Wednesday, April 28, 2010

National Institutes of Health

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) is the primary agency that funds biomedical research. The NIH supports research at hospitals, medical schools, and universities.

Did you notice that there is an ‘s’ at the end of ‘Institutes’? That is because the NIH is made up of 27 institutes and centers, which makes discussions about funding sources really confusing since each institute and center has its own unique abbreviation. Were you submitting that application to NIGMS, NIBIB, or NCI? Huh?

The NIH began in a one-room laboratory in 1887. This lab was known as the ‘Laboratory of Hygiene’ and was set up within the Marine Hospital Service (which later became the U.S. Public Health Service). In 1930, the Ransdell Act reorganized the Laboratory of Hygiene into the National Institute of Health (no ‘s’ at this point). Today, the NIH has grown to a campus of 75 buildings over 300 acres.

Each year the NIH invests over $28 billion dollars in research, with over 83% of the money being distributed through competitive grants. Submitted grants undergo an intensive peer-review process to identify projects that are the most promising and address the NIH’s research priorities. This review process seems to work well for the NIH, considering over 100 scientists who have either worked for NIH or been funded by NIH have received a Nobel Prize for their work.

The current director of the NIH is Francis S. Collins, M.D., Ph.D., a brilliant scientist who is well known for the leadership role he took in the completion of the Human Genome Project. He is also invested in improving science communication, and was recently recognized as a Rock Star of Science.

This is Part 4 in the Introduction to Federal Agencies series.
Part 1 - Acronyms, Abbreviations and Agencies
Part 2 - A-B...C-D-C?
Part 3 - Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality

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