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Hughes Head to Step Down

The largest U.S. private nonprofit biomedical research funder is looking for a new leader. On 22 September, Purnell Choppin, 69, president of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI), announced that he will retire at the end of next year. In 2000, "it will be time for someone else to take up the reins," Choppin wrote in a memo that surprised staffers at the institute.

Choppin, a virologist, was recruited from The Rockefeller University to serve as HHMI's science chief in 1985. After becoming president in 1987, he guided the organization through a decade of extraordinary growth and oversaw construction of a new headquarters in Chevy Chase, Maryland, focused on molecular biology. During his tenure, the number of HHMI scientists has grown from 96 to 330 and the annual budget from $77 million to $556 million. HHMI's endowment is roughly $11 billion.

A conservative manager, Choppin carefully planned his own departure, noting his 15-month advance warning "will allow ample time for the trustees to select a new president." The institute has not yet named a search committee.