Broad Institute Will Sever Administrative—Not Research—Ties with MIT and Harvard, Becoming “Stand-Alone” Organization

Xconomy Boston — 

When we reported yesterday that the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard was set to receive a whopping endowment of $400 million from Los Angeles-based billionaire philanthropists Edythe and Eli Broad, we noted that it was rumored that the institute—originally structured as an administrative unit of MIT—was also set to become independent of both MIT and Harvard. The Broad alluded very briefly to such a change in its announcement about the donation this morning. And now we can fill in more details, based on an FAQ made available today to Broad staffers, about how the institute is revamping itself as a stand-alone nonprofit with an independent board of directors and other major organizational differences from its first incarnation. But while it will become a separate legal entity, “in terms of how our scientific research proceeds, the Broad Institute is NOT separating from either Harvard or MIT,” the FAQ emphasized.

The organizational restructuring marks a major milestone for what began as an experimental model of collaborative research among MIT, Harvard and Harvard-affiliated hospitals. The new endowment—which adds to the $200 million that the Broad couple already granted their namesake institute—means that the institute, which focuses on the role of genomics in medicine and the molecular underpinnings of diseases, has the financial wherewithal to operate permanently and independently while maintaining research partnerships with MIT, Harvard, and other institutions.

According to the FAQ, “the transition to a permanent status requires that the Broad Institute become a stand-alone non-profit organization with its own Board of Directors.” And such a transition has long been on the table, according to the document:

From the day we were founded in 2003 there has always been the possibility that this transition to a permanent institution would happen, and now it has happened sooner than anyone projected. The discretion surrounding the legal deliberations was necessary to ensure that this transition be worked out as completely as possible before it could be widely known in order to prevent any false or misleading information from appearing, and to ensure timely and appropriate national and international recognition for the incredible and unprecedented generosity of the gift from Eli and Edythe Broad.

The FAQ also spelled out the benefits of becoming a stand-alone nonprofit:

This new status of the Broad Institute establishes it as a unique, identifiable, and permanent part of the Boston/Cambridge biomedical landscape. It also allows us to chart an even more aggressive course, and to move even more nimbly in pursuit of new scientific opportunities.

With many of the details and changes in administrative structure and leadership still being worked out, the institute told employees that the full transition to an independent nonprofit would not likely be completed until July 2009.

The Broad downplayed the move toward independence in its official news announcement, which states that MIT and Harvard will continue “to help govern the institute.” But while the FAQ makes a brief mention of Harvard and MIT having formal roles in the Broad’s new governing structure, and says that some of the its new board members will be drawn from its partner institutions, it suggests that the institute plans to run its administrative operations largely on its own.

As for the brain trust of Harvard and MIT professors who are considered members at Broad, the FAQ says that they will maintain their faculty appointments with their respective universities. But the transition to “stand-alone” status does mean that staff members of the institute who are now considered employees of either Harvard or MIT will become employees of the newly independent institute.