National Institute of General Medical Sciences

National Institute of General Medical Sciences

The National Institute of General Medical Sciences (NIGMS) is a part of the National Institutes of Health that primarily supports research that lays the foundation for advances in disease diagnosis, treatment and prevention. The Institute's research training programs help provide the next generation of scientists.

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

NIGMS is organized into divisions and a center that support research and research training in a range of scientific fields. One division has the specific mission of increasing the diversity of the biomedical and behavioral research workforce.

NIGMS was established in 1962. In fiscal year 2010, the Institute’s budget was $2.048 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 approximately 4,500 research grants—about 10% of the grants funded by NIH as a whole. NIGMS also supports approximately 25% of the trainees who receive assistance from NIH.

NIGMS produces a number of free science education booklets 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

NIGMS places great emphasis on supporting investigator-initiated research grants. It funds a limited number of research center grants in selected fields, including structural genomics, trauma and burn research, and systems biology. In addition, NIGMS supports several important scientific resources, including the NIGMS Human Genetic Cell Repository and the Protein Data Bank.

NIGMS has initiatives in structural genomics (the Protein Structure Initiative), pharmacogenomics, and computational modeling of infectious disease outbreaks. The Institute also has several "glue grants" that promote the collaborative approaches increasingly needed to solve complex problems in biomedical science.

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 Pharmacology Research Associate Program, in which pharmacologically oriented postdoctoral scientists receive training in NIH or Food and Drug Administration laboratories.

Research advances

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.
  • Explaining how genes affect the way a person responds to drugs, including those to treat cancer and prevent blood clots.
  • 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.

Program descriptions

Division of Cell Biology and Biophysics

The Division of Cell Biology and Biophysics (CBB) seeks greater understanding of the structure and function of cells, cellular components and the biological macromolecules that make up these components. The research it supports ranges from studies of single molecules to work in structural genomics and proteomics. The long-term goal of the division is to find ways to prevent, treat and cure diseases that result from disturbed or abnormal cellular activity.

Division of Genetics and Developmental Biology

The Division of Genetics and Developmental Biology (GDB) supports studies directed toward gaining a better understanding of the cellular mechanisms that underlie inheritance and development. The results of these studies form the foundation for advances in diagnosing, preventing, treating and curing human genetic and developmental disorders. Most of the projects supported by the division make use of model organisms, which speed advances in understanding human biological processes.

Division of Pharmacology, Physiology, and Biological Chemistry

The Division of Pharmacology, Physiology, and Biological Chemistry (PPBC) supports a broad spectrum of research and research training aimed at improving the molecular-level understanding of fundamental biological processes and discovering approaches to their control. Research supported by the division takes a multifaceted approach to problems in pharmacology, physiology, biochemistry and biorelated chemistry that are either very basic in nature or that have implications for more than one disease area. The goals of supported research include an improved understanding of drug action and mechanisms of anesthesia; pharmacogenetics/pharmacogenomics and mechanisms underlying individual responses to drugs; new methods and targets for drug discovery; advances in natural products synthesis; an enhanced understanding of biological catalysis; a greater knowledge of metabolic regulation and fundamental physiological processes; and the integration and application of basic physiological, pharmacological, and biochemical research to clinical issues in anesthesia, clinical pharmacology and trauma and burn injury. The division also supports quantitative studies of complex systems involving areas within its scope.

Division of Minority Opportunities in Research

The Division of Minority Opportunities in Research (MORE) administers research and training programs aimed at increasing the number of scientists who are members of groups underrepresented in biomedical and behavioral research. Support is available at the undergraduate, graduate, postdoctoral and faculty levels, as well as for education and research infrastructure improvements.

Center for Bioinformatics and Computational Biology

The Center for Bioinformatics and Computational Biology (CBCB) supports research and research training in areas that join biology with the computer sciences, engineering, mathematics and physics. Toward this end, the center develops and manages programs in computational biology, such as the generation of mathematical models of biological networks, the development of modeling and simulation tools, the conduct of basic theoretical studies related to network organization and dynamic processes and the development of methods for the analysis and dissemination of computational models. The center also defines the Institute's needs for database development and applications, and it collaborates with other NIH components and Federal agencies in developing policies in this area. Other center activities include the support of multidisciplinary collaborations and of workshops, courses and specialized meetings.

External links

Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.

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