A little more than 50 years ago, Howard R. Hughes and a cadre of advisors conceived the idea for the Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI). In creating the Institute, Hughes made certain that its aspirations were bold — its purpose, he said, was to ''probe the genesis of life itself ''. The promise embodied by Hughes's sweeping statement took decades to be fully realized, decades of challenge and risk for a philanthropy that has evolved in ways Hughes might never have imagined. Today, HHMI is a recognized leader in biomedical research. Discoveries made in HHMI laboratories are fundamentally changing the way we view the world. Ideas born in Hughes laboratories are also improving the understanding of some of society's most vexing health problems, including AIDS, cardiovascular disease and diabetes.