Twenty years ago, our dream to create a first-class institute for brain research became reality, and the McGovern Institute planted its flag at MIT. Pat and I founded the institute because we deeply believed that nothing is impossible and that solutions can be found for anything. Did we have high expectations? Yes. But we also knew that the right people, a can-do attitude, and brilliant scientific rigor coupled with sufficient resources would lay the foundation and pave the way.
The poet Theodore Roethke once said “what we need is more people who specialize in the impossible.” Our inaugural director, Phil Sharp, and the six founding investigators — Emilio Bizzi, Nancy Kanwisher, Tomaso Poggio, Martha Constantine-Paton, H. Robert Horvitz, and Ann Graybiel — represented just that.
Twenty years later, I am filled with pride about how far we have come under the great leadership of our second director, Bob Desimone, who kept a keen eye on our initial vision and expanded that vision as our research breakthroughs invited new opportunities. The discoveries at the McGovern Institute are numerous, from finding signatures of the social brain in infants to seeing the brain in exquisite detail with expansion microscopy and, of course, pioneering the revolutionary CRISPR gene editing technology in human cells.
We are proud to be home to five centers — the Poitras Center for Psychiatric Disorders Research, the Hock E. Tan and K. Lisa Yang Center for Autism Research, the Center for Brains, Minds and Machines, the Martinos Imaging Center, and the newly established K. Lisa Yang and Hock E. Tan Center for Molecular Therapeutics in Neuroscience.
I am particularly excited about our addiction science initiative, an ambitious undertaking which promises to transform our understanding of addiction and create new, scientifically-driven treatments for people suffering from this complex disorder.
We will continue to search and probe the brain until there are no more questions left to be answered. We will get closer to understanding its complexities, revealing the meaning of intelligence in the healthy brain, while also respecting and understanding those that are different. As Roethke penned, “What is madness but nobility of soul at odds with circumstance!”
Let’s celebrate all that makes us human and stay together on this journey of discovery. I extend my gratitude and congratulations to our great McGovern family and a heartfelt thank you to all of our supporters who create hope in the face of despair. As Pat would say, “the best is yet to come!”
Lore Harp McGovern
Co-Founder, McGovern Institute