National Institutes of Health

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The National Institutes of Health (NIH) is an agency of the United States Department of Health and Human Services and is the primary agency of the United States government responsible for biomedical research.

The Institutes are responsible for 28%—about $28 billion—of the total biomedical research funding spent annually in the U.S., with most of the rest coming from industry.[1] The NIH is divided into two parts: the "Extramural" parts of NIH are responsible for the funding of biomedical research outside of NIH, while the "Intramural" parts of NIH conduct research. Intramural research is primarily conducted at the main campus in Bethesda in unincorporated Montgomery County, Maryland, and the surrounding communities. The National Institute of Aging and the National Institute on Drug Abuse are located in Baltimore, Maryland, and the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences is in Research Triangle, North Carolina. The NIAID maintains Rocky Mountain Labs in Hamilton, Montana,[2] with an emphasis on virology.

The predecessor of the NIH began in 1887 as the Laboratory of Hygiene. It grew and was reorganized in 1930 by the Ransdell Act into the National Institute of Health (singular at the time). Today it is one of the world's foremost medical research centers, and the Federal focal point for medical research in the U.S. The NIH, comprising 27 separate institutes, centers and the Office of the Director, is part of the United States Department of Health and Human Services.

The goal of NIH research is to acquire new knowledge to help prevent, detect, diagnose, and treat disease and disability, from the rarest genetic disorder to the common cold. The NIH mission is to uncover new knowledge that will lead to better health for everyone. NIH works toward that mission by: conducting research in its own laboratories; supporting the research of non-Federal scientists in universities, medical schools, hospitals, and research institutions throughout the country and abroad; helping in the training of research investigators; and fostering communication of medical and health sciences information.

Institutes of the NIH

National Cancer Institute (NCI)

Research and training aimed to eliminate the suffering and death due to cancer. Est. 1937.

National Eye Institute (NEI)

Conducts and supports research that helps prevent and treat eye diseases and other disorders of vision. Est. 1968.

National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI)

Provides leadership for a national program in diseases of the heart, blood vessels, lung, and blood; blood resources; and sleep disorders. Also has administrative responsibility for the NIH Woman's Health Initiative. Est. 1948.

National Human Genome Research Institute (NHGRI)

Supports the NIH component of the Human Genome Project. NHGRI's Intramural Research Program develops and implements technology for understanding, diagnosing, and treating genetic diseases. Est. 1989.

National Institute on Aging (NIA)

Undertakes research on the biomedical, social, and behavioral aspects of the aging process, prevention of age-related diseases and disabilities, promotion of better quality of life for all older Americans. Est. 1974.

National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA)

NIAAA research is focused on improving the treatment and prevention of alcoholism and alcohol-related problems. Est. 1970.

National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID)

Research goals include striving to understand, treat, and ultimately prevent infectious, immunologic, and allergic diseases. Est. 1948. The NIAID-funded Influenza Genome Sequencing Project is a collaborative effort designed to increase the genome knowledge base of influenza and help researchers understand how flu viruses evolve, spread and cause disease. [1]

National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases (NIAMS)

NIAMS supports research into causes, treatment, and prevention of arthritis and musculoskeletal and skin diseases, the training of basic and clinical scientists to carry out this research, and the dissemination of information on research progress in these diseases. Est. 1986.

National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering (NIBIB)

Promotes fundamental discoveries, design and development, and translation and assessment of technological capabilities in biomedical imaging and bioengineering, enabled by relevant areas of information science, physics, chemistry, mathematics, materials science, and computer sciences. Est. 2000.

National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD)

NICHD researchs fertility, pregnancy, growth, development, and medical rehabilitation for the promotion of all aspects of child health. Est. 1962.

National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD)

Conducts and supports biomedical research and research training on normal mechanisms as well as diseases and disorders of hearing, balance, smell, taste, voice, speech, and language. Est. 1988.

National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research (NIDCR)

Provides leadership for a national research program designed to understand, treat, and ultimately prevent infectious and inherited craniofacial-oral-dental diseases and disorders. Est. 1948.

National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK)

Conducts and supports research and provides leadership for a national program in diabetes, endocrinology, and metabolic diseases, digestive diseases and nutrition, and kidney, urologic, and hematologic diseases. Est. 1948.

National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA)

NIDA supports and conducts research on drug abuse and addiction prevention, treatment, and policy. Est. 1973.

National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS)

Research on how environmental exposures, genetic susceptibility, and age interact to affect an individual's health. Est. 1969.

National Institute of General Medical Sciences (NIGMS)

NIGMS supports basic biomedical research not targeted to specific diseases, funds studies on genes, proteins, and cells, supports research training programs that produce the next generation of biomedical scientists, has special programs to encourage underrepresented minorities to pursue biomedical research careers. Est. 1962.

National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH)

Understanding, treatment, and prevention of mental illnesses through basic research on the brain and behavior, and through clinical, epidemiological, and services research. Est. 1949.

National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS)

Supports and conducts research, both basic and clinical, on the normal and diseased nervous system, fosters the training of investigators in the basic and clinical neurosciences, and seeks better understanding, diagnosis, treatment, and prevention of neurological disorders. Est. 1950.

National Institute of Nursing Research (NINR)

NINR supports clinical and basic research to establish a scientific basis for the care of individuals across the life span. Est. 1986.

National Library of Medicine (NLM)

NLM collects, organizes, and makes available biomedical science information to investigators, educators, and practitioners and carries out programs designed to strengthen medical library services in the United States. Est. 1956. The NLM established the National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI) which is a central repository of biological information and includes the PubMed literature database and the gene database GenBank. The NCBI is one of the largest components of the NLM.

Centers of the NIH

National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI)

Established in 1988 as a national resource for molecular biology information, NCBI creates public databases, conducts research in computational biology, develops software tools for analyzing genome data, and disseminates biomedical information - all for the better understanding of molecular processes affecting human health and disease.

Center for Information Technology (CIT; formerly DCRT, OIRM, TCB)

The CIT incorporates computers into the biomedical programs and administrative procedures of the NIH by conducting computational biosciences research, developing computer systems, and providing computer facilities. Est. 1964.

Center for Scientific Review (CSR)

The CSR is the focal point at NIH for the conduct of initial peer review of grant and fellowship applications, implements ways to conduct referral and review. Est. 1946.

John E. Fogarty International Center (FIC)

Promotes and supports scientific research and training internationally to reduce disparities in global health. Est. 1968.

National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM)

Exploring complementary and alternative medical practices in the context of rigorous science, training researchers, disseminating authoritative information. Est. 1992.

National Center on Minority Health and Health Disparities (NCMHD)

NCMHD leads, coordinates, supports, and assesses the NIH effort to reduce and ultimately eliminate health disparities in minority groups; conduct and support basic, clinical, social, and behavioral research, reach out to minority and other health disparity communities. Est. 1993.

National Center for Research Resources (NCRR)

Research projects and shared resources in biomedical technology, clinical research, comparative medicine, and research infrastructure. Est. 1962.

Quality Assurance Review Center (QARC)

Provides radiotherapy quality assurance and diagnostic imaging data management for all of the National Cancer Institute (NCI) sponsored cooperative groups. It also contracts privately with the pharmaceutical industry for its services in clinical trials involving anti-cancer drugs. Est. 1977.

Warren Grant Magnuson Clinical Center (CC)

The clinical research facility of the National Institutes of Health; provides patient care, services, and environment needed to initiate and support conduct of and training in clinical research. Est. 1953.

Radiological Physics Center (RPC)

Offers quality assurance to the National Cancer Institute (NCI) that all participating institutions in NCI sponsored cooperative groups are following the guidelines for the physics-related aspects of their protocols. Est. 1968.

Office of the Director

The Office of the Director is the central office at NIH. The OD is responsible for setting policy for NIH and for planning, managing, and coordinating the programs and activities of all the NIH components. Program offices in the Office of the Director are responsible for stimulating specific areas of research throughout NIH and for planning and supporting research and related activities. Current program areas are: minority health, women's health, AIDS research, disease prevention, and behavioral and social sciences research.

Program offices within the Office of the Director fund research through the institutes:

  • Office of Extramural Research (OER): provides guidance to institutes in research and training programs conducted through extramural (grant, contract, cooperative agreement) programs.
  • Office of Intramural Research (OIR): coordinates research conducted directly by NIH personnel through intramural programs.
  • Office of Management (OM): responsibe for management and financial functions of the NIH.
  • Office of Administration (OA): advises the NIH Director and staff on administration and management; develops and implements policies, and provides oversight in the areas of information resources management, management assessment, grant administration and contract management, procurement, and logistics.
  • Office of AIDS Research (OAR): formulates scientific policy for, and recommends allocation of research resources for AIDS research at NIH.
  • Office of Behavioral and Social Sciences Research (OBSSR): advises the NIH Director and other key officials on matters relating to research on the role of human behavior in the development of health, prevention of disease, and therapeutic intervention.
  • Office of Communications and Public Liaison (OCPL): advises the Director and communicates information about NIH policies, programs, and research results to the general public.
  • Office of Community Liaison (OCL): advises the Director, plans, directs and oversees activities to promote collaboration between NIH and its community, and ensures effective communication on policy and programs involving the community.
  • Office of Disease Prevention (ODP): coordinates NIH activities regarding the application of research to disease prevention, nutrition and medical practice.
  • Office of Intramural Training and Education (OITE): provides a comprehensive guide to postdoctoral training opportunities available at the NIH.
  • Office of Equal Opportunity and Diversity Management (OEODM): advises the Director and NIH staff on matters related to equal employment opportunity programs and policies.
  • Office of Financial Management (OFM): advises the NIH Director and staff and provides leadership and direction for NIH financial management activities; develops policies and instructions for budget preparation and presentation and administers allocation of funds and manages a system of fund and budgetary controls.
  • Office of Human Resources (OHR): advises the NIH Director and staff on human resource management; directs central human resource management services; and provides NIH leadership and planning on human resource program development.
  • Office of Portfolio Analysis and Strategic Initiatives (OPASI): provides the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and its constituent Institutes and Centers (ICs) with the methods and information necessary to manage their large and complex scientific portfolios, identifies – in concert with multiple other inputs – important areas of emerging scientific opportunities or rising public health challenges, and assists in the acceleration of investments in these areas, focusing on those involving multiple ICs.
  • Office of Research on Women's Health (ORWH): serves as a focal point for women's health research at the NIH. The ORWH promotes, stimulates, and supports efforts to improve the health of women through biomedical and behavioral research. ORWH works in partnership with the NIH institutes and centers to ensure that women's health research is part of the scientific framework at NIH and throughout the scientific community.
  • Office of Science Education (OSE): coordinates science education activities at the NIH and develops and sponsors science education projects in house. These programs serve elementary, secondary, and college students and teachers and the public. Free curriculum supplements developed in collaboration with curriculum writers, NIH divisions, and NIH scientists are available online and in hard copy at Curriculum Supplements. The OSE has also developed an interactive health and medical science career exploration web site for middle school and high school students called LifeWorks. Other educational resources from throughout the NIH are found on the OSE main page.


  1. Medical Research Spending Doubled Over Past Decade, Neil Osterweil, MedPage Today, September 20, 2005.
  2. About NIAID, NIAID web page, date accessed 14 January 2007.

See also

External links


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