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NIH 1998 Almanac/The Organization/NIGMS/      

National Institute of General Medical Sciences : Mission


NIGMS primarily supports basic biomedical research that is not targeted to specific diseases or disorders. Because scientific breakthroughs often originate from such untargeted studies, NIGMS-funded work has contributed substantially to the tremendous progress that biomedical research has made in recent years. The institute’s training programs help provide the most critical element of good research: well-prepared scientists.

Each year, NIGMS-supported scientists make major advances in understanding fundamental life processes. In the course of answering basic research questions, these investigators also increase our knowledge about the mechanisms involved in certain diseases. Other grantees develop important new tools and techniques, many of which have applications in the biotechnology industry. In recognition of the significance of their work, a number of NIGMS grantees have received the Nobel Prize and other high scientific honors.

NIGMS has three divisions that support research and research training in basic biomedical science fields: Cell Biology and Biophysics; Genetics and Developmental Biology; and Pharmacology, Physiology, and Biological Chemistry. The institute also has a Division of Minority Opportunities in Research, which administers programs that are designed to increase the number of minority biomedical scientists. Finally, NIGMS has a Division of Extramural Activities, which handles institute grant-related functions.

NIGMS was established in 1962. In fiscal year 1998, its budget was $1.066 billion. The vast majority of this money funds grants to scientists at universities, medical schools, hospitals, and research institutions throughout the country. At any given time, NIGMS supports over 3,500 research grants--about 14 percent of the grants funded by NIH as a whole. NIGMS also supports nearly half of the predoctoral trainees and about 30 percent of all the trainees who receive assistance from NIH.

The institute places great emphasis on the support of individual, investigator-initiated research grants. It funds a limited number of research center grants in selected fields, such as trauma and burn research and the pharmacological sciences (including anesthesiology), in which the interaction of basic and clinical researchers is critical for rapid scientific progress. In addition, NIGMS funds several research contracts that provide important resources for basic scientists.

NIGMS research training programs recognize the interdisciplinary nature of biomedical research today, and stress approaches to biological problems that cut across disciplinary and departmental lines. Such experience prepares trainees to pursue creative research careers in a wide variety of areas. Among the fields in which NIGMS has long offered institutional predoctoral training programs are the cellular, biochemical, and molecular sciences; genetics; the pharmacological sciences; and systems and integrative biology. Another longstanding training activity, the Medical Scientist Training Program, provides investigators who can bridge the gap between basic and clinical research by supporting research training leading to the combined M.D.-Ph.D. degree. Several newer training programs were designed to capitalize on rapidly developing areas of science, including biotechnology, molecular biophysics, and the interface between the fields of chemistry and biology.

The institute supports postdoctoral research through individual fellowships in areas related to its scientific programs and institutional postdoctoral training in the fields of anesthesiology, clinical pharmacology, medical genetics, and trauma and burn injury.

NIGMS also has a Pharmacology Research Associate Program, in which postdoctoral scientists pursue research in NIH or Food and Drug Administration laboratories. It is intended for individuals with backgrounds in the basic or clinical sciences who wish to obtain advanced experience in an area of pharmacology, or for those who are already pharmacologists to gain experience in new fields.


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