Broad Institute launches new center with $150M endowment

By The Science Advisory Board staff writers

March 26, 2021 -- The Broad Institute of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Harvard University have announced the launch of a new research center intended to catalyze a new scientific discipline at the intersection of biology and machine learning.

The center will be named the Eric and Wendy Schmidt Center and is funded by a $150 million endowment gift from the Schmidts. In celebration of the Schmidts' gift, the Broad Foundation will make an additional $150 million contribution to the Broad Institute's general endowment, the institute said in a statement.

Two recent revolutions inspired the creation of the Schmidt Center: the exponential growth and widespread adaptation of data technologies like machine learning and cloud computing, and the dramatic advances in generating massive amounts of data about living systems through next-generation DNA sequencing, single-cell genomics, and advanced medical imaging.

Two areas that the center will focus on are "representation learning," which extracts underlying structure from troves of data, and "causal inference," which helps predict how changing particular variables affects a whole dataset.

The center will partner with the work already underway at Broad, such as the Models, Inference & Algorithms Initiative at the Broad and the cross-institutional Machine Learning for Health effort, with the shared goal of enabling a global and collaborative ecosystem to catalyze this new field. The center will also form new collaborations with other organizations as well as pharmaceutical and technology companies.

Eric and Wendy Schmidt have been active philanthropists since 2006, when they started a foundation in their name to address global climate change through grants and impact investments in renewable energy, sustainable agriculture, human rights, and marine technology.

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