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NIAID logo   National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases
Mission | Important Events | Legislative Chronology | Director | Programs


The National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) conducts and supports research to study the causes of allergic, immunologic, and infectious diseases, and to develop better means of preventing, diagnosing, and treating these illnesses.

Following is a brief description of the major areas of investigation.

  • Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome (AIDS). NIAID is responsible for conducting and supporting basic research on the pathogenesis of the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), which causes AIDS; developing new drug therapies; conducting clinical trials of promising experimental drugs for HIV infection and related opportunistic infections and cancers; carrying out epidemiologic studies to assess the impact of HIV on the populations most severely affected by the epidemic; and developing and testing HIV vaccines and other prevention strategies.

  • Asthma and Allergic Diseases. NIAID supports programs to examine the causes, pathogenesis, diagnosis, treatment, and prevention of asthma and allergic diseases. A major focus of NIAID research in asthma includes studies to evaluate the safety and efficacy of promising therapeutic approaches to reduce asthma severity and to prevent asthma, particularly among inner-city children.

  • Biodefense. To meet the challenges posed by bioterrorism affecting the civilian population, NIH supports research in basic research into microbial biology and host response and the development of (1) rapid, accurate diagnostics for natural and bioengineered microbes; (2) effective antimicrobial and antitoxin medicines to treat those individuals affected; and (3) protective vaccination for individuals at risk of exposure. Basic research provides the essential underpinnings for the other research areas. The program embraces the concept that bioterrorism and emerging infectious diseases are related public health issues.

  • Emerging Emerging and Re-emerging Infectious Diseases. New diseases are arising worldwide and old diseases are re-emerging as infectious agents evolve or spread, and as changes occur in ecology, socioeconomic conditions, and population patterns. NIAID conducts and supports research on influenza, West Nile virus, hepatitis C, tuberculosis, and other emerging and re-emerging diseases to develop new or improved diagnostics, treatments, and vaccines.

  • Enteric Diseases. Worldwide, diarrheal diseases such as cholera and rotavirus infection are major causes of illness and death in infants and children. In contrast, viral hepatitis in its various forms, can cause severe disease in older children and adults, although it produces few symptoms among younger age groups. NIAID supports basic research on how enteric agents cause illness as well as studies aimed at developing and testing vaccines to prevent enteric infections.

  • Genetics and Transplantation. NIAID's basic immunology and genetics research seeks to define the effects of gene expression on immune function and to determine the manner in which the products of gene expression control the immune response to foreign substances, such as transplanted organs and cells. NIAID supports studies to further develop methods and reagents needed for precise tissue typing to ensure that transplant recipients receive the best-matched donor organs available. NIAID sponsors the Cooperative Clinical Trial in Pediatric Transplantation, designed to improve short- and long-term graft survival in pediatric kidney transplant recipients, as well as to investigate new approaches to minimizing the side effects of immunosuppressive regimens in this population.

  • Immune-Mediated Diseases. NIAID supports basic, pre-clinical, and clinical research on immune-mediated diseases, including: asthma and allergic diseases, autoimmune disorders, primary immunodeficiency diseases, and the rejection of transplanted organs, tissues, and cells. Efforts are underway to evaluate the safety and efficacy of tolerance induction strategies for treating immune-mediated diseases, as well as clinical trials to assess the efficacy of hematopoietic stem cell transplantation for treating severe autoimmune disorders.

  • Autoimmune Diseases. The NIAID supports basic and clinical research to alleviate or prevent the debilitating effects of autoimmune diseases. Studies focus on identifying the mechanisms of disease induction, remission, relapse, and organ damage; delineating genetic susceptibility; defining the role of infectious and environmental factors in disease initiation or exacerbation; developing new therapeutic approaches; and designing interventions to prevent disease onset. The NIAID chairs the NIH Autoimmune Diseases Coordinating Committee (ADCC), established in FY 1998 at the request of Congress, to increase collaboration among the many NIH Institutes, private groups, and other federal agencies interested in these diseases and to facilitate the development of coordinated research plans. The ADCC Autoimmune Diseases Research Plan, which was mandated by the Children's Health Act of 2000 (Public Law 106-310), was presented to Congress in late 2002.

  • Malaria and Other Tropical Diseases. Diseases such as malaria, filariasis, trypanosomiasis, and leprosy disable and kill millions of people worldwide. NIAID's research efforts in tropical medicine are conducted by U.S. and foreign investigators receiving Institute support and by NIAID scientists in Bethesda. NIAID supports a number of centers for tropical medicine research in countries where such diseases are endemic.

  • Pathogen Genomics. NIH is also working to sequence the entire genomes of pathogenic microbes and invertebrate vectors of infectious diseases. Pathogen gene sequencing efforts are enabling scientists to identify genes that may lead to potential new vaccine candidates and drug targets so that infectious diseases can be prevented and treated. In addition, knowing a pathogen's genetic sequence will help researchers better understand how mechanisms of pathogenesis and pathogen mutations contribute to drug resistance.

  • Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs). More than 15 million Americans each year acquire infectious diseases other than AIDS through sexual contact. Such STIs as gonorrhea, syphilis, chlamydia, genital herpes, and human papillomavirus can have devastating consequences, particularly for young adults, pregnant women, and newborn babies. NIAID-supported scientists in STI Cooperative Research Centers, NIAID laboratories, and other research institutions are developing better diagnostic tests, improved treatments, and effective vaccines.

  • Vaccine Development. Effective vaccines have contributed enormously to improvements in public health in the United States during the last century. Research conducted and supported by NIAID has led to new or improved vaccines for a variety of serious diseases, including rabies, meningitis, whooping cough, hepatitis A and B, chickenpox, and pneumococcal pneumonia, to name a few. NIAID supports vaccine evaluation units for the testing of new vaccines in people at a number of U.S. medical centers.

  • Drug Research and Development. The development of therapies to treat infectious and immunologic diseases is a key component of NIAID's mission. In collaboration with industry, academia, and other government agencies, NIAID has established research programs to facilitate drug development, including databases to screen chemicals for their potential use as therapeutic agents, facilities to conduct preclinical screening of promising drugs, and clinical trials networks to evaluate the safety and efficacy of drugs and therapeutic strategies.

  • Antimicrobial Resistance. NIAID funds a diverse portfolio of grants and contracts to study antimicrobial resistance in major viral, bacterial, fungal, and parasitic pathogens. Projects include basic research into the disease-causing mechanisms of pathogens, host-pathogen interactions, and the molecular mechanisms responsible for drug resistance, as well as applied research to develop and evaluate new or improved products for disease diagnosis, intervention, and prevention. NIAID-supported clinical trials networks with capacity to assess new antimicrobials and vaccines relevant to drug-resistant infections include the Adult AIDS Clinical Trials Groups, the Bacteriology and Mycology Study Group, the Collaborative Antiviral Study Group, and Vaccine and Treatment Evaluation Groups.

  • Minority and Women's Health. Some of the diseases studied by NIAID disproportionately affect women and minority populations. The Institute remains committed to the inclusion of minorities and women in every aspect of its scientific agenda, from recruitment of special populations into clinical studies to the conduct of biomedical research by minority researchers. NIAID's Office of Special Populations and Research Training sponsors activities aimed at eliminating the continuing health disparities among these populations. The Office also develops innovative training initiatives to increase the number of minority scientists by supporting undergraduate, graduate, and postgraduate research training in immunologic and infectious diseases. NIAID research results are disseminated to underserved minority communities through the Institute's outreach activities, which have focused to date on AIDS, asthma, and autoimmune diseases.

Important Events in NIAID History

1948 - The National Microbiological Institute was established November 1. The Rocky Mountain Laboratory and the Biologics Control Laboratory, both dating to 1902, were incorporated into the new institute, together with the Division of Infectious Diseases and the Division of Tropical Diseases of NIH.

1951 - An institute-supported grants program was initiated, and a branch was established to administer research, training, and fellowship grants. Grant applications were reviewed by the National Advisory Health Council until 1956.

1953 - The Clinical Research Branch was renamed the Laboratory of Clinical Investigation.

1955 - The National Microbiological Institute became the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases on December 29. The Biologics Control Laboratory was detached from the institute and expanded to division status within NIH.

1956 - The first meeting of the National Advisory Allergy and Infectious Diseases Council was held March 7-8.

1957 - The Laboratory of Immunology was established in January to meet the growing need for research on the mechanisms of allergy and immunology.

The Middle America Research Unit was established in the Canal Zone jointly by NIAID and the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research as a temporary field station, made permanent in 1961. Important tropical diseases studies were done there for 15 years. NIAID transferred its part of the program to the Gorgas Memorial Institute in 1972.

1959 - The Laboratory of Parasitic Diseases was established, formerly a part of the Division of Tropical Diseases.

1962 - A collaborative research program funded mainly by contracts was established within the institute to plan, coordinate, and direct nationwide projects on infectious diseases, vaccine development, transplantation immunology, research reagents, and antiviral substances.

1967 - The Laboratory of Viral Diseases was established.

1968 - With the dissolution of NIH's Office of International Research and creation of the Fogarty International Center on July 1, 1968, programs formerly managed by OIR were transferred to NIAID to be administered by the Geographic Medicine Branch. These included the U.S.-Japan Cooperative Medical Science Program - initiated in 1965 by the President and the Japanese Prime Minister to explore the health problems of Asia, and the International Centers for Medical Research and Training - a 1960 congressional initiative to advance the status of U.S. health sciences through international research.

1971 - The first seven Allergic Disease Centers were established to translate basic concepts of the biomedical sciences into clinical investigations.

1974 - The first centers for the study of sexually transmitted diseases and of influenza were established.

1977 - The NIAID Extramural Research Program was reorganized into three areas: Microbiology and Infectious Diseases; Immunology, Allergic and Immunologic Diseases; and Extramural Activities. An intramural Laboratory of Immunogenetics was formed.

1978 - The first maximum containment facility (P4) for recombinant DNA research was opened in Frederick, Md. International program project grants and international exploratory/development research grants programs were established. Centers were created for interdisciplinary research on immunologic diseases.

1979 - The Office of Recombinant DNA Activities was transferred from the NIGMS to NIAID. The International Collaboration in Infectious Diseases Research Program superseded the International Centers for Medical Research and Training established in 1960.

The Rocky Mountain Laboratory was reorganized into the Laboratory of Persistent Viral Diseases to deal with both host and viral mechanisms leading to slow or persistent viral infections; the Laboratory of Microbial Structure and Function, directed at bacterial diseases, particularly sexually transmitted diseases; and an Epidemiology Branch.

1980 - The Laboratory of Immunoregulation was established to provide a means for applying new knowledge in immunology to the clinical diagnosis and treatment of patients with immunological disorders.

1981 - The Laboratory of Molecular Microbiology was created to exploit new techniques in recombinant DNA methodology and other molecular studies to expand the institute's interests in both bacterial and viral pathogenesis and virulence.

1984 - The Office of Tropical Medicine and International Research (OTMIR) was established to coordinate NIAID's intramural and extramural research activities in tropical medicine and other international research. OTMIR works with other Federal agencies and international organizations active in these areas.

1985 - The Laboratory of Immunopathology was established. At Rocky Mountain Laboratories, the Epidemiology Branch was renamed the Laboratory of Pathology.

1986 - An Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome (AIDS) Program was established in January to coordinate the institute's extramural research efforts in HIV/AIDS.

1987 - The Laboratory of Cellular and Molecular Immunology was established.

1988 - The Immunology, Allergic and Immunologic Diseases Program was reorganized and renamed the Allergy, Immunology, and Transplantation Program.

The Office of Recombinant DNA Activities transferred from NIAID to the NIH Office of the Director.

1989 - NIAID's programs became divisions: Intramural Research; Microbiology and Infectious Diseases; Allergy, Immunology, and Transplantation; Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome; and Extramural Activities.

1990 - At Rocky Mountain Laboratories, a section of the Laboratory of Microbial Structure and Function became the Laboratory of Intracellular Parasites. The name of the Laboratory of Pathobiology was changed to the Laboratory of Vectors and Pathogens.

1991 - The Laboratory of Host Defenses was established.

1994 - The Laboratory of Allergic Diseases was established.

The Office of Research on Minority and Women's Health was created.

At Rocky Mountain Laboratories, the Laboratory of Vectors and Pathogens was renamed the Microscopy Branch.

1999 - The Dale and Betty Bumpers Vaccine Research Center was launched - a research program jointly funded by NIAID, NCI, and the NIH Office of AIDS Research.

2000 – The Children's Health Act of 2000 (P.L. 106-310) codified the NIH Autoimmune Diseases Coordinating Committee in law. The ADCC is chaired by the NIAID.

2001 – Malaria Vaccine Development Unit dedicated.

2002 – Laboratory of Parasitic Diseases reorganized; Laboratory of Malaria and Vector Research established.

The Office of Biodefense Research Affairs was established within the Division of Microbiology and Infectious Diseases to coordinate the planning, implementation, and evaluation of DMID-wide biodefense research.

NIAID Legislative Chronology

November 1, 1948 - The National Microbiological Institute was established under authority of section 202 of the Public Health Service Act, as implemented by General Circular No. 55, Organization Order No. 20, dated October 8, 1948.

December 29, 1955 - NIAID was established (replacing the National Microbiological Institute) under authority of the Omnibus Medical Research Act (P.L. 81-692, 64 Stat. L. 443) as implemented by PHS Briefing Memorandum of November 4, 1955, from the Surgeon General to the Secretary of Health, Education, and Welfare.

November 4, 1988 - NIAID was provided with additional authorities under title II of the Health Omnibus Programs Extension Act of 1988 (P.L. 100-607), the first major law to address AIDS research, information, education, and prevention.

August 14, 1991 - The PHS act (P.L. 102-96), the "Terry Beirn Community Based AIDS Research Initiative Act of 1991" reauthorized NIAID's Community Programs for Clinical Research on AIDS (CPCRA) for another 5 years.

June 10, 1993 - The PHS act was amended by P.L. 103-43, the National Institutes of Health Revitalization Act of 1993. This comprehensive legislation required NIAID to include research on tropical diseases in its mission statement and directed the Secretary, DHHS, to ensure that individuals with expertise in chronic fatigue syndrome or neuromuscular diseases are appointed to appropriate NIH advisory committees.

December 14, 1993 - The Preventive Health Amendments of 1993 were passed, which included provisions requiring the director, NIAID, to conduct or support research and research training regarding the cause, early detection, prevention, and treatment of tuberculosis. (The institute already had authority to conduct such research under its authorities in Title IV, PHS act.)

October 7, 1998 - Rep. Anne Northup (Ky.), on behalf of herself and Rep. Bill Young (Fla.), introduced H.C.R. 335, a resolution recognizing NIAID's 50th anniversary. On October 9, Sen. Richard Durbin (Ill.), on behalf of himself and Sen. Connie Mack (Fla.), introduced a companion measure, S.C.R. 127. Both pieces of legislation were submitted to "demonstrate the support of the U.S. Congress for the NIAID, the NIH and all of the dedicated professionals who have devoted their lives to improving the quality of the Nation's health."

October 17, 2000 - The Children's Health Act (Public Law 106-310) required the Directors of NIAID and the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases to expand and intensify the activities of their Institutes with respect to research and related activities concerning juvenile arthritis and related conditions.

November 13, 2000 - The Public Health Improvement Act (Public Law 106-505) authorized the NIAID Director to establish a program of clinical research and training awards for sexually transmitted diseases.

Biographical Sketch of NIAID Director Anthony S. Fauci, M.D.

Anthony S. Fauci, M.D., became the Director of NIAID in 1984. He received his undergraduate degree from Holy Cross College in 1962 and his medical degree from Cornell University Medical College in 1966. He completed his internship and residency at The New York Hospital Cornell Medical Center and joined NIAID in 1968 as a clinical associate in the Laboratory of Clinical Investigation. In 1980, Dr. Fauci became Chief of the Laboratory of Immunoregulation, a post he continues to hold. Dr. Fauci serves as one of the key advisors to the White House and Department of Health and Human Services on global AIDS issues, and on initiatives to bolster medical and public health preparedness against possible future bioterrorist attacks.

Dr. Fauci has made many contributions to basic and clinical research on the pathogenesis and treatment of immune-mediated and infectious diseases, including human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) disease. In 2003, an Institute for Scientific Information study indicated that in the twenty year period from 1983 to 2002, Dr. Fauci was the 13 th most-cited scientist among the 2.5 to 3 million authors in all disciplines throughout the world who published articles in scientific journals during that time frame.

Dr. Fauci has received 28 honorary doctorate degrees from universities in the United States and abroad. A member of the National Academy of Sciences and many other professional organizations, Dr. Fauci is the author, coauthor, or editor of more than 1,000 scientific publications, including several textbooks.

Directors of NIAID

In Office From
Victor H. Haas November 1, 1948 April 1957
Justin M. Andrews April 1957 October 1, 1964
Dorland J. Davis October 1, 1964 August 1975
Richard M. Krause August 1975 July 1984
Anthony S. Fauci November 1984  

Research Programs

NIAID is composed of four extramural divisions: the Division of AIDS; the Division of Allergy, Immunology and Transplantation; the Division of Microbiology and Infectious Diseases; and the Division of Extramural Activities. In addition, NIAID scientists conduct intramural research in laboratories located in Bethesda, Rockville and Frederick, Maryland, and in Hamilton, Montana. More information on NIAID programs, committees, and initiatives can be found on NIAID's web site at

Division of AIDS

The Division of Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome (DAIDS) was formed in 1986 to address the national research needs created by the advent and spread of the HIV/AIDS epidemic. Specifically, DAID's mission is to help end the HIV/AIDS epidemic by increasing basic knowledge of the pathogenesis, natural history, and transmission of HIV disease and to support research that promotes progress in its detection, treatment, and prevention. DAIDS accomplishes this through planning, implementing, managing, and evaluating programs in (1) fundamental basic research, (2) discovery and development of therapies for HIV infection and its complications, and (3) discovery and development of vaccines and other prevention strategies. Edmund C. Tramont, M.D., Director.

Division of Microbiology and Infectious Diseases

The Division of Microbiology and Infectious Diseases (DMID) supports extramural research to control and prevent diseases caused by virtually all human infectious agents except HIV. DMID supports a wide variety of projects spanning the spectrum from basic biomedical research, such as studies of microbial physiology and antigenic structure, through applied research, including the development of diagnostic tests, experimental drugs and vaccines, to conduct of clinical trials to test the safety and efficacy of new disease prevention strategies. NIAID also funds projects to sequence the full genomes of a number of medically important microbes, which can be exploited in many ways, for example, to trace microbial evolution, to locate targets for vaccine and drug development, and to identify mutations that contribute to drug resistance. Carole A. Heilman, Ph.D., Director.

Division of Allergy, Immunology, and Transplantation

The Division of Allergy, Immunology, and Transplantation (DAIT) promotes and supports a broad range of research that seeks to further our understanding of the immune mechanisms underlying immune-mediated diseases and translating this basic knowledge to clinical applications that will benefit individuals affected by these diseases. The ultimate goal of DAIT's research program is the development of effective approaches for the treatment and prevention of immune-mediated diseases. Daniel Rotrosen, M.D., Director.

Division of Intramural Research

The Division of Intramural Research (DIR) is composed of 16 laboratories and 5 branches that conduct biomedical research programs covering a wide range of disciplines relating to immunology, allergy, and infectious diseases. This includes the subdisciplines of virology, microbiology, biochemistry, parasitology, epidemiology, mycology, molecular biology, immunology, immunopathology, and immunogenetics. In addition, DIR supports a large clinical effort to conduct patient-centered research in allergy, immunology, and infectious diseases. Thomas Kindt, Ph.D., Director.

Dale and Betty Bumpers Vaccine Research Center

The Vaccine Research Center (VRC) conducts research that facilitates the development of effective vaccines for human disease. The primary focus of research will be the development of vaccines for AIDS. In addition to its work on HIV, the VRC has expanded the scope of its activities to include research on developing i mproved smallpox vaccines, effective vaccines for Ebola and other viral hemorrhagic fevers, for West Nile virus, and for SARS-associated coronavirus. Goals of the VRC include: (1) Scientific design and rational development of effective vaccine candidates; (2) Evaluation and optimization of immune responses generated by candidate vaccines; and (3) Advancement of promising vaccine candidates into vaccine trials in people. Gary Nabel, M.D., Ph.D., Director.

This page was last reviewed on July 23, 2004 .

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