Local software entrepreneur Phillip “Terry” Ragon and his wife Susan Ragon have granted $100 million to Massachusetts General Hospital to form a research institute focused on developing vaccines for AIDS and other infectious diseases.
The institute, called the Phillip T. and Susan M. Ragon Institute, will include a team of engineers and scientists from MGH, Harvard Medical School, and MIT. The Ragons have agreed to provide $10 million per year to the institute over the next decade, providing funding to do early research on the immune system that traditional grant-making agencies may deem too risky to fund, according to MIT engineering professor Arup Chakraborty, one of several founding scientists of the institute.
“This particular institute offers the opportunity to bring together people from the physical, life, and engineering sciences to think about this scourge on the planet,” says Chakraborty. The MIT professor told me that he has become focused on applying computational systems to learn about the immune system and AIDS since September, when he visited an AIDS clinic in South Africa with MGH virologist Bruce Walker, who will serve as director of the Ragon Institute.
Chakraborty says that the institute will initially operate virtually but that it may decide to build a physical base of operations in the future, much like the Whitehead and Broad institutes. For now, he adds, the funding for the Ragon Institute will be dedicated to supporting research at the three participating institutions. In addition to Chakraborty and Walker, the impressive founding scientists of the institute include: Darrell Irvine, an MIT professor of tissue engineering; Marcus Altfeld, a physician-scientist who works in the Partners AIDS Research Center with fellow institute founder Walker at MGH; Laurie Glimcher, a professor of immunology at Harvard Medical School; Dan Barouch, an associate professor of medicine at HMS; Dennis Burton, a professor of immunology at The Scripps Research Institute; and Mary Carrington, a genetics researcher at the National Cancer Institute.
The Ragons are expected to join officials from the founding organizations to formally announce the creation of the new institute this morning at the Charles Hotel in Cambridge, MA. Terry Ragon, who graduated from MIT with a degree in physics in 1971, is the founder and CEO of privately held InterSystems, based in Cambridge. InsterSystems, a provider of enterprise software to support databases and other systems, says it has annual revenue of $220 million and has operations in 23 countries.
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