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The National Institute of General Medical Sciences (NIGMS) supports basic research that increases understanding of biological processes and lays the foundation for advances in disease diagnosis, treatment and prevention. NIGMS-funded scientists investigate how living systems work at a range of levels, from molecules and cells to tissues, whole organisms and populations. The Institute also supports research in certain clinical areas, primarily those that affect multiple organ systems. To assure the vitality and continued productivity of the research enterprise, NIGMS provides leadership in training the next generation of scientists, in enhancing the diversity of the scientific workforce, and in developing research capacities throughout the country.

NIGMS is one of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the principal medical research agency of the Federal Government. NIH is a component of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

NIGMS is organized into divisions and a center that support research and research training in a range of scientific fields. Major areas in which these units fund research are listed below their names:

Division of Biomedical Technology, Bioinformatics, and Computational Biology

  • Biomedical technology and software development
  • Cell and molecular modeling and simulation
  • Computational genomics
  • Database design and enhancement
  • High-throughput data analysis
  • Systems biology

Division of Cell Biology and Biophysics

  • Analytical and separation techniques
  • Biophysical properties of proteins and nucleic acids
  • Cell organization, motility and division
  • Cellular imaging
  • Membrane structure and function
  • Molecular biophysics
  • Single-molecule biophysics and nanoscience
  • Spectroscopic techniques
  • Structural biology
  • Structural genomics and proteomics

Division of Genetics and Developmental Biology

  • Chromosome organization and mechanics
  • Developmental biology and genetics
  • DNA replication, recombination and repair
  • Epigenetics
  • Genetic basis of human biology
  • Neurogenetics and the genetics of behavior
  • Population genetics, evolution and the genetics of complex traits
  • Protein synthesis
  • Regulation of cell growth, cell division, cell death and differentiation
  • Regulation of cellular processes by signaling
  • RNA transcription and processing
  • Stem cell biology

Division of Pharmacology, Physiology, and Biological Chemistry

  • Anesthesiology
  • Biochemistry
  • Bioenergetics and mitochondrial physiology
  • Biotechnology and metabolic engineering
  • Chemical biology and bio-inorganic chemistry
  • Drug absorption, distribution, metabolism, excretion and predictive toxicology
  • Enzymology
  • Glycomics and glycosciences
  • Molecular immunobiology
  • Pharmacogenomics                
  • Pharmacology and clinical pharmacology
  • Physiology
  • Synthetic chemistry
  • Sepsis
  • Trauma, burn injury and wound healing

Division of Training, Workforce Development, and Diversity

  • Undergraduate student training and development
  • Postbaccalaureate research education
  • Predoctoral research training
  • Postdoctoral research training, career development and transition to independence
  • Workforce development research

Center for Research Capacity Building

  • Undergraduate research experiences and student development
  • Junior faculty research development and mentoring
  • Basic, clinical and translational biomedical research, including on conditions that disproportionately affect medically underserved populations
  • The formation of collaborative research and training networks
  • The enhancement of biomedical research infrastructure and of access to shared research resources

NIGMS was established in 1962. In Fiscal Year 2014, the Institute's budget was $2.366 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 more than 3,000 investigators and 4,500 research grants—approximately 10.5 percent of the research grants funded by NIH as a whole.

The Institute places great emphasis on supporting investigator-initiated research grants and promotes the collaborative approaches increasingly needed to solve complex problems in biomedical science. In addition to funding a limited number of research center grants in selected fields, NIGMS supports centers that build research capacities in states that have historically received low levels of NIH funding. The Institute also supports several important scientific resources, including the NIGMS Human Genetic Cell Repository and the Protein Data Bank Link to external Web site.

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 Postdoctoral Research Associate Program, in which postdoctoral scientists receive training in NIH laboratories.

NIGMS houses the NIH Office of Emergency Care Research, which coordinates and fosters basic, clinical and transitional emergency care research and research training across NIH.

Selected 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.
  • - 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.
This page last reviewed on May 04, 2015