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 information.
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.
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.
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.
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 Intramural Research Programs, although representing only a small part of the total NIH budget, are central to the NIH scientific effort.
First-rate 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 diseases.
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:
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 of disease.
Also, in 1996, the Clinical Center accepted about 3,400 normal or healthy individuals as participants in the Clinical Research Volunteer Program.
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.*
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 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.
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.
NIH research played a major role in making possible the following achievements of the last few decades:
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:
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.
|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