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 was established in 1962. In Fiscal Year 2016, the Institute's budget is $2.5 billion. The vast majority of this money funds grants to scientists at universities, medical schools, hospitals and other research institutions throughout the country. At any given time, NIGMS supports more than 3,000 investigators and 4,500 research grants—over 11 percent of the research grants funded by NIH. Additionally, NIGMS supports approximately 26.3 percent of the NRSA trainees who receive assistance from NIH.
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
The Institute places great emphasis on supporting investigator-initiated research grants that unleash the creativity and energy of investigators across the country to solve important biomedical problems. In addition, the Institute provides funding to a limited number of research centers that support critical research resources used by the scientific community or that build research capacities in states that historically have received low levels of NIH funding.
NIGMS research training programs reflect the interdisciplinary nature of biomedical research and emphasize experiences that cut across fields of inquiry. NIGMS recognizes a compelling need to promote diversity in the biomedical research workforce and is committed to galvanizing efforts in this arena by recruiting talented researchers from all groups and supporting quality educational and training environments in a wide variety of scientific areas. Certain NIGMS training programs address areas in which there are particularly critical needs. One of these, the Medical Scientist Training Program, produces investigators who hold both M.D. and Ph.D. degrees and are thus well trained in both basic and clinical science. NIGMS also has a Postdoctoral Research Associate Program, in which postdoctoral scientists receive training in NIH 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.
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.