National Institute of General Medical Sciences

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The National Institute of General Medical Sciences (NIGMS) supports basic research that increases understanding of biological processes and lays the foundation for advances in disease diagnosis, treatment and prevention. NIGMS-funded scientists investigate how living systems work at a range of levels, from molecules and cells to tissues, whole organisms and populations. The Institute also supports research in certain clinical areas, primarily those that affect multiple organ systems. To assure the vitality and continued productivity of the research enterprise, NIGMS provides leadership in training the next generation of scientists, in enhancing the diversity of the scientific workforce, and in developing research capacities throughout the country.

NIGMS is one of the National Institutes of Health, the principal medical research agency of the Federal Government. NIH is a component of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

NIGMS is organized into divisions that support research and research training in a range of scientific fields.

NIGMS was established in 1962. In Fiscal Year 2014, the Institute's budget is $2.359 billion. The vast majority of this money goes into local economies through grants to scientists at universities, medical schools, hospitals and other research institutions throughout the country. At any given time, NIGMS supports nearly 4,500 research grants—approximately 10.5 percent of the research grants funded by NIH as a whole.

NIGMS produces a number of free science education materials on topics such as cell biology, genetics, chemistry, pharmacology, structural biology and computational biology. The Institute also produces the magazine Findings, which showcases diverse scientists who do cutting-edge research and lead interesting lives.

Research and research training funding[edit]

The Institute places great emphasis on supporting investigator-initiated research grants and promotes the collaborative approaches increasingly needed to solve complex problems in biomedical science. In addition to funding a limited number of research center grants in selected fields, NIGMS supports centers that build research capacities in states that have historically received low levels of NIH funding. The Institute also supports several important scientific resources, including the NIGMS Human Genetic Cell Repository and the Protein Data Bank.

NIGMS research training programs recognize the interdisciplinary nature of biomedical research and stress approaches that cut across disciplinary and departmental lines. Such experience prepares trainees to pursue creative research careers in a wide variety of areas.

Certain NIGMS training programs address areas in which there are particularly compelling needs. One of these, the Medical Scientist Training Program, produces investigators who hold the combined M.D.-Ph.D. degree and are well trained in both basic science and clinical research. Other programs train scientists to conduct research in rapidly growing areas like biotechnology and at the interfaces between fields such as chemistry and biology and behavioral and biomedical sciences.

NIGMS also has a Postdoctoral Research Associate Program, in which postdoctoral scientists receive training in NIH or Food and Drug Administration laboratories.

NIGMS houses the NIH Office of Emergency Care Research, which coordinates and fosters basic, clinical and transitional emergency care research and research training across NIH.

Research advances[edit]

Among the advances that scientists have made with NIGMS support are:

  • Discovering a gene-silencing process called RNA interference, or RNAi, that is both a powerful research tool and a promising new approach for treating diseases.
  • Revealing how a protein's shape affects its function, which plays a key role in health and disease and also informs the design of new drugs.
  • Increasing survival from burn injury, in part by improving methods of wound care, nutrition and infection control.
  • Shedding light on the critical functions of carbohydrates, sugar molecules found on all living cells that are vital to fertilization, inflammation, blood clotting and viral infection.
  • Modeling infectious disease outbreaks and the impact of interventions through computer simulations to provide valuable information to public health policymakers.
  • Developing new methods to look inside cells and other living systems. These approaches have advanced what we know about basic life processes in a range of organisms.

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