Index of articles from National Institutes of Health
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 biomedical
The NIH is one of eight health agencies of the
Public Health Service which, in turn, is part of the
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
Comprised of 24 separate
Institutes, Centers, and Divisions,
NIH has 75 buildings on more than
300 acres in Bethesda, MD. From a total of about $300 in 1887, the NIH
budget has grown to more than $13.6 billion in 1998.
What is the Goal of NIH Research?
Simply described, 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.
How Does the NIH Help Scientists Reach This Goal?
The NIH Supports Research
A principal concern of the NIH is to invest wisely the tax dollars entrusted to it for the support and conduct of biomedical research.
More than 81
percent of the investment is made through grants and contracts
supporting research and training in more than 1,700 research
institutions throughout the U.S. and abroad. In fact, NIH grantees are
located in every State in the country. These grants and contracts
comprise the NIH Extramural Research Program.
Approximately 11 percent of the budget goes to NIH's Intramural
Research Programs, the more than 2,000 projects conducted mainly in
its own laboratories. About 8 percent of the budget is for both
intramural and extramural research support costs.
NIH Research Grants
Final decisions about funding extramural research are made at the NIH headquarters. But long before
this happens, the process begins with an idea that an individual
scientist describes in a written application for a research grant.
The project might be small, or it might involve millions of
dollars. The project might become useful immediately as a diagnostic
test or new treatment, or it might involve studies of basic biological
processes whose practical value may not be apparent for many years.
Each research grant application undergoes
a peer review process.
A panel of scientific experts, primarily from
outside the government, who are active and productive researchers in
the biomedical sciences, first evaluates the scientific merit of the
application. Then, a national advisory council or board, comprised of
eminent scientists as well as public members who are interested in
health issues or the biomedical sciences, determines the project's
overall merit and priority in advancing the research agenda of the
particular NIH funding institute.
Altogether, about 36,000 research and training applications are reviewed annually through the
NIH peer review system. At any given time, the NIH supports 35,000
grants in universitites, medical schools, and other research and
research training institutions both nationally and internationally.
The NIH Conducts Research
The Intramural Research
Programs, although representing only a small part of the total NIH
budget, are central to the NIH scientific effort.
scientists are key to NIH intramural research. They collaborate with
one another regardless of institute affiliation or scientific
discipline, and have the intellectual freedom to pursue their research
leads in NIH's own laboratories. These explorations range from basic
biology, to behavioral research, to studies on treatment of major
NIH Research Laboratories
NIH scientists conduct their
research in laboratories located on the NIH campus in Bethesda, and in
several field units across the country and abroad.
Following are some of the NIH on-campus facilities:
Other On-Campus Sites:
A leading research hospital and laboratory complex,
the Warren Grant Magnuson Clinical Center is a 14-story, 350-bed
facility designed to allow NIH's intramural scientists to bring
research closer to patients' bedsides.
Each year there are about
7,000 inpatient admissions to the Clinical Center. Individuals come from all
over the world, upon referral by their physicians, to participate as
inpatients in clinical studies at the NIH. These patients not only
receive clinical care, they also contribute to a better understanding
Also, in 1996, the Clinical Center accepted about
3,400 normal or healthy individuals as participants in the Clinical
Research Volunteer Program.
THE CHILDREN'S INN at NIH, constructed and
operated through private donations, serves as a "home away
from home" for chronically ill children and their families
while the children are being treated and studied at the NIH.
The Clinical Center's Ambulatory
Care Research Facility (ACRF) provides additional space for
laboratories and for the Center's rapidly growing outpatient programs.
Recent medical advances allow many people with serious chronic diseases
to lead nearly normal lives while their illnesses are being studied on
an outpatient basis. Each year there are about 68,000 outpatient
visits to the ACRF.
The Clinical Center also houses the
Visitor Information Center, which is NIH's information liaison and host
to thousands of visitors each year.*
- The Fogarty International Center promotes
international cooperation and scholarship in science, and serves as the
focus for international biomedical research activities at NIH.
- The Mary Woodard Lasker Center for Health Research and
Education is the location for the NIH-Howard Hughes Medical
Institute research program for medical students.
- The 10-story Lister Hill Center houses the Lister
Hill National Center for Biomedical Communications, and the
National Center for Biotechnology Information.
Both are components of the
National Library of Medicine.
THE NATIONAL LIBRARY OF MEDICINE is the world's
largest medical library. Its collection of 5 million medical
books, journals, pamphlets, rare manuscripts, films, and other
items has been called the "Fort Knox of health information"
because of the richness of its resources. The Library produces
Index Medicus, a comprehensive monthly listing of articles
appearing in the world's leading medical journals. The Library
also operates a computerized Index Medicus, known as
MEDLINE, and has pioneered the introduction of large medical
bibliographic data bases.
- The NIH's National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences
studies the adverse effects of environmental factors on human health,
and is located in Research Triangle Park, NC. Other laboratory
facilities include the NIH Animal Center in Poolesville, MD; the
National Institute on Aging's Gerontology Research Center in Baltimore,
MD; the Addiction Research Center of the National Institute on Drug
Abuse, also in Baltimore; the National Institute of Allergy and
Infectious Diseases' Rocky Mountain Laboratories in Hamilton, MT; and
several smaller field stations.
Who Are the Scientists NIH Supports?
Scientific progress depends mainly on the scientist. About 35,000 principal
investigators -- working in every State and in several foreign countries,
from every specialty in medicine, every biomedical discipline, and at
every major university and medical school -- receive NIH extramural
funding to explore unknown areas of biomedical science.
Supporting and conducting both NIH's extramural and intramural programs
are about 19,000 employees, more than 4,500 of whom hold professional
or research doctorate degrees. The NIH staff includes intramural
scientists, physicians, dentists, veterinarians, nurses, and
laboratory, administrative, and support personnel, plus an
ever-changing array of research scientists in training.
The NIH Nobelists
The rosters of those who have conducted research, or who have received NIH support
over the years include the world's most illustrious scientists and
physicians. Among them are 93 scientists who have won Nobel Prizes for
achievements as diverse as deciphering the genetic code and learning
what causes hepatitis.
Five Nobelists made their
prize-winning discoveries in NIH laboratories: Drs. Christian B.
Anfinsen, Julius Axelrod, D. Carleton Gajdusek, Marshall W.
Nirenberg, and Martin Rodbell.
Who Are the NIH's Other Partners in Research?
NIH is a key element in a partnership that has
thrived for decades and includes universities and academic health
centers, independent research institutions, and private industry where
research programs and product development activities help make
federally-funded research findings more widely available.
The partnership, which has produced many of the medical advances that
benefit Americans today, also includes voluntary and professional
health organizations, and the Congress, which consistently has
supported this vast enterprise.
What Impact Has the NIH Had on the Health of the Nation?
NIH research played a major
role in making possible the following achievements of the last few
- Mortality from heart disease, the number one
killer in the United States, dropped by 47 percent between 1975 and
- Death rates from stroke decreased by 50 percent
during the same period.
- Improved treatments and detection methods increased
the relative 5-year survival rate for people with cancer to
52 percent. At present, the survival gain over the rate that
existed in the 1960s represents more than 80,000 additional cancer
survivors each year.
- Paralysis from spinal cord injury is
significantly reduced by rapid treatment with high doses of a
steroid. Treatment given within the first 8 hours after injury
increases recovery in severely injured patients who have lost sensation
or mobility below the point of injury.
- Long-term treatment with anticlotting medicines cuts
stroke risk by 80 percent from a common heart condition
known as atrial fibrillation.
- In schizophrenia, where suicide is always a
potential danger, new medications reduce troublesome symptoms such
as delusions and hallucinations in 80 percent of patients.
- Chances for survival increased for infants with
respiratory distress syndrome, an immaturity of the lungs,
due to development of a substance to prevent the lungs from
collapsing. In general, life expectancy for a baby born today is
almost three decades longer than one born at the beginning of the
- Those suffering from depression now look
forward to returning to work and leisure activities, thanks to
treatments which give them an 80 percent chance to resume a full
life in a matter of weeks.
- Vaccines protect against infectious diseases
that once killed and disabled millions of children and adults.
- Dental sealants have proved 100 percent effective in
protecting the chewing surfaces of children's molars and premolars
where most cavities occur.
Molecular genetics and genomics research has
revolutionized biomedical science. In the 1980s and 1990s, researchers
performed the first trial of gene therapy in humans, and are able to
locate, identify, and describe the function of many of the genes in the
human genome. Scientists predict this new knowledge will lead to
genetic tests to diagnose diseases such as colon, breast, and other
cancers, and the eventual development of preventive drug treatments for
individuals in families known to be at risk. The ultimate goal is to
develop screening tools and gene therapies for the general population,
not only for cancer but many other diseases.
NIH Research in the 21st Century
The NIH has enabled scientists to learn
much since its humble beginnings as a one-room laboratory in 1887. But
many discoveries remain to be made:
- Better ways to prevent and treat cancer, heart disease,
stroke, blindness, arthritis, diabetes, kidney diseases, Alzheimer's
disease, communication disorders, mental illness, drug abuse and
alcoholism, AIDS and other unconquered diseases.
- Ways to continue improving the health of infants and children, women, and
- Better ways to understand the aging process, and behavior
and lifestyle practices that affect health.
These are some of the areas where the NIH's investment in health research promises to
yield the greatest good for the greatest number of people.
NIH's Institutes, Centers, and Divisions
|Office of the Director
|National Institute on Drug Abuse
|National Cancer Institute
|National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences
|National Eye Institute
|National Institute of General Medical Sciences
|National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute
|National Institute of Mental Health
|National Human Genome Research Institute
|National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke
|National Institute on Aging
|National Institute of Nursing Research
|National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism
|National Library of Medicine
|National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases
|National Center for Research Resources
|National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases
|Center for Scientific Review (formerly Division of Research Grants)
|National Institute of Child Health and Human Development
|John E. Fogarty International Center
|National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders
|Warren Grant Magnuson Clinical Center
|National Institute of Dental Research
|Division of Computer Research and Technology
|National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases
|*Visitor Information Center
(Call for information on tours of NIH for the general public)
Prepared by the Office of Communications, Office of the Director, NIH September 1997