Institutes and Research Divisions
National Institute of Allergy
and Infectious Diseases
- The immune system, its genetic control, maturation, characteristics, and manipulation.
- Disorders and derangements of the immune system including asthma and other allergies, immune deficiency states, and autoimmunity.
- The role of the immune system in the pathogenesis of chronic diseases such as arthritis, chronic glomerulonephritis, and lupus erythematosus.
- The etiology, epidemiology, and pathogenesis of all types of infections (including those caused by viruses, mycoplasma, bacteria, fungi, and parasites) involving a variety of organ systems.
- The diagnosis, treatment, and prevention of all types of infections including research on antimicrobial, antifungal and antiviral therapy; and vaccines.
Important Events in NIAID History
NIAID Legislative Chronology
Biographical Sketch of NIAID Director
Director's of NIAID
NIAID Research Program
Genetics and Transplantation. The pri-mary goals of genetics and transplantation research are to:
- Elucidate the critical immunologic functions of T cell receptors, cell-adhesion molecules, and cytokines and their receptors in various systems in the human body and in laboratory animals.
- Isolate and characterize human stem cells;
- Participate in the formulation of a repository of cell lines and gene probes for use in the study of mucosal immunity and digestive diseases;
- Elucidate the chemical nature and structure of small organic molecules that generate allergic and hypersensitive responses; and
- Investigate the interactions of selected immunotoxicants with the secretory immune subsystems of the gut and respiratory tract.
- Clarify the organization and mechanisms of expression of the genes on which immune function depends;
- Characterize protein products of genes, including histocompatibility antigens;
- Determine how these gene products condition the response to foreign antigens; and
- Develop regimens to modulate the immune response and facilitate engraftment of transplanted organs and tissues.
By supporting the acquisition, characterization and distribution of tissue typing reagents and the evaluation and improvement of tissue typing methodologies, the program facilitates the matching of donors and recipients for transplants. It also supports studies on the relationship of the human major histocompatibility complex (MHC) HLA antigens to disease susceptibility.
Research projects in this area are designed to:
Identification and Acquisition of Reagents.
NIAID contracts serve as sources of standard reagents to identify cell surface antigens both within and outside of the major histocompatibility complex that play a role in immune response.
- Investigate the mechanisms and innovative use of immunosuppressive drugs;
- Develop new monoclonal antibodies directed against specific cells to prevent graft rejection;
- Further develop reagents for precise typing of MHC or tissue matching; and
- Delineate the development of the fetal and adult immune response, using in vitro systems.
Some of these reagents are available for use in workshops or similar large-scale studies.
The institute also is a primary source of standard reagents for distribution and analyses for basic immunogenetic studies of murine transplantation antigens.
Program projects in transplantation immunology, located at major transplant centers, are currently funded by NIAID to facilitate the rapid translation of basic immunologic discoveries into clinical use. The centers carry out basic and clinical research pertinent to mechanisms of rejection, organ availability and preservation, and management of rejection.
National Cooperative Clinical Trial in Transplantation.
NIAID established this trial to expedite the evaluation of new treatment modalities to prevent kidney graft rejection. Multicenter clinical trials to assess thepotential efficacy of various therapies are conducted at eight kidney transplant units throughout the U.S.
Asthma, Allergy and Inflammation.
More than 50 million Americans suffer from allergic diseases including asthma. NIAID supports studies encompassing the cause, pathogenesis, diagnosis, prevention, and treatment of allergic diseases. Various types of allergic problems under investigation include: immediate type hypersensitivity and its disorders, including asthma, allergic rhinitis, atopic dermatitis, urticaria and angioedema; allergic reactions and disorders caused by insect bites and stings, foods, airborne allergens, and infectious agents; manifestations of delayed hypersensitivity and contact dermatitis; and the mechanisms of drug reactions and chemical sensitization. Studies also include structure of the antibodies, particularly IgE, and the chemical mediators released by the interaction of antigen and antibody with target cells; the isolation and chemical characterization of the active fractions of allergenic agents; and the therapy and prevention of allergic disorders and hypersensitivity reactions by immunotherapy with specific antigens or drugs.
Asthma, Allergic and Immunologic Disease Cooperative Research Centers.
A network of cooperative research centers represents an effort to integrate the basic concepts of immunology, genetics, biochemistry, and pharmacology into clinical investigations of patients with asthma, allergic and immunologic diseases. The program encourages collaboration between basic and clinical scientists, provides a research environment for such interactions, and implements clinical application of adequately tested research findings and procedures. It is believed that this will lead to an understanding of the pathophysiologic, biochemical, and immunologic mechanisms of these disorders.
National Cooperative Inner-City Asthma Study.
NIAID established this study to assess the factors contributing to the increased morbidity and mortality from asthma among children residing in urban environments, and to develop and evaluate a comprehensive therapeutic, educational, and environmental intervention program designed around those contributing factors. Seven sites in six cities nationwide are participating in this cooperative study.
Investigations of underlying mechanisms of disease and applications of basic knowledge to the cause, prevention, and management of immunologic disorders are approached from either of two disciplines--clinical immunology or immunopathology. Studies of clinical immunology involve acquired and inherited diseases associated with dysfunctions of the immune system, whereas the immunopathology studies encompass genetics, cytology, biochemistry, pathology, and pharmacology of the immune system.
Areas under investigation include:
- Immune deficiency diseases arising from primary defects in development or maturation of the immune responses;
- acquired immune deficiency disorders excluding AIDS;
- clinical manifestations mediated by products of lymphocytes;
- diseases associated with immune complexes and autoimmune phenomena; and
- immunotherapy of disease process, including the use of immunopotentiating and immunoregulatory substances.
DAIT supports program projects in mechanisms of immunologic diseases and autoimmunity aimed at increasing the understanding of pathophysiologic processes of immune-mediated diseases and the development of improved methods of diagnosis, treatment and prevention of disorders of the immune system.
Division of AIDS
- fundamental basic and clinical research,
- discovery and development of therapies for HIV infection and its complications,
- discovery and development of vaccines and other preventive interventions, and
- training of researchers in these activities.
In accord with this mission, the division's efforts are organized around five broad scientific areas: 1) pathogenesis, 2) epidemiology and natural history, 3) therapeutics research and development, 4) vaccine and prevention research and development, and 5) pediatric disease.
Research on the pathogenesis of HIV infection will advance the understanding of the biological causes of HIV-related disease and serve as a foundation for advancing treatment and prevention.
Investigator-initiated research and the traditional research grant are the foundation of the division's activity in this area. Important research gaps are identified by division staff in concert with investigators and advisory committees.
Other key NIAID resources for the study of pathogenesis include:
- longitudinal epidemiological studies of cohorts of individuals infected with, or at risk of infection with, HIV, and serially collected specimens stored in an DAIDS-supported repository;
- animal model research and development projects;
- the NIAID AIDS Reference and Reagent Repository, through which DAIDS acquires and distributes essential research reagents to scientists around the world; and
- the Centers For AIDS Research (CFARS), designed to support coordinated scientific and administrative activities that enhance the capacity for collaboration between basic and clinical research.
Epidemiology and Natural History. The division's goals in the area of epidemiology and natural history are to foster population-based research that will advance the understanding of the biology and clinical course of HIV infection and serve as a foundation for advancing treatment and prevention.
The division oversees several large longitudinal cohort studies that conduct multidisciplinary research involving specific populations of individuals infected with or at significant risk of infection with HIV. These include:
In addition to collecting clinical data obtained at serial examinations and interviews, all of these studies are linked to a DAIDS-supported repository that stores a variety of serially collected biological specimens from participants and subsequently retrieves them for use in experiments conducted by investigators around the world. These studies therefore represent a powerful investigative tool for basic and applied research in pathogenesis, diagnosis, behavior, treatment, and prevention.
- Multicenter AIDS Cohort Study,
- San Francisco Men's Health Study, and
- Women's Inter-Agency HIV Study.
Vaccine and Prevention Research and Development. Development and testing of vaccines and other biomedical interventions such as drugs and microbicides to prevent HIV disease is a key role of DAIDS-funded research.
NIAID's efforts in vaccine research and development are built on a strong foundation of investigator-initiated research in basic virology, immunology, and microbiology. In addition, the division uses a number of specific applied resources to advance its objectives. These include:
Therapeutics Research and Development.
The division’s goal in therapeutics is to foster the discovery and development of interventions that will improve the quality and duration of life of HIV-infected individuals.
NIAID devotes substantial resources to the discovery stage of therapeutics research, attempting to focus resources on areas of promise that are receiving insufficient attention from the private sector. The effort begins with a strong commitment to basic research in microbiology and pathogenesis. Upon this are built programs of targeted drug discovery with the National Cooperative Drug Discovery Groups (NCDDGs) for HIV and opportunistic infections (OIs) at the center. These consortia of academia, industry, and government investigators work collaboratively on focused “gap” areas of targeted drug discovery. Small portfolios of highly applied traditional investigator-initiated research round out this effort.
NIAID’s preclinical development resources are limited in scope to those necessary to ensure that the national effort has the capability to carry out specific rate-limiting developmental steps involving selected highly promising candidate agents that lack a private sponsor with sufficient resources or commitment. These “gap-filling” resources include capabilities for 1) chemical resynthesis; 2) analytical chemistry and quality control; 3) dosage form development and manufacturing; 4) small and large animal toxicology; and 5) in vitro screening and animal model efficacy studies.
In addition, the Special Program for Innovative Research on AIDS Treatment (SPIRAT) fosters coordinated and interdependent basic and clinical research between current HIV pathobiology and clinical evaluation of novel therapeutic strategies.
NIAID conducts clinical trials of new therapeutics in three networks:
- Adult AIDS Clinical Trials Group--a large, multicenter clinical trials network;
- Terry Beirn Community Programs for Clinical Research on AIDS--designed to address questions of importance to primary care clinicians and extend opportunity for participation in trials to persons underrepresented in HIV research; and
- Division of AIDS Treatment Research Initiative--a program designed to rapidly address critical questions or innovative treatment approaches.
DAIDS is working to identify and support the development of improved interventions to prevent and treat HIV infection and its sequelae in infants, children, and adolescents. DAIDS’ goals in pediatric disease include: 1) preventing perinatal HIV transmission to infants and HIV transmission to adolescents and children; 2) developing technology for the early identification and diagnosis of HIV-infected infants; and 3) developing and optimizing therapies for HIV and its sequelae in infants, children, and adolescents.
Specific resources related to pediatric disease include:
- Women and Infants Transmission Study, a longitudinal cohort study of infected women and their children;
- Pediatric AIDS Clinical Trials Group; and
- investigator-initiated research, both solicited and unsolicited, addressing issues of pediatric disease.
Division of Intramural Research