT; we have our own board of directors. In terms of day-to-day academic life, we are joined at the hip with MIT. That relationship is a tremendous benefit, since we can turn on a dime. No, I wouldn't change that.

Q: Whitehead is now quite literally in the shadow of Novartis, the MIT McGovern Institute, and the new Broad Institute founded by former Whitehead researcher Eric Lander. Does that leave you feeling anxious?

A: I'm amused by a lot of the conversation about biomedical research models, since the premise is that there surely is one right model. I'd suggest that we want to see a diverse portfolio and different business plans. And our business plan is to maintain the best artist colony we can.

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