National Institutes of Health

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National Institutes of Health (NIH)
NIH Master Logo Vertical 2Color.png
Agency overview
Formed 1887 (1887)
Preceding agency Hygienic Laboratory
Headquarters Bethesda, Maryland
Agency executive Francis S. Collins, Director
Parent agency Department of Health & Human Services
Child agencies National Cancer Institute
▪ National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases
▪ National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute
▪ National Library of Medicine

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) is a biomedical research facility primarily located in Bethesda, Maryland, USA, operating as an agency of the United States Department of Health and Human Services. The NIH is the U.S. agency most responsible for biomedical and health-related research, primarily through its Intramural Research Program (IRP), which claims to be "the largest institution for biomedical science on earth."[1] In addition to conducting its own research, the agency provides major biomedical research funding to non-NIH research facilities through its Extramural Research Program (ERP). For example, in 2003 the NIH and its extramural arm provided 28% of biomedical research funding spent annually in the U.S., or about $26.4 billion.[2]

The NIH comprises 27 separate institutes and centers that conduct research in different disciplines of biomedical science. The IRP is responsible for many scientific accomplishments, including the discovery of fluoride to prevent tooth decay, the use of lithium to manage bipolar disorder, and the creation of vaccines against hepatitis, Haemophilus influenzae (HIB), and human papillomavirus.[3]


NIH's roots extend back to the U.S. Marine Hospital Service, established in 1798 to provide medical relief to sick and disabled men in the U.S. Navy. By 1870, a network of marine hospitals had developed and was placed under the charge of a medical officer within the Bureau of the Treasury Department. In December 1878, Congress allocated funds to investigate the causes of epidemics like cholera and yellow fever, shortly after creating the National Board of Health to formally make medical research an official government initiative.[4] This initiative was further inspired by Dr. Joseph J. Kinyuon, who in 1887 established a "laboratory of hygiene" (renamed the Hygienic Laboratory in 1891) at the Marine Hospital in New York to study bacteria.[5] Kinyuon's work as well as that of later director Dr. Milton J. Rosenau helped lead Congress to begin appropriating funds for the Marine Hospital Service, which in 1902 became the Public Health and Marine Hospital Service. By 1912, the "public health" aspect of the organization was fully being realized, aligning with the Natioanal Board of Health's initiatives, and the name was changed again to Public Health Services (PHS).[4]

On May 26, 1930, the Hygienic Laboratory was re-designated as the National Institutes of Health by the Ransdell Act and was given $750,000 to construct two NIH buildings. Over the next few decades, Congress would increase its funding tremendously to the NIH, and various institutes and centers within the NIH were created for specific research programs.[4]

In 1966, the Division of Regional Medical Programs was created to administer grants for research for heart disease, cancer, and strokes. That same year, the NIH director lobbied the White House for increased federal funding in order to increase research and the speed with which health benefits could be brought to the people. An advisory committee was formed to oversee further development of the NIH and its research programs.[4][6]

In 1971, President Nixon signed the National Cancer Act, initiating a National Cancer Program, President's Cancer Panel, National Cancer Advisory Board, and 15 new research, training, and demonstration centers. This opened the door for the formal creation of the National Cancer Institute in 1972, followed by other cancer-based initiatives into the late '70s and early '80s. By the 1990s, the focus of the NIH committee had shifted to DNA research, and the Human Genome Project was launched.[4]


The funding of NIH has at times been a source of contention in Congress, serving as a proxy for the political currents of the time. This contention was seen most dramatically during the 1980s, when President Ronald Reagan repeatedly tried to cut funding for research, only to see Congress partly restore funding. The political contention over NIH funding slowed the nation's response to the AIDS epidemic; while AIDS was reported in newspaper articles from 1981, no funding was provided for research on the disease. In 1984, National Cancer Institute scientists found implications that "variants of a human cancer virus called HTLV-III are the primary cause of acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS)," a new epidemic that gripped the nation. However, it wasn't until July 1987, as NIH celebrated its 100th anniversary, that President Reagan announced a committee to research the HIV epidemic.[4]

By 1992, the NIH had grown to encompass nearly 1 percent of the federal government's operating budget. It controlled nearly two-thirds of all public funding for health research and 85 percent of all funding for health studies in universities.[7]

In February 2009, President Barak Obama gave the NIH a one-time 34 percent budget increase of $10.4 billion under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA).[8][4]

In fiscal year 2010, NIH spent $10.7 billion (not including temporary funding from the ARRA) on clinical research, $7.4 billion on genetics-related research, $6.0 billion on prevention research, $5.8 billion on cancer, and $5.7 billion on biotechnology.[9]

Institutes and Centers

The NIH is composed of 27 separate institutes and centers (ICs) that conduct and coordinate research across different disciplines of biomedical science. These are:

  • National Cancer Institute
  • National Eye Institute
  • National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute
  • National Human Genome Research Institute
  • National Institute on Aging
  • National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism
  • National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases
  • National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases
  • National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering

  • National Institute of Child Health and Human Development
  • National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders
  • National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research
  • National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases
  • National Institute on Drug Abuse
  • National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences
  • National Institute of General Medical Sciences
  • National Institute of Mental Health
  • National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities

  • National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke
  • National Institute of Nursing Research
  • National Library of Medicine
  • Center for Information Technology
  • Center for Scientific Review
  • Fogarty International Center
  • National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences
  • National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine
  • NIH Clinical Center

In addition, the National Center for Research Resources operated from April 13, 1962 to December 23, 2011.


Some elements of this article are reused from the Wikipedia article.


  1. "Organization and Leadership". National Institutes of Health. Retrieved 22 March 2014. 
  2. Osterweil, Neil (20 September 2005). "Medical Research Spending Doubled Over Past Decade". MedPage Today. Archived from the original on 20 January 2013. Retrieved 22 March 2014. 
  3. "Prologue: NIH Intramural Research at the Threshold of a New Era" (PDF). NIH Intramural Research at the Threshold of a New Era: The Mission, Vision and Scope of the National Institutes of Health Intramural Research Program. National Institutes of Health. September 2009. Retrieved 22 March 2014. 
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 4.3 4.4 4.5 4.6 "Chronology of Events". The NIH Almanac. National Institutes of Health. Retrieved 22 March 2014. 
  5. "Introduction". A Short History of the National Institutes of Health. National Institutes of Health. Retrieved 22 March 2014. 
  6. "Organizational Period (October 1965 to September 1968)". The Regional Medical Programs Collection. U.S. National Library of Medicine. Retrieved 22 March 2014. 
  7. Price, Laurie J. (1992). "A Medical Anthropologist's Ruminations on NIH Funding". Medical Anthropology Quarterly 6 (2): 128–146. doi:10.1525/maq.1992.6.2.02a00030. Retrieved 22 March 2014. 
  8. "NIH Announces American Recovery and Reinvestment Act Funding Opportunities". National Institutes of Health. 11 March 2009. Retrieved 22 March 2014. 
  9. "Estimates of Funding for Various Research, Condition, and Disease Categories (RCDC)". Research Portfolio Online Reporting Tools. National Institutes of Health. 15 March 2011. Archived from the original on 1 January 2012. Retrieved 22 March 2014.