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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 and bioinformatics
  • Database design and enhancement
  • High-throughput data analysis

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
  • Protein folding and dynamics
  • Proteomics
  • Single-molecule biophysics and nanoscience
  • Spectroscopic techniques
  • Structural biology

Division of Genetics and Developmental Biology

  • Chromosomes and epigenetics
  • Developmental biology and genetics
  • DNA replication, recombination and repair
  • Genetic basis of human biology
  • Neurogenetics and the genetics of behavior
  • Non-coding RNAs
  • Population genetics, evolution and the genetics of complex traits
  • Protein synthesis
  • Regulation of cell growth, cell cycle, cell death and differentiation
  • Regulation of cellular processes by signaling
  • Stem cell biology
  • Transcription and RNA processing

Division of Pharmacology, Physiology, and Biological Chemistry

  • Anesthesiology and peri-operative pain
  • Bioenergetics and mitochondrial physiology
  • Bioinorganic chemistry
  • Biotechnology
  • Chemical biology
  • Chemical synthesis
  • Clinical pharmacology
  • Drug metabolism and transporters
  • Enzymology and enzyme mechanisms
  • Glycosciences
  • Molecular immunobiology
  • Pharmacology, including signal transduction
  • Redox biochemistry and oxidative stress
  • Sepsis
  • Synthetic biology and natural products
  • 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
  • Innovative educational programs designed to improve life science literacy throughout the nation

NIGMS was established in 1962. In Fiscal Year 2017, NIGMS' budget is $2.6 billion. The vast majority of this money funds grants to scientists at universities, medical schools, hospitals and research institutions throughout the country. At any given time, NIGMS supports more than 3,000 investigators and 4,000 research grants–around 11 percent of the total number of research grants funded by NIH. Additionally, NIGMS supports around 26 percent of the NRSA trainees who receive assistance from NIH.

The Institute places great emphasis on supporting investigator-initiated research grants that unleash the creativity and energy of investigators across the country to solve important biomedical problems. In addition, the Institute provides funding to a limited number of research centers that support critical research resources used by the scientific community or that build research capacities in states that historically have received low levels of NIH funding.

NIGMS research training programs reflect the interdisciplinary nature of biomedical research and emphasize experiences that cut across fields of inquiry. NIGMS recognizes a compelling need to promote diversity in the biomedical research workforce and is committed to galvanizing efforts in this arena by recruiting talented researchers from all groups and supporting quality educational and training environments in a wide variety of scientific areas. Certain NIGMS training programs address areas in which there are particularly critical needs. One of these, the Medical Scientist Training Program, produces investigators who hold both M.D. and Ph.D. degrees and are thus well trained in basic and clinical science. 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.
  • - Understanding and modeling infectious disease outbreaks through computer simulations to provide valuable information for researchers and public health stakeholders.
  • - 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 October 25, 2017