What is the NIH (National Institutes of Health)?

What is the NIH (National Institutes of Health)? – Overview

The National Institutes of Health, NIH for short, is the leading agency of the US Federal government. It is aimed at research into public health and biomedical advances.

Let’s take a quick look at some of the important aspects of the NIH.

Origin of National Institutes of Health (NIH)

In 1930, the Ransdell Act brought about the foundation of the National Institutes of Health.

Hygienic Laboratories, part of the Marine Hospital Service, was renamed NIH. In 1937, the NIH took over the remaining Division of Scientific Research, which was earlier its part.

The Division of Scientific Research was formed in 1901 and included the Hygienic Laboratories and other research offices which came under the Marine Hospital Service.

The NIH moved to its Bethesda, Maryland, campus in 1938.

Over the next 20 years, Congress began increasing funding to the NIH and other similar institutes created within the NIH for specific research programs. In 1948, the name was slightly changed to the National Institutes of Health.

In 1991, the NIH comprised nearly 1% of the federal government’s annual operating budget and controlled over 50% of all funding for health research, along with around 85% of all funding for health research in universities.

Between 1990 and the late-2000s, government funding for NIH grew exponentially and more than tripled.

NIH Campuses and Locations

The NIH conducts intramural research at its main campuses, including Bethesda, Maryland, and Rockville, Maryland, as well as adjacent communities.

  • The Bayview Campus in Baltimore, Maryland, hosts the research programs of the National Institute on Drug Abuse, the National Institute on Aging, and the National Human Genome Research Institute. This campus supports around 1,000 research scientists and staff.
  • The Frederick National Laboratory, located in Frederick, Maryland, and the adjacent Riverside Research Park are hosts to various parts of the National Cancer Institute, which also includes the Center for Cancer Research, Management Operations Support Branch, Office of Scientific Operations, the division of Cancer Treatment and Diagnosis and the division of Cancer Epidemiology and Genetics.
  • The National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences is based out of the famous Research Triangle region in North Carolina.
  • The National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases office is located in the Rocky Mountain Labs based in Hamilton, Montana. This campus mainly conducts BSL3 and BSL4 laboratory work.
  • The Phoenix Epidemiology and Clinical Research Branch, operated by the NIDDK, is located in Phoenix, Arizona.

Research Achievements

What is the NIH

What is the NIH – Research

The National Institutes of Health has helped support research studied by numerous scientists since 2017. Out of these, around 153 scientists have received the prestigious Nobel Prize and more than 194 scientists have been awarded the Lasker Award.

Let’s take a closer look at some of the most essential research studies supported by the NIH:

The NIH allocates around 10% of its total funding to intramural research (research within its facilities). The NIH allows around 80% of its total funds in research grants for extramural research (research conducted outside its campuses).

Around 2.8% of extramural research funding is granted to small businesses, as per SBIR/STTR programs.

In 2011, the extramural funding made up around 50,000 individual grants and was offered to more than 35,000 researchers from more than 3,000 separate institutions.

As of 2018, the NIH steadily increased its grant funds and successfully disbursed around 47,000 grants to more than 2,700 organizations.

The institute has spent billions on genetics-related research, prevention research, cancer research, and biotechnology.

What is the NIH? Notable NIH Achievements

Since its founding, the NIH intramural research program has been pivotal in numerous scientific and medical breakthroughs, such as:

  • George W. McCoy’s discovery found rodents to be carriers of bubonic plague in 1908.
  • Charles W. Chapin, George W. McCoy, William B. Wherry, and B. H. Lamb described the previously-unknown tularemia in 1911.
  • Ralph R. Parker and Roscoe E. Spencer developed a vaccine against the Rocky Mountain spotted fever in 1924.
  • Sanford M. Rosenthal developed a treatment for mercury poisoning, which was the main treatment before the discovery of mercaptoethanol in 1930.
  • Wilton R. Earle created the first cell culture process and published a paper describing the production of malignancy in vitro in 1943.
  • Julius Axelrod discovered cytochrome P450 monooxygenases, a new class of enzyme for drug metabolism, in 1950.
  • Developed an effective combination of drug treatment for Hodgkin’s lymphoma in 1960.
  • Described the hormonal cycle accurately during menstruation in 1970.
  • Discovered the accurate structure of the lgE receptor which is involved in allergic reactions, in 1980.
  • Conducted the first trial of gene therapy in humans in the 1990s.


The National Institutes of Health (NIH) has achieved its objective of promoting research into healthcare and biotechnology these years.

It has helped thousands of institutes and researchers discover aspects of illnesses and innovative treatment methods for numerous ailments and disorders.

The NIH remains the primary aim of funding for thousands of researchers in the United States today.

See Also

What is HHS?

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Does Medicare Cover Dental Implants?





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