A stethoscope sitting on a laptop
A stethoscope sitting on a laptop - 
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Scott Jagow: One of the country's biggest philanthropies will announce a new gift today for biomedical research. The Howard Hughes Medical Institute is giving $600 million to a group of 56 scientists. Jeremy Hobson has more on what this means.

Jeremy Hobson: When it comes to funding medical research, the top dog is still the federal government. Specifically, the National Institutes of Health and its nearly $30 billion budget.

But NIH funding has been flat since 2004. And David Farb of Boston University's School of Medicine says scientists are increasingly looking elsewhere for dollars.

David Farb: Scientists are looking in all kinds of nooks and crannies for funding. Now the Howard Hughes is hardly . . . is hardly a nook or a cranny. It's more like Niagara Falls.

And like the falls, the Hughes Institute wants to be a magnet for daredevils, hoping its money can be used for ambitious -- even risky -- research.

Farb says that's one big advantage of private research funding in general.

Farb: It's freer from congressional oversight. It's freer from directives other than the purpose of ultimately the best science.

In Washington, I'm Jeremy Hobson for Marketplace.

Follow Jeremy Hobson at @jeremyhobson