Begun as a one-room Laboratory of Hygiene in 1887, the National Institutes of Health today is one of the world’s foremost medical research centers, and the federal focal point for medical research in the United States.
The NIH mission is to uncover new knowledge that will lead to better health for everyone. NIH works toward that mission by
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. NIH’s Institutes and Centers encompass 75 buildings on more than 300 acres in Bethesda, Md. The NIH budget has grown from about $300 in 1887 to more than $23.5 billion in 2002.
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.
Approximately 82 percent of the investment is made through grants and contracts supporting research and training in more than 2,000 research institutions throughout the United States and abroad. In fact, NIH grantees are located in every state in the country. These grants and contracts make up the NIH Extramural Research Program.
Approximately 10 percent of the budget goes to NIH’s Intramural Research Programs, the more than 2,000 projects conducted mainly in its own laboratories.
The Intramural Research Programs are central to the NIH scientific effort. First-rate intramural scientists 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.
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, composed 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 38,500 research and training applications are reviewed annually through the NIH peer-review system. At any given time, NIH supports 35,000 grants in universities, medical schools, and other research and research training institutions, both nationally and internationally.
Scientific progress depends mainly on the scientist. About 50,000 principal investigators—working in every state and in several foreign countries, from every specialty in medicine, every medical discipline, and at every major university and medical school—receive NIH extramural funding to explore unknown areas of medical science.
Supporting and conducting NIH’s extramural and intramural programs are roughly 15,600 employees, more than 4,000 of whom hold professional or research doctoral 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 roster of those who have conducted NIH research, or who have received NIH support over the years includes the world’s most illustrious scientists and physicians. Among them are 97 scientists who have won Nobel prizes for achievements as diverse as deciphering the genetic code and identifying the causes of hepatitis.
Five Nobelists made their prize-winning discoveries in NIH laboratories. You can learn more about Nobelists who have received NIH support at http://www.nih.gov/about/almanac/nobel/index.htm.
NIH research has played a major role in making possible the following achievements of the last few decades:
NIH has enabled scientists to learn much since its humble beginnings. 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.
For more about NIH visit its Web site at http://www.nih.gov.
The National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI) is one of 27 institutes and centers that compose the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the principal biomedical research agency of the federal government. NIH is a component of the Public Health Service within the Department of Health and Human Services.
Each year NHLBI assesses progress in the scientific areas for which it is responsible and updates its goals and objectives. As new opportunities are identified, the Institute expands and revises its areas of interest. Throughout the process, the approach used by the Institute is an orderly sequence of research activities that includes
The programs of the NHLBI are implemented through its Division of Heart and Vascular Diseases, the Division of Lung Diseases, the Division of Blood Diseases and Resources, the Division of Epidemiology and Clinical Applications, the Division of Intramural Research (DIR), the National Center on Sleep Disorders Research (NCSDR), and the Office of Prevention, Education, and Control. The Divisions and the NCSDR pursue their own scientific mission but cooperate in areas of common interest. They use a variety of funding mechanisms, including research grants, program project grants, contracts, centers, and research training programs.
The National Center on Sleep Disorders Research (NCSDR) was established within the NHLBI specifically to coordinate and support NIH research, training, health-information dissemination, and other activities with respect to sleep and sleep disorders, including biological and circadian rhythms research, basic understanding of sleep, and chronobiological and other sleep-related research. The NCSDR also coordinates its activities with other federal agencies, including the other components of NIH and other public and nonprofit entities. In addition to identifying and supporting key research in sleep and sleep disorders, education programs for students, teachers, parents, and physicians are an important component of the NCSDR’s mandate.
As part of its mandate, the NCSDR has developed the National Sleep Disorders Research Plan. This plan is broad in scope and multidisciplinary in nature. Its vision is “to improve the health, safety, and productivity of Americans by promoting basic, clinical, and applied research on sleep and sleep disorders.” The plan calls for strengthening existing sleep research programs, training new investigators, and creating new programs that address important research gaps and opportunities. Sleep education programs for students, teachers, parents, and physicians are an important component of the NCSDR’s mandate. The 2003 National Sleep Disorders Research Plan is available on the NCSDR’s Web site. Go to http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/ and click on “Research.”