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National Institute of General Medical Sciences Strategic Plan

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Investing in Discovery

Why Basic Research?

Institute Profile

Strategic Goals

Inside NIGMS

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Institute Profile

Angelika Amon deciphers how chromosomes are distributed to daughter cells during cell division. Photo by Donna Coveney, Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
Angelika Amon deciphers how chromosomes are distributed to daughter cells during cell division. Photo by Donna Coveney, Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

The Institute was established in 1962 to support basic biomedical research and training. NIGMS-sponsored discoveries build a fundamental body of knowledge that underpins much of the research conducted at other NIH institutes and centers. Most NIGMS research grants fund investigator-initiated projects. NIGMS also provides broad-based, multidisciplinary research training for thousands of scientists nationwide via institutional training grants and individual fellowships, as well as in the context of individual research project grants.

Currently, NIGMS-funded research and training spans a broad spectrum of science, handled administratively by five components:

Division of Cell Biology and Biophysics fosters the study of molecular and cellular structure and function. Significant physics- and chemistry-based technological advances have fueled progress in understanding life at the level of molecules and atoms. Fundamental research in structural biology is the basis for the development of precise, targeted therapies for a range of diseases.

Division of Genetics and Developmental Biology promotes basic research that aims to understand mechanisms of inheritance and development. This research underlies more targeted projects funded by other NIH institutes and centers. A substantial number of these studies are performed in model organisms, an approach that continues to increase understanding of common diseases and diverse behaviors.

Division of Pharmacology, Physiology, and Biological Chemistry supports fundamental biology, chemistry, and biochemistry studies that deepen understanding of biomedicine and generate knowledge to improve the detection and treatment of disease. This research addresses several clinically relevant areas, including burns, wound healing, the effects of drugs and anesthesia on the body, and the total body response to injury. Investigations range from the molecular to the organismal level and can include clinical studies.

Illustration of nerve signaling in the brain showing the interaction of nerve cells, blood vessels, and molecules like glucose and oxygen. Courtesy of Neal Prakash and Kim Hager, University of California, Los Angeles.
Illustration of nerve signaling in the brain showing the interaction of nerve cells, blood vessels, and molecules like glucose and oxygen. Courtesy of Neal Prakash and Kim Hager, University of California, Los Angeles.

Division of Minority Opportunities in Research sponsors a range of programs to increase the number of individuals from underrepresented groups engaged in biomedical and behavioral research. This investment aims to enhance the development of biomedical and behavioral researchers and help make the scientific workforce representative of the diverse U.S. population.

Center for Bioinformatics and Computational Biology funds research in areas that join biology with computer science, engineering, mathematics, physics, and statistics. Major emphasis is placed on the development of computational tools, including methods for extracting knowledge from very large data sets routinely amassed by modern biomedical research laboratories.

NIGMS Authorizing Language


"The Surgeon General is authorized, with the approval of the Secretary, to establish in the Public Health Service an institute for the conduct and support of research and research training in the general or basic medical sciences and related natural or behavioral sciences which have significance for two or more other institutes, or are outside the general area of responsibility of any other institute, established under or by this Act."
—Public Law 87-838, October 17, 1962

Distribution of NIGMS Spending (Fiscal Year 2007)

Distribution of NIGMS Spending (Fiscal Year 2007)

As has been the case for many years, more than 70 percent of the NIGMS budget is devoted to research project grants (RPGs). Within the RPG pool,6 approximately 86 percent of the budget goes to R01 and R37 grants, 1 percent to R21 grants, 1 percent to R15 grants, 4 percent to P01 grants, 3 percent to R41/R42/R43/R44 grants, and 2 percent to U01 grants, including the Pharmacogenetics Research Network and the Models of Infectious Disease Agent Study.

About 10 percent of the budget is devoted to research training in the form of institutional training grants and individual fellowships. Within this category, 86 percent of the funds go to institutional training grants while 14 percent go to individual fellowships. Like all NIH institutes and centers, NIGMS also supports a substantial number of students and postdoctoral fellows as part of research project grants.

Centers make up 9 percent of the budget. Most of these centers are associated with initiatives such as the Protein Structure Initiative, the Large-Scale Collaborative Award program, the National Centers for Systems Biology program, the Chemical Methodologies and Library Development program, and centers devoted to specific studies of trauma, burn, perioperative injury, and wound healing.

Other research makes up 7 percent of the budget. The Minority Biomedical Research Support program accounts for 74 percent of this category. Research career awards represent another significant component.

The remaining categories include research management and support, which contributes to administrative costs, such as NIGMS staff salaries and scientific review expenses (2.5 percent of the budget); research and development contracts (1 percent), which fund activities such as the NIGMS Human Genetic Cell Repository; and intramural research (less than 0.2 percent).

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This page last reviewed on May 20, 2011