National Center for Research Resources


The National Center for Research Resources (NCRR) provides laboratory scientists and clinical researchers with the environments and tools they need to understand, detect, treat, and prevent a wide range of diseases. With this support, scientists make biomedical discoveries, translate these findings to animal-based studies, and then apply them to patient-oriented research. Ultimately, these advances result in cures and treatments for both common and rare diseases. NCRR connects researchers with one another and with patients and communities across the nation. These connections bring together innovative research teams and the power of shared resources, multiplying the opportunities to improve human health. Together, NCRR's 4 integrated and complementary divisions accelerate and enhance research along the entire continuum of biomedical science.

Important Events in the Division of Research Resources* (DRR) History (*Predecessor to NCRR)

1962—On April 13, U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Luther L. Terry announced the creation of the Division of Research Facilities and Resources (DRFR), officially established on June 15.

In June, the Regional Primate Research Centers transferred from the National Heart Institute to DRFR.

1967—The Biotechnology Resources Program (BRP) was established with the transfer of Centers for Biomedical Computing and Bioengineering to DRFR from another NIH component. BRP funded the first Centers in Mass Spectrometry and Nuclear Magnetic Resonance.

1969—DRFR, in the U.S. Public Health Service (PHS) Bureau of Health Professions Education and Manpower Training, was renamed the Division of Research Resources (DRR).

1970—DRR was removed from the Bureau of Health Professions Education and Manpower Training and became an independent NIH division.

1972—The Minority Biomedical Research Support Program was formed.

1975—The NIH Director approved a broadened mission for the division and an internal reorganization.

1979—The BRP funded the first synchrotron facility for use in X-ray crystallography by NIH investigators.

1980—The Minority High School Student Research Apprentice Program began.

1985—The Research Centers in Minority Institutions Program was established.

The Biological Models and Materials Research Section was created in DRR's Animal Resources Program.

1986—The only national laboratory dedicated to biomedical applications of fluorescence was funded at the University of Illinois.

1987—The Pittsburgh Supercomputer Center was funded.

1988—The Research Facilities Improvement Program began.

1989—The Biological Models and Materials Resources Section of the Animal Resources Program became the Biological Models and Materials Research Program.

The Minority Biomedical Research Support Program was transferred from DRR to NIH's National Institute of General Medical Sciences (NIGMS).

^ top

Important Events in NCRR History

1990—On February 15, Dr. Louis W. Sullivan, Secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HSS), approved the merger of the Division of Research Resources and the NIH Division of Research Services to form the National Center for Research Resources (NCRR).

NCRR's extramural programs included: Biological Models and Materials Research, Biomedical Research Support, Biomedical Research Technology, Animal Resources, General Clinical Research Centers (GCRCs), Research Centers in Minority Institutions, and Research Facilities Improvement. NCRR intramural resources included: the Biomedical Engineering and Instrumentation Program, the Library Branch, the Medical Arts and Photography Branch, and the Veterinary Resources Program.

The Center received appropriated funding for the Research Centers in Minority Institutions (RCMI) Program, which had been previously administered by DRR but funded by the Office of the Director, NIH, since the program's inception in l985.

NCRR supported the First Annual Research Centers in Minority Institutions' International AIDS Symposium focused on AIDS in minority populations in the United States, Africa, and Latin America.

1991—The Science Education Partnership Award (SEPA) Program was established.

The Center sponsored a workshop of multidisciplinary experts in structural biology research, which generated recommendations for future directions in the report Technologies for the Future: Opportunities and Needs in Structural Biology and Molecular Medicine.

1993—NCRR began the Science Teaching Enhancement Award Program, a 2-year pilot program to create a corps of master teachers to form institutional partnerships that would improve biology education at the pre-college level.

The Institutional Development Award (IDeA) Program and the Research Facilities Improvement Program were established, as mandated by the NIH 1993 Revitalization Act. NCRR discontinued the Biomedical Research Support Grant Program.

1994—The Minority K-12 Teachers and High School Students Program was initiated to replace the Minority High School Student Research Apprentice Program.

NCRR convened expert biomedical investigators, academic administrators, and staff to develop NCRR's first comprehensive strategic plan, NCRR: A Catalyst for Discovery, A Plan for the National Center for Research Resources.

The Center released Technologies for the Future—Biomedical Computing: A Critical Tool for Research, describing opportunities in key biomedical computing areas such as neural systems and biomolecular simulations.

1995—NCRR's 5th anniversary was marked with a "Partnership for Discovery Symposium" to highlight biomedical advances accomplished with NCRR support.

The Center collaborated with the NIH Office of Research on Minority Health to establish the Research Infrastructure in Minority Institutions (RIMI) Initiative, a demonstration project to assist non-doctoral degree minority institutions to develop their research infrastructure, primarily through collaborations with research-intensive universities.

NCRR reorganized the original 7 extramural programs into: Biomedical Technology, Clinical Research, Comparative Medicine, and Research Infrastructure.

The Center established the RCMI Clinical Research Infrastructure Initiative (RCRII) to enable RCMI-eligible institutions with affiliated medical schools to develop their clinical research infrastructure.

Three National Gene Vector Laboratories were established with joint funding by NCRR; the National Cancer Institute (NCI); the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI); the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK); and the NIH Office of AIDS Research.

The NCRR Web site was created to enhance researchers' access to information on research resources and scientific opportunities.

1996—An agreement was formalized between the NIH/NCRR Shared Instrumentation Grant Program and the National Science Foundation's Multi-user Equipment Program to jointly review and fund single scientific instruments costing more than $500,000.

The Evaluation of the NIH Shared Instrumentation Grant (SIG) Program: Reports from Users was issued.

1997—NCRR published the National Survey of Laboratory Animal Use, Facilities, and Resources.

NCRR's intramural programs transferred to the NIH Division of Intramural Research Services within the NIH Office of Research Services.

The "Neuroscience Technology Development Workshop" participants recommended new scientific opportunities NCRR should pursue in order to develop research resources to enhance neuroscience research activities.

The NCRR Reporter, a quarterly magazine formerly published by DRR as the Reporter, celebrated its first 20 years of publication.

1998—A comprehensive 5-year strategic plan, NCRR—A Catalyst for Discovery—A Plan for the National Center for Research Resources: 1998-2003, was published.

The minority clinical associate physician and clinical research scholar career development elements of the GCRC Program were merged into the Clinical Associate Physician Career Program.

NCRR established the NIH Chimpanzee Management Program (ChiMP).

1999—NCRR established the Nation's eighth Regional Primate Research Center (RPRC) at the Southwest Foundation for Biomedical Research—the first center to be added to the RPRC network since the 1960s.

NCRR established the Mutant Mouse Regional Resource Centers Program.

NCRR established a career-enhancing award in Mouse Pathobiology Research for veterinarians engaged in pathobiology. The award protects time devoted to pathobiology research studies in genetically altered mice and enhances mentoring activities to increase the pool of future mouse pathobiologists.

The first annual scientific meeting of NCRR-supported comparative medicine resource directors was hosted by the Miami National Resource for Aplysia, University of Miami.

Eight "collaboratory" projects were initiated within the NCRR-supported Biomedical Technology Resource Centers to demonstrate and evaluate the efficiency and effectiveness of conducting multi-investigator research utilizing the Internet.

Through a collaboration with the Cystic Fibrosis (CF) Foundation, several NCRR-supported GCRCs became part of a CF treatment and diagnostic center network, enhanced by an NCRR-funded GCRC Data Management Unit to collate and analyze the CF clinical trial results.

A full-scale biosafety level-4 (BL4) laboratory—partially funded by NCRR—was dedicated at the Southwest Foundation for Biomedical Research in Texas. It is 1 of 4 federally supported BL4 labs nationwide, but the only such facility dedicated to basic molecular studies and investigation of long-term pathogenesis of deadly microbes.

2000—NCRR and several other NIH components cofunded a number of new initiatives to enhance research priority areas such as bioengineering (including nanotechnologies) and biocomputing (including informatics), and new animal models.

NCRR established a number of new faculty mentoring and student training grant opportunities, utilizing existing NIH funding mechanisms, to encourage medical students to pursue clinical research careers and research veterinarians to become independent researchers.

As part of the IDeA Program, NCRR established Centers of Biomedical Research Excellence (COBRE) at independent institutions located in states with historically low aggregate success rates for obtaining NIH grants. The COBRE Program funds independent research centers focused on specific scientific themes to increase research capacity.

2001—NCRR launched the Biomedical Informatics Research Network (BIRN), a shared network of neuroimaging databases that serves as a test bed for development of hardware, software, and protocols for mining data in a site-independent manner for both basic and clinical research.

The first NIH-wide High-End Instrumentation Grant Program was established to enable institutions to purchase instruments that cost more than $1 million.

A Research Subject Advocate (RSA) Program, established at the GCRCs, informs patients and volunteers about the research studies in which they participate and facilitates the timely reporting of serious adverse events to appropriate oversight boards and agencies.

Islet Cell Resource Centers were established to isolate, characterize, and distribute human pancreatic islets for transplantation into patients with type I diabetes and for basic research protocols.

A network of National Gene Vector Laboratories (NGVLs) was established to produce clinical-grade vectors for human gene transfer protocols and to perform related toxicology studies for Phase I and Phase II human clinical gene transfer protocols.

The Mutant Mouse Regional Resource Centers network began accepting transgenic animals from researchers to add to its collection for broad dissemination to the biomedical research community.

As part of the Institutional Development Awards (IDeA) Program, NCRR established Biomedical Research Infrastructure Network (BRIN) grants to help IDeA institutions attract established investigators, develop the research skills of resident investigators, alter and renovate laboratories, and purchase modern equipment.

The NCRR began providing Science Education Partnership Awards (SEPA) to science centers and museums nationwide to enhance the reach of unique health-related education programs.

2002—NCRR, along with 5 other NIH components, issued infrastructure enhancement awards to increase the capacity for basic research using human embryonic stem cells for preclinical investigations. The awards, which support entities listed on the NIH Human Embryonic Stem Cell Registry, are designed to increase the supplies and access to cells that are self-renewing and well characterized for quality controls.

A private, nonprofit organization received a contract to establish and operate a sanctuary for chimpanzees no longer needed for biomedical research. The Chimpanzee Health Improvement, Maintenance, and Protection (CHIMP) Act of December 2000 mandated such a sanctuary.

NCRR expanded breeding of Specific-Pathogen-Free (SPF) Rhesus Macaques in response to a national shortage and demand for these models. To explore alternatives to the use of rhesus macaques in biomedical research, experts met at the National Academy of Sciences in Washington, D.C. to develop recommendations intended to alleviate scientific demands for rhesus macaques.

The 8 Regional Primate Research Centers were renamed as National Primate Research Centers (NPRCs) to reflect their enhanced emphasis on providing nonhuman primates and related resources to biomedical scientists nationwide.

The Argonne National Laboratory's Advanced Photon Source (APS) and the NCRR-supported Northeastern Collaborative Access Team, or NE-CAT, agreed to build 3 experimental stations, known as beamlines, at the APS for synchrotron radiation research to study protein complexes and other biomolecular structures.

The Rat Resource and Research Center (RRRC), established at the University of Missouri (Columbia), serves as a resource for the study of rat models for biomedical research worldwide. The RRRC imports, cryopreserves, produces, and distributes high-quality laboratory rats.

2003—To address the challenges inherent in diagnosing and treating rare diseases, NCRR and other NIH components established the Rare Disease Clinical Research Network, which consists of 7 Rare Diseases Clinical Research Centers and a Data and Technology Coordinating Center. Each research center consists of a consortium of clinical investigators partnering with patient-support groups and institutions within and outside of the United States that have agreed to work together studying a group of rare diseases. The data-coordinating center works with the sites to integrate various kinds of data including genetic, microarray, clinical, laboratory, and imaging.

A Biomedical Computing Science and Technology Program was established by NCRR and 16 other NIH components to provide support for fundamental research as well as the development and application of new biocomputing tools or technologies. The program promotes research and development in computational science and technology that supports rapid progress in areas of scientific opportunity in biomedical research.

The Stroke Prevention/Intervention Research Program (SPIRP) was established to identify racial and geographical disparities related to stroke and cerebrovascular disease and to establish programs aimed at reducing or eliminating these disparities. The SPIRP is funded by the NCRR, NHLBI, and the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke.

NCRR and the NIH National Center on Minority Health and Health Disparities awarded a grant to Tuskegee University to complete its National Center for Bioethics in Research and Health Care. The grant allows the university to provide research and teaching facilities for faculty, researchers, and visiting scholars for studies in bioethics, public health, and integrated bioscience programs. The Center is the Nation's first bioethics institute dedicated to addressing issues that involve African Americans and other vulnerable or disadvantaged populations.

IDeANET began with the funding of a test-bed consortium of 6 IDeA states (called the Lariat Project) to provide increased connectivity for high-bandwidth science applications and facilitate collaborations among these and other institutions. IDeANET enhances IT infrastructure by providing support for staff in bioinformatics and data management cores, computer hardware and software, and Internet2 broad-bandwidth access for biomedical applications. It is intended to relieve strategic bottlenecks in connectivity entering states and improve Internet performance at many sites throughout the IDeA states.

A Viper Resource Center was established at Texas A&M University in Kingsville, Texas, to provide a resource of more than 400 venomous snakes. The snake venoms—a rich, stable source of biomedically important proteins such as disintegrins, metalloproteases, and fibrinolytic enzymes—are of particular interest because they can alter the shape, orientation, and movement of cells, and may play a role in the treatment of cancer, heart attacks, and strokes.

A National Swine Research and Resource Center was established at the University of Missouri-Columbia to serve as a national repository and distribution center for genetically modified swine. The Center houses 150-250 pathogen-free swine and cryopreserves genetic material and reproductive cells so that important swine models can be rederived as needed. Because the anatomy and physiology of pigs are remarkably similar to humans, the animals are ideal models for studying diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and obesity.

The Drosophila Genomics Resource Center (DGRC), housed at the Center for Genomics and Bioinformatics at Indiana University in Bloomington, was created to assist researchers in applying genomics in the model organism Drosophila by assuring economical access to quality-controlled genomics materials. The DGRC produces and distributes DNA microarray slides for gene expression analyses; tests new and alternative genomics technologies; facilitates the collection and analysis of array expression data; and collects and distributes other reagents and materials essential for Drosophila genomics research, including large clone sets, common transformation vectors, and cell lines.

Three new resources were developed to integrate technologies that enhance the study of proteomics and glycomics, 2 emerging fields that seek to identify and uncover the structures, functions, and interactions of the thousands of proteins (proteomics) or carbohydrates (glycomics) found in cells. The new resources are the Proteomics Research Resource for Integrative Biology at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, Integrated Technology Resource for Biomedical Glycomics at the University of Georgia, and the Integrated Proteome Technologies for Pathway Mapping resource at the University of Michigan, which houses a high-throughput robotic analysis system.

Tulane University, in New Orleans, established a center for the preparation, quality testing, and distribution of adult stem cells. The Center prepares and distributes a continuous supply of marrow stromal cells derived from adult human and rat bone marrow, using standardized protocols.

2004—A comprehensive 5-year strategic plan, 2004-2008 Strategic Plan: Challenges and Critical Choices, was published, based on the input of biomedical investigators, high-level administrators in research organizations, scholarly organizations, and NIH senior program staff. The Strategic Plan is intended to guide NCRR's priorities for investments, including local and national networks, research resources, technology development, instrumentation, biological models, and biomedical informatics tools to facilitate research intended to prevent, alleviate, or treat human disease.

NCRR funded the first national center for high-throughput genotyping dedicated solely to large-scale SNP (single nucleotide polymorphism) analysis. This high-capacity resource allows U.S. researchers to quickly and cost-effectively carry out large-scale studies of genetic variation in humans and animals to advance disease gene identification. Research on genetic variation is aimed at improving the diagnosis and treatment of numerous diseases of humans that may have significant genetic components—such as type I diabetes, schizophrenia, and some types of cancer—by identifying specific genetic markers, or genotypes, that are associated with particular diseases or responses to drug therapies.

Using existing resources and centers, NCRR began serving as a significant partner in many NIH Roadmap initiatives, including those under the theme of Re-engineering the Clinical Research Enterprise. Additionally, NCRR is the lead Center partnering with other NIH components to support Exploratory Centers for Interdisciplinary Research, which seeks to lower the artificial barriers that divide researchers and impede scientific progress. NCRR is also the lead NIH component supporting National Technology Centers for Networks and Pathways to develop new technologies to study the dynamics of molecular interactions within cells. NCRR also supports the National Centers for Biomedical Computing initiative, which will build the computational infrastructure for biomedical computing, ranging from basic research in computational science to providing the tools and resources needed by biomedical and behavioral researchers.

The Resources for X-Ray Tomography of Whole Cells was established by NCRR and the U.S. Department of Energy at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in Berkeley, California. Employing the new field of cryo X-ray tomography, in which samples are rapidly frozen and viewed using a transmission X-ray microscope, researchers will be able to create and examine high-resolution, 3-dimensional images of the inside of cells.

The Stanford Synchrotron Radiation Laboratory at Stanford University in California received a $58 million upgrade with support from NCRR, NIGMS, and the U.S. Department of Energy. The upgrade project essentially rebuilt the existing storage ring—the machine in which electrons circulate at nearly the speed of light, producing visible and invisible forms of light called synchrotron radiation. This venture, which increased the brightness of the synchrotron radiation by 1 or 2 orders of magnitude, was begun in 1999 and completed in mid-December 2003.

The University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, received support to further develop and make more widely available a Genome Fingerprint Scanning Program. The tool allows researchers to match mass spectrometry data directly to raw, unannotated genetic sequences to identify proteins and locate novel genes. Proteomics, the study of how proteins interact and respond to changing conditions in complex systems, is increasingly being used to help decipher diseases such as cancer, diabetes, and Alzheimer's disease.

Comprehensive Centers on Health Disparities were established to systematically address one or more of the health disparities that negatively impact racial and ethnic minority populations served by the grantee institutions. The new centers are: Meharry Medical College in Nashville; Charles R. Drew University of Medicine and Science in Los Angeles; and the Puerto Rico consortium, which consists of the 3 accredited medical schools in Puerto Rico (the University of Puerto Rico School of Medicine, the Universidad Central del Caribe School of Medicine, and the Ponce School of Medicine.) The health disparities to be studied include a variety of cancers (breast, prostate, and colorectal); diabetes mellitus; renal disease; infant mortality; AIDS; and cerebrovascular and cardiovascular diseases.

2005—In October, NCRR (on behalf of NIH) launched a new NIH Roadmap for Medical Research initiative—the Clinical and Translational Science Awards (CTSAs)—designed to speed the process by which biomedical discoveries are translated into effective medical care for patients. Developed with extensive input from the scientific community, the awards will help institutions nationwide create an academic home for clinical and translational science. CTSAs will provide an opportunity for institutions to develop critical resources and integrate clinical and translational science across multiple disciplines and academic departments, schools, clinical and research institutes, and hospitals. By lowering barriers among disciplines and encouraging creative, innovative approaches to solve complex medical problems, the new CTSAs are expected to fundamentally transform the conduct of clinical and translational science in the United States and usher in a new approach for preemptive medical care.

The Science Education Partnership Awards (SEPA) Program awarded approximately $22 million to fund 21 SEPA projects. The SEPA Program serves K-12 students and teachers, as well as science centers and museums across the country. Many of the funded projects provide opportunities for underserved and/or minority populations to pursue science careers. In addition, SEPA partnerships develop projects that educate the general public about health and disease, with the aim of helping people make better lifestyle choices as new medical advances emerge.

NCRR expanded its Islet Cell Resource (ICR) Program to provide cells for basic research studies. Previously, human islet cells had only been provided for clinical transplantation. The cells will be made available to researchers for basic science studies at no cost, if their proposals are approved by the ICR's Administrative and Bioinformatics Coordinating Center. With support from NCRR, NIDDK, and the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation, a consortium of ICR Centers isolate, purify, and characterize human pancreatic islets for use in scientific research and for subsequent transplantation into patients with type I diabetes and for basic research protocols.

The RCMI Program celebrated its 20th anniversary. Launched in 1985 with Congressional support, the RCMI Program fosters environments that are conducive to excellence in basic, clinical, and behavioral research. Through training and career development opportunities, the RCMI program also establishes a critical mass of scientists that more closely reflect the growing ethnic and cultural diversity of the U.S. population.

The Biomedical Technology Resource Centers Program awarded $18.2 million to create 2 new centers to develop new image-guided therapies and to further biochemistry studies of diseases such as alcoholism and cancer. Brigham and Women's Hospital of Boston will receive $15 million over 5 years in a cooperative agreement to establish a national Image Guided Therapy Center. The new resource will provide a unique, "1-stop-shopping" research, training, and service center that will develop and make available to scientists and clinicians image processing and display tools; dynamic and adaptive Magnetic Resonance Imaging methods; novel therapy techniques; and image-guided robotics. Through the second award, NCRR provided Indiana University in Bloomington with $3.2 million over 3 years to launch the National Center for Glycomics and Glycoproteomics to advance the study of carbohydrate molecules. A relatively new field that uses sophisticated tools and methods, glycomics is the study of complex sugar molecules that are attached to many proteins and lipids found in the blood, on the surfaces of cells, and in other places in the human body.

The High-End Instrumentation (HEI) Program awarded 11 grants totaling $18 million to fund the purchase of new state-of-the-art equipment required to advance biomedical research. Awarded to research institutions around the country, the one-time grants support the acquisition of instruments that cost more than $750,000, with a maximum of $2 million each. Since its inception in 2002, the HEI Program has provided 62 awards and 2 supplements to biomedical research institutions in 23 states, totaling $95,652,561.

The WiCell Research Institute in Wisconsin was awarded $16.1 million over 4 years to fund a National Stem Cell Bank. The Bank will consolidate many of the federally funded eligible human embryonic stem cell lines in one location, reduce the costs that researchers have to pay for the cells, and maintain quality control over the cells. The Stem Cell Bank will provide scientists affordable and timely access to federally approved human embryonic stem cells and other technical support that will make it easier for scientists to obtain the cell lines currently listed on the NIH Human Embryonic Stem Cell Registry.

Through its Research Facilities Improvement Program (RFIP), NCRR awarded nearly $30 million for 10 construction projects across the country. The grants will allow institutions to construct new laboratory space, improve research imaging capabilities, renovate existing infrastructure systems, and create facilities for research animals. The FY 2005 RFIP awards will fund the design, construction, and fixed equipment costs for new research facilities.

The University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill—funded by a 5-year NCRR grant totaling $2.46 million—launched the National Gnotobiotic Rodent Research Center, significantly expanding the existing Mutant Mouse Regional Resource Center at the university. The Center will provide scientists across the nation with access to gnotobiotic mice and rats, which will allow more precise explorations of how genes interact with the environment. Gnotobiotic organisms either are germ-free or have some contaminants that are known to the experimenter. Gnotobiotic techniques serve to produce germ-free and disease-free laboratories.

Chimp Haven, the first federally funded chimpanzee sanctuary, opened on October 28, 2005. The sanctuary, funded by an NCRR contract, provides lifetime care for federally owned or supported chimpanzees that are no longer needed for biomedical research. NCRR also awarded construction grants so that Chimp Haven could develop and build a state-of-the-art facility that closely resembles the chimpanzees' natural habitat. At capacity, Chimp Haven will be able to accommodate about 175 chimpanzees. The sanctuary was established in response to the Chimpanzee Health Improvement, Maintenance, and Protection (CHIMP) Act of December 2000, which authorized $30 million in Federal dollars for the sanctuary.

2006—In October, NIH created a national consortium that will transform how clinical and translational research is conducted, ultimately enabling researchers to provide new treatments more efficiently and quickly to patients. Led by NCRR, this new consortium, funded through Clinical and Translational Science Awards (CTSAs), begins with 12 academic health centers located throughout the nation. An additional 52 awardees are receiving planning grants to help them prepare applications to join the consortium. When fully implemented in 2012, about 60 institutions will be linked together to energize the discipline of clinical and translational science. The new program draws on NIH's earlier initiatives to re-engineer the clinical research enterprise, one of the key objectives of the NIH Roadmap for Medical Research. The CTSA Consortium has developed a Web site ( to ensure access to CTSA resources, enhance communication, and encourage information sharing.

NCRR provided $24.29 million over 5 years to the University of California, Irvine, for continued support to the Biomedical Informatics Research Network (BIRN). Currently a consortium of 28 universities and 37 research groups, BIRN is leveraging and sharing distributed tools, software applications, techniques, data, and expertise that extend beyond the boundaries of individual laboratories. This major NCRR initiative, involving both basic and clinical investigators, is initially concentrating on research involving neuroimaging, but the tools and technologies developed will ultimately be applicable to other disciplines.

The Rare Diseases Clinical Research Network (RDCRN), an initiative of the NIH Office of Rare Diseases and NCRR—in collaboration with many NIH Institutes, facilitates clinical research of rare diseases. More than 20 studies opened at approximately 50 sites across the United States and in several other countries including the United Kingdom, Japan, and Brazil. The RDCRN has received 5-year funding awards totaling $71 million.

As part of the NIH Roadmap for Medical Research, NCRR led the establishment of a comprehensive Web portal containing the results of the Inventory and Evaluation of Clinical Research Networks (IECRN) initiative. It is designed to promote collaboration among networks and facilitate identification of networks for clinical studies. The Web site provides clinical researchers and the public with an online database containing profiles of all existing clinical research networks.

As part of its ongoing effort to build a public, genome-wide library of "knockout" mouse models for the study of human disease, NIH awarded a total of $800,000 for deposition of existing knockout mice to 2 public mouse repositories to acquire genetically engineered mouse lines not yet widely accessible to researchers. In the 2 decades since recombinant DNA technology was first used to produce lines of mice in which specific genes have been disrupted, or "knocked out," such mice have proven to be one of the most powerful tools available to study the function of genes and to create animal models of human disease. To facilitate sharing, NCRR supports a network of public repositories that archive and distribute mouse strains.

NIH also awarded a set of cooperative agreements, totaling up to $52 million over 5 years, to launch the Knockout Mouse Project. The goal of this program is to build a comprehensive and publicly available resource of knockout mutations in the mouse genome. NCRR is one of the 19 NIH Institutes, Centers, and Offices contributing to the Knockout Mouse Project.

NCRR provided nearly $20 million to fund 18 Science Education Partnership Awards (SEPA) across the nation. The SEPA projects are designed to inform the public about health issues, foster science literacy, and encourage students to consider careers in the health sciences.

The High-End Instrumentation (HEI) Program awarded 14 grants totaling $21.5 million to fund the purchase of new state-of-the-art equipment required to advance biomedical research. Awarded to research institutions around the country, the one-time grants support the acquisition of instruments that cost more than $750,000, with a maximum of $2 million each. High-end instruments supported in this round of funding include supercomputers, nuclear magnetic resonance spectrometers, and cryo-electron microscopes. Since its inception in 2002, the HEI Program has provided 76 awards and 2 supplements to biomedical research institutions in 24 states, totaling $118,206,581.

NCRR provided $117.3 million to fund 4 new and 7 continuing Centers of Biomedical Research Excellence (COBRE). The awards support multidisciplinary centers—each concentrating on one general area of research—that strengthen institutional biomedical research capability and enhance research infrastructure. COBREs are a component of the IDeA Program, designed to improve the competitiveness of investigators in states that historically have not received significant levels of competitive NIH research funding.

NCRR provided nearly $5 million to the National Center for X-ray Tomography, located at the U.S. Department of Energy's Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory Advanced Light Source. This new center features a first-of-its-kind X-ray microscope that will enable scientists to perform "CAT scans" on biological cells, just one of many unprecedented capabilities for cell and molecular biology studies.

Ten institutions nationwide received awards totaling $30 million from NCRR's Research Facilities Improvement Program. The grants will allow construction of new laboratory space and upgrades to research-imaging facilities, among other improvements.

With co-funding from NCRR, NCI, and the National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering, Brigham and Women's Hospital of Boston received $15 million over 5 years to establish a national Image Guided Therapy Center. This unique resource will allow physicians to see deep beneath the skin during surgical procedures through imaging techniques such as CT scanning, ultrasound, and endoscopy.

Indiana University in Bloomington received $3.2 million of NCRR funding over 3 years to launch the National Center for Glycomics and Glycoproteomics. The Center will study specific sugars (i.e., complex signaling molecules found throughout the body) that are critical for reproduction, growth and development, and the ability to fight infection. The Center also will create and share new tools to unravel the structures of these molecules and how they work. Scientists will use these to study both basic biology and diseases from cancer to alcoholism.

NCRR sponsored or co-sponsored 4 workshops (Ensuring the Inclusion of Clinical Research in the National Health Information Network, Supporting Connectivity for Biomedical Research: Executive Session, Genetic Tools for Optimizing the Use of Rhesus Macaques for Translational Research, and Navigating the Translational Researcher Through a Complex of Animal and Biological Resources) and 1 conference (NIH Conference on Knowledge Environments for Biomedical Research) for the biomedical research community. Information on these meetings is available on the NCRR Workshops Web Site (

2007— In April, NIH Director Dr. Elias A. Zerhouni named Dr. Barbara Alving to be the director of NCRR. Dr. Alving joined NIH in 1999. She has previously served as the Acting Director of NCRR and NHLBI.

In September, NCRR expanded the Clinical and Translational Science Awards (CTSA) consortium from 12 to 24 academic health centers. The consortium's major goal is to speed the translation of laboratory discoveries into treatments for patients. Currently, the CTSA consortium is working to address three major priorities: standardizing clinical research informatics, streamlining institutional review board processes, and developing national curricula for clinical and translational science. Through CTSA solicitations, academic health centers will have the opportunity to build on their existing resources and transform into this integrated program over a period of years. When fully implemented in 2012, 60 institutions will be linked together to energize the discipline of clinical and translational science. View Image.

The recently launched CTSA Web site ( features resources, news, and general information about the CTSA consortium. It aims to enhance communication and encourage sharing of resources provided by CTSA members. The site includes detailed information on each CTSA participating institution, training activities sponsored by the CTSAs, publications, upcoming meetings, community engagement activities, and a fact sheet about the CTSAs.

NCRR provided nearly $20.5 million to fund 21 new Science Education Partnership Awards (SEPA) across the nation. SEPA projects are designed to inform the public about health issues, foster science literacy, and encourage students to consider careers in the health sciences. Through mobile laboratories, portable science kits, planetarium films, and online activities, SEPA projects provide hands-on, inquiry-based instruction on topics such as cardiovascular risk factors, genetic testing, and diabetes treatment and prevention. Participants will study multiple research-related issues, learn about the clinical trials process, and examine their own health and lifestyle choices. This year's awards bring the SEPA portfolio to 72 active projects that span the country, from Maine to Florida and from Alaska to Texas. SEPA projects address a wide range of subject matter, from basic questions about biology to how clinical research is conducted.

Scientists have now added a third primate to the list of sequenced genomes: the rhesus macaque, Macaca mulatta. This old-world monkey is the nonhuman primate most widely used in biomedical studies focusing on major diseases, such as AIDS and diabetes. Its genome sequence is reported in the April 13, 2007, issue of Science. The sequencing, funded by NIH's National Human Genome Research Institute (NHGRI), was performed at the Baylor College of Medicine Human Genome Sequencing Center in Houston; the Genome Sequencing Center at Washington University in St. Louis; and the J. Craig Venter Institute in Rockville, Maryland. It was based on the DNA from a single individual—a female rhesus macaque housed at the NCRR-funded NPRC at the Southwest Foundation for Biomedical Research in San Antonio, Texas. The California, Oregon, and Yerkes NPRCs, also funded by NCRR, contributed additional biological samples used in the study. View Image.

The High-End Instrumentation (HEI) Program awarded 14 grants totaling $20.65 million to fund cutting-edge equipment required to advance biomedical research. Awarded to research institutions around the country, the 1-time grants support the purchase of sophisticated instruments costing more than $750,000. The maximum award is $2 million. High-end instruments supported in this round of funding include a 7-tesla human MRI and spectroscopy system, several MRI scanners, nuclear magnetic resonance spectrometers, and equipment for developing and producing positron emission tomography tracers. View Image.

NIH provided $4.8 million to establish and support a repository for its Knockout Mouse Project. This award is the final component of a more than $50 million trans-NIH initiative to increase the availability of genetically altered mice and related materials. The University of California, Davis and Children's Hospital Oakland Research Institute in Oakland, California, will collaborate to preserve, protect, and make available about 8,500 types of knockout mice and related products to the research community. The repository—funded by NCRR, NHGRI, and the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases—will archive, maintain, and distribute up to 8,500 strains of embryonic stem cell clones, live mouse lines, frozen embryos and sperm, and vectors, while assuring product quality and availability for all materials. The 4-year grant supports the establishment and operation of the repository.

NCRR provided $9.5 million over 3 years to launch a Translational Research Network that will increase the opportunity for multi-site clinical and translational research among minority and other collaborating institutions throughout the nation. Investigators at these institutions are focused on cancer, diabetes, renal disease, infant mortality, HIV/AIDS, and cardiovascular diseases—all of which disproportionately affect minority populations. Translational research conducted within the network will cover a wide range. Some will focus on applying discoveries generated during research in the laboratory to clinical trials. Others will emphasize developing and implementing best practices in disease prevention and intervention in local community settings. By providing computer-based tools for analyzing and managing clinical research data, recruiting for clinical trials, and sharing information with patients, the network will enable clinical and translational researchers to collaborate more efficiently with each other and their communities.

The NIH Roadmap for Medical Research funded 9 interdisciplinary research consortia to help integrate different disciplines to address health challenges that have been resistant to traditional research approaches. These consortia will develop new ways to think about challenging biomedical problems, and they will provide a stimulus for changing the culture of academic research such that interdisciplinary research becomes the norm. The consortia address several current barriers to interdisciplinary research. The strategies for accomplishing this include: 1) dissolving departmental boundaries within institutions; 2) providing recognition of team leadership within the projects; 3) cross-training students in multiple disciplines; and 4) changing the NIH approach to administering interdisciplinary research. The consortia consist of multiple research projects with several principal investigators, core research support facilities, training, career development, and education components. These components will be divided among several NIH Institutes and Centers for programmatic oversight. To maintain the interdisciplinary research program as a whole, the grants will remain linked electronically through unique identifiers, and NCRR and the NIH Office of Portfolio Analysis and Strategic Initiatives (OPASI) will oversee the entire program.

NCRR provided nearly $33 million to fund 3 new Institutional Development Awards (IDeA). The awards support multidisciplinary centers—each concentrating on one general area of research—that strengthen institutional biomedical research capability and enhance research infrastructure. The new centers are being established at the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center to study diabetes (especially in Native American populations); Rhode Island Hospital to study cartilage, joint health, and repair mechanisms; and University of Kansas Medical Center to study molecular regulation of cell development and differentiation. View Image.

Dr. Jay Hove, an NCRR grantee at the University of Cincinnati, became 1 of 12 NIH-supported scientists to receive the Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers at the outset of his scientific career. Dr. Hove's innovative research through the years has combined advances in optics, engineering, and biomedicine to describe—for the first time—the dynamic flow interactions that occur in both sick and healthy animal models. In 2006, NCRR provided Dr. Hove with $1.53 million to build on these innovations. With this funding, Dr. Hove plans to create a state-of-the-art, cross-platform technology for 4-D imaging (3-D plus real time) that would study how fluids, such as blood, flow in the zebrafish, a widely used animal model for biomedical research.

Researchers at the Oregon Health and Science University's NPRC—funded by NCRR—made a significant breakthrough in efforts to develop human stem cell therapies to combat devastating diseases. For the first time, scientists successfully derived embryonic stem cells by reprogramming the genetic material of skin cells from rhesus macaque monkeys. This advance—supported over several years by NCRR—builds on studies aimed at understanding the basic biology of stem cells and at developing methods to investigate nonhuman primate models of disease. These studies have the potential to accelerate progress in the field of regenerative medicine.

A team of University of Wisconsin-Madison researchers led by Dr. James Thomson reported the genetic reprogramming of human skin cells to create cells apparently indistinguishable from embryonic stem cells. This alternative to the embryo-based cloning technique shows that human skin cells can be reprogrammed into so-called induced pluripotent stem cells (iPS cells) that look and act like embryonic stem cells, although more tests are needed to confirm the precise similarity. These iPS cells could be used to generate patient-specific stem cells. Using this new reprogramming technique (inserting viral genes into adult human skin cells), the Wisconsin group developed 8 new stem cell lines. Scientists still need to determine what risks might be associated with using these virally transformed cells. Thomson is a core scientist at the NCRR-funded Wisconsin NPRC. The base grant to the NPRC has supported the isolation and analysis of monkey stem cells for many years, which helped lay the foundation for the recent work with the human iPS cells.

In order to formulate the Center's 2009-2013 Strategic Plan, NCRR requested input from the scientific community on key research and resource questions to determine the promising areas of biomedical research. From July to September 2007, more than 500 responses were received, representing a wide range of interests. Examples of these responses included interest in fostering collaborations between CTSA institutions and NCRR Centers; integrating informatics resources; increasing the availability and range of animal models; enhancing training opportunities for clinicians and veterinarians; enhancing opportunities for developing institutions to partner with research-intensive institutions and increase technology database development; expanding imaging resources; and encouraging partnerships with industry and pharmaceutical companies. In December 2007, NCRR held a planning forum that convened expert biomedical investigators, academic administrators, and staff to discuss these recommendations, which will drive the development of the Center's 2009-2013 Strategic Plan.

NCRR released a multimedia presentation—Harnessing Innovation to Advance Human Health—that provides an overview of the Center's mission, grant programs, and resources.

NCRR sponsored 4 conferences (Fostering Collaborative Community-Based Clinical and Translational Research, Improving Genetic Resources for the Rhesus Macaque, The 25th Annual Symposium for Nonhuman Primate Models for AIDS, and Development and Use of Nonhuman Primate Embryonic Stem Cell Lines) for the biomedical research community. Information on these meetings is available on the NCRR Workshops Web Site (

NCRR Legislative Chronology

July 30, 1956—The Health Research Facilities Act of 1956 (Title VII of the PHS act) authorized a PHS program of Federal matching grants to public and nonprofit institutions for the construction of health research facilities. Congress extended title VII through 1971. No grants were made under this authority after 1969.

August 19, 1959—Congress appropriated $2 million to establish 2 primate research centers.

September 15, 1960—Public Law 86-798 amended the PHS act to authorize grants-in-aid to universities, hospitals, laboratories, and other public and nonprofit institutions to strengthen their programs of research and research training in sciences related to health. The act also authorized the use of funds appropriated for research or research training to be set aside by the Surgeon General in a special account for general research support grants. Passage of this law resulted in the Biomedical Research Support Program.

July 29, 1971—The Minority Biomedical Research Support Program was created with $2 million from the Senate Appropriations Committee under authority of sec. 301(c) of the amended PHS act.

October 3, 1984—The Research Centers in Minority Institutions Program was created with a $5 million congressional appropriation to the NIH Office of the Director. DRR was given administrative authority for the program.

December 22, 1987—Public Law 100-202 provided $23,935,000 for the "repair, renovation, modernization, and expansion of existing research facilities, and for the purchase of associated equipment." The accompanying report, H.R. 100-498, directed that the money be spent on improving AIDS research facilities. The Research Facilities Improvement Program was created in DRR in response to this legislation.

November 6, 1990—Public Law 101-613, NIH Revitalization Act of l990, mandated new programs, specified program funding levels, and reauthorized existing activities.

June 10, 1993—Public Law 103-43, NIH Revitalization Act of l993, provided the statutory authority to redesignate DRR as NCRR and the authority to fund construction of biomedical and behavioral research facilities, with a special provision for centers of excellence and regional centers for research utilizing nonhuman primates. It also authorized the Institutional Development Award Program, which supports programs in states that historically have been unsuccessful in competing for NIH grants.

November 13, 2000—The Clinical Research Enhancement Act of 2000, which is Title II of the Public Health Improvement Act [Minibus] (P.L. 106-505), provided the NCRR Director with statutory authority to award grants for the establishment of GCRCs. The bill also required the NIH Director to establish a Loan Repayment Program to encourage recruitment of new clinical investigators and to award grants that will enhance clinical research career development.

November 13, 2000—The Twenty-First Century Research Laboratories Act, which is Title III of the Public Health Improvement Act [Minibus] (P.L. 106-505), authorized $250 million for FY 2001 to the NCRR Director to make grants or contracts to public and nonprofit private entities to expand, remodel, renovate, or alter existing research facilities or to construct new research facilities, including centers of excellence. It also authorized such sums as necessary for FY 2002 and FY 2003. In addition, the Act created, in statute, a specific authorization for NCRR's Shared Instrumentation Grant Program, authorizing $100 million for FY 2000 and such sums as necessary for subsequent fiscal years.

December 20, 2000—The Chimpanzee Health Improvement, Maintenance, and Protection Act (P.L. 106-551) required NIH to enter into a contract with a nonprofit private entity for the purpose of operating a sanctuary system for the long-term care of chimpanzees that are no longer needed in research conducted or supported by the Federal government. The law provides for standards for permanent retirement of chimpanzees into the system, including prohibiting using sanctuary chimpanzees for research except in specified circumstances.

January 15, 2007—President George W. Bush signed into law the NIH Reform Act of 2006. Of specific importance to NCRR, the legislation enhances the Clinical and Translational Science Awards by requiring the establishment of a mechanism to preserve independent funding and infrastructure for pediatric clinical research centers.

December 26, 2007—President Bush signed into law P.L. 110-170, the Chimp Haven is Home Act.  Provisions would modify the program for the sanctuary system for surplus chimpanzees by terminating the authority for the removal of chimpanzees from the system for research purposes.

Biographical Sketch of NCRR Director Barbara M. Alving, M.D.

Dr. Barbara M. Alving is the Director of the National Center for Research Resources (NCRR) at the National Institutes of Health. She earned her medical degree—cum laude—from Georgetown University School of Medicine, where she also completed an internship in internal medicine. She received her residency training in internal medicine at the Johns Hopkins University Hospital, followed by a fellowship in hematology.

Dr. Alving then became a research investigator in the Division of Blood and Blood Products at the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. In 1980, she joined the Department of Hematology at the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research and became Chief of the Department in 1992. She left the Army at the rank of Colonel in 1996 to become the Director of the Medical Oncology/Hematology section at Washington Hospital Center in Washington, D.C.

In 1999, she joined the NIH National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI), serving as the Director of the extramural Division of Blood Diseases and Resources until becoming the Deputy Director of the Institute in September 2001. From September 2003 until February 1, 2005, she served as the Acting Director of NHLBI while also serving as the Director of the Women’s Health Initiative (2002-2006). In April 2005, Dr. Alving joined NCRR, serving as the Acting Director until being named Director in April of 2007.

Dr. Alving is a Professor of Medicine at the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences in Bethesda, a Master in the American College of Physicians, a former member of the subcommittee on Hematology of the American Board of Internal Medicine, and a previous member of the FDA Blood Products Advisory Committee. She is a co-inventor on 2 patents, has edited 3 books, and has published more than 100 papers in the areas of thrombosis and hemostasis.

NCRR Directors

Name In Office from To
Barbara M. Alving April 2007 Present
Barbara M. Alving (Acting) April 2005 March 2007
Judith L. Vaitukaitis September 1992 March 2005
Robert A. Whitney, Jr. November 1988 August 1992


DRR* Directors
(*NCRR's predecessor organization)

Name In Office from To
Betty H. Pickett October 1982 October 1988
James F. O'Donnell (Acting) January 1981 September 1982
Thomas G. Bowery November 1969 December 1981
Thomas J. Kennedy July 1965 November 1969
Frederick L. Stone July 1962 June 1965

Major Extramural Programs

Division of Biomedical Technology

Biomedical Technology Research Resources

The Division of Biomedical Technology supports the development of a broad spectrum of technologies, techniques, and methods through 50 Biomedical Technology Research Resources (BTRRs) at academic and other research institutions nationwide. The BTRRs develop versatile new technologies and methods that help researchers who are studying virtually every human disease, each creating innovative technologies in 1 of 5 broad areas: informatics and computation, optics and spectroscopy, imaging, structural biology, and systems biology. They are complemented by programs providing research project grants to individual investigators and small businesses, often focusing on high-risk, high-reward technological innovation.

These resources create critical, often unique technology and methods at the forefront of their respective fields, and apply them to a broad range of basic, translational, and clinical research. This is accomplished through a synergistic interaction of technical and biomedical expertise, both within the resources and through intensive collaborations with other leading laboratories.

BTRRs serve a unique purpose in the broad context of NIH-funded research. They represent a critical mass of technological and intellectual resources with a strong focus on service and training for outside investigators, as well as dissemination of technologies, methods, and software. Their goal is to promote the widespread and routine application of the cutting-edge technologies they develop across the full spectrum from bench to bedside.

Biomedical Informatics Research Network (BIRN)

The NCRR-funded Biomedical Informatics Research Network (BIRN) uses emerging technologies to enhance collaborative efforts that integrate data, expertise, and unique technologies from research centers across the country. The collaborative infrastructure is used by BIRN test beds to create new tools and procedures that enable multi-site studies and also benefit single-laboratory research. The tools and datasets, and the underlying collaborative infrastructure, are publicly available. Collaborations within BIRN include scientists in a large number of biomedical sub-disciplines as well as computer scientists and engineers who are creating this cyberinfrastructure.

BIRN tools currently focus on neuroscience and are available to researchers worldwide as they pursue the causes and new treatments of Alzheimer's disease, schizophrenia, major depression, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, and autism. However, researchers in other medical fields, including cardiology and cancer, can also benefit from this infrastructure to support collaborative research and sharing of data and applications.

Shared Instrumentation Grant (SIG)

The SIG Program provides funding—using the S10 funding mechanism—to institutions to purchase commercially available, expensive, technologically sophisticated equipment for use by groups of NIH-supported researchers. Shared use of these high-sensitivity and high-resolution instruments, essential to understanding fundamental biological processes, optimizes this Federal investment. The SIG mechanism provides between $100,000 and $500,000 for the purchase of such instruments.

High-End Instrumentation (HEI)

Rapid technological development has led to the production of a new generation of advanced instruments. As the capabilities of these high-sensitivity, high-resolution instruments increases, so does their cost. To meet the investigators needs for this advanced technology, in FY 2002, NCRR began the High-End Instrumentation (HEI) Program, which allows institutions to acquire equipment that costs more than $750,000. The maximum award is $2.0 million. The HEI grant program complements the Shared Instrumentation Grant Program and also uses the S10 funding mechanism.

Division for Clinical Research Resources

The NCRR Division for Clinical Research Resources funds biomedical research institutions to establish and maintain specialized clinical research facilities and to train the clinical researchers of tomorrow. It is leading efforts to help institutions create a new integrated discipline of clinical and translational sciences through the Clinical and Translational Science Awards (CTSA) program. Additionally, the Division provides clinical-grade biomaterials that enable clinical and patient-oriented research, supports the development of clinical research informatics, and improves the nation’s understanding of medical research through Science Education Partnership Awards. The Division supports these resources through the following programs:

Clinical and Translational Science Awards

The Clinical and Translational Science Award (CTSA) program is designed to more rapidly and efficiently transfer discoveries made in the laboratory into new treatments for patients. Through the CTSAs, academic health centers are working together as a consortium to design clinical research informatics tools, forge new partnerships with health care organizations, expand outreach to minority and medically underserved communities, develop better designs for clinical trials, and train the next generation of clinical and translational researchers, including physicians, researchers, and nurses. Additionally, each CTSA is creating an academic home at each grantee institution for clinical and translational research.

CTSA program information can be found on the NCRR Web site at: For more information about the consortium, visit

General Clinical Research Centers (GCRCs)

NCRR funds a national network of 44 General Clinical Research Centers (GCRCs) that provide settings for medical investigators to conduct safe, controlled, state-of-the-art, in-patient and out-patient studies of both children and adults. GCRCs also provide infrastructure and resources that support several career development opportunities. GCRC staff includes research nurses, dietitians, biostatisticians, technicians, and administrative personnel who provide a supportive environment for patients and help investigators by facilitating the day-to-day research process. The GCRC network will gradually be transformed under the new CTSA program, described above.

National Gene Vector Laboratories (NGVLs)

NCRR provides core funding for a group of National Gene Vector Laboratories (NVGLs) that serve as a resource for researchers seeking adequate quantities of clinical-grade vectors for human gene transfer protocols.

The NGVLs include vector-production centers at Baylor College of Medicine, City of Hope National Medical Center and Beckman Research Institute, and Indiana University, which also serves as the coordinating center for all the laboratories. Two additional laboratories conduct toxicology studies for approved investigators. These laboratories are located at the Southern Research Institute and the University of Florida.

Rare Diseases Clinical Research Network

The Rare Diseases Clinical Research Network, an initiative of the NIH Office of Rare Diseases and NCRR—in collaboration with many NIH Institutes, facilitates clinical research of rare diseases through support for 1) collaborative clinical research in rare diseases; 2) training of clinical investigators in rare diseases research; 3) distributed clinical data management that incorporates novel approaches and technologies for data management, data mining, and data sharing across rare diseases, data types, and platforms; and 4) access to information related to rare diseases for basic and clinical researchers, academic and practicing physicians, patients, and the lay public. Each of the 10 Rare Diseases Clinical Research Consortia addresses a subset of rare diseases and works closely with relevant patient support organizations, while the Data and Technology Coordinating Center provides innovative approaches to incorporate standards and technologies for data exchange among sites, partners, and resources.

Center for Genotyping and Analysis

The Center for Genotyping and Analysis is the first national center for high-throughput genotyping dedicated solely to large-scale SNP (single nucleotide polymorphism) analysis. Located at the Eli and Edythe L. Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts, the Center serves as a high-capacity resource so that U.S. researchers can quickly and cost-effectively carry out large-scale studies of genetic variation in humans and animals to advance disease gene identification.

Islet Cell Resource (ICR) Centers

In 2001, NCRR established a network of 10 ICR Centers to isolate, purify, and characterize human pancreatic islets for subsequent transplantation into patients with type 1 diabetes. Following competitive applications in 2006, the ICR Center Consortium was reconfigured to consist of 7 production and testing centers and an Administrative and Bioinformatics Coordinating Center for storage and communication of data, program analysis, and equitable distribution of islets to basic scientists. The centers purify, store, and ship islets under good laboratory practice to investigators for clinical studies and for basic science research. In addition, they conduct comparative studies on purification methods, shipping, storage, and potency assays on purified islets. The islet purification program supports the NIAID-NIDDK-sponsored Clinical Islet Transplantation Study of islet efficacy in Type 1 Diabetes.

Human Tissues and Organs Resource

The Human Tissues and Organs Resource Cooperative Agreement supports a procurement network developed by the National Disease Research Interchange—a not-for-profit organization. By collaborating with various medical centers, hospitals, pathology services, eye banks, tissue banks, and organ procurement organizations, the Resource provides a wide variety of human tissues and organs—both diseased and normal—to researchers for laboratory studies. Such samples include tissues from the central nervous system and brain; cardiovascular system; endocrine system; and eyes, bone, and cartilage.

Science Education Partnership Award (SEPA)

The SEPA Program encourages scientists to work with educators and other organizations to improve students’ (K-12) and the public’s understanding of the health sciences. The award supports development of a variety of model programs in biomedical and behavioral science education that make it feasible for scientists, educators, media, and community leaders to partner in order to promote science by increasing science literacy. Past models have included a national video education program, a traveling and fixed museum exhibit about AIDS and other health issues, biotechnology research experiences for students and teachers, and health-promoting outreach programs for inner-city and rural communities. The SEPA program also funds mobile laboratories outfitted with state-of-the-art biotechnology equipment that provide opportunities for science education directly to students at their schools.

Division of Comparative Medicine

The NCRR Division of Comparative Medicine provides scientists with essential resources—including specialized laboratory animals, research facilities, training, and other tools—that enable health-related discoveries. Animal models are a critical part of the biomedical research continuum to bridge the gap between basic science and human medicine. Division programs support the maintenance and distribution of primate, rodent, aquatic, and comparative animal models and resources. The division also funds a unique training program aimed at providing research training for veterinarians and veterinary students.

Nonhuman Primates

Nonhuman primates are critical components in translational research because of their close physiological similarities to humans. They are used in hypothesis-based research to enable discoveries that allow investigators to relate their research findings directly to human health. Nonhuman primates are also used in pre-clinical, applied research studies to test therapeutic approaches and vaccines. NCRR funds and oversees a network of 8 National Primate Research Centers (NPRCs), which provide the animals, facilities and expertise to enable studies of nonhuman primates. In addition, applied research grants help develop technologies and reagents that are complementary to, and synergize with, the research activities at the rest of the NPRCs and at other sites. Key research areas include infectious diseases (particularly AIDS), neurobiology, bio-defense, and regenerative medicine. Finally, the Chimpanzee Sanctuary Program provides housing and lifetime care for chimpanzees no longer needed for research.


Rodents play a central role in research that can translate into treatments for human disease. Mice share much in common with human genetics, development, physiology, behavior, and disease and are used to predict promising directions in biomedical research. NCRR’s laboratory rodents program funds development of genetically engineered rodents and research rodent colonies, facilities that distribute rodents and related biological materials, and new ways to study, diagnose, and eliminate laboratory rodent disease.


Some aquatic animals serve as models for studying human development, behavior, and disease. With short reproductive cycles and transparent eggs that are easily observed as they develop, zebrafish are useful for research. Other aquatic models include marine slugs, squid, and octopi. NCRR's aquatic models program funds development and maintenance of critical genetic stocks, biological materials, and online information for researchers.

Comparative Models

Comparative models that add flexibility and ease of manipulation in the early stages of the translational discovery process include fruit flies and round worms, which are genetically well characterized and inexpensive and can undergo many genetic manipulations. Results from experiments involving these less complex models can help scientists decide whether to pursue similar research with higher species. NCRR’s Comparative Models Program supports development and use of new and improved models that complement those more traditionally used to study human diseases.

Genetic, Biological, and Information Resources

NCRR supports a variety of sources for genetic analysis services, array technology, and databases. This program also supplies critical biological materials, such as stem cells, enzymes, and proteinases, as well as online information on model organisms.

Research Training and Career Development Programs

Molecular and genomic studies using animal models help lay the foundation for translational research that benefits human health. Scientists with a background in veterinary medicine contribute unique expertise and important knowledge and skills to this paradigm. To address the significant shortage of trained veterinary researchers, NCRR funds National Research Science Award programs specifically aimed at biomedical research trainees with a veterinary background; NCRR is the only unit within NIH to fulfill this need. These programs either introduce veterinary students to research during a summer session, allow veterinary students to immerse in a full-time pursuit of research studies for an entire academic year, or encourage newly graduated veterinarians to pursue research studies for three postdoctoral years, frequently leading to an advanced degree.

Division of Research Infrastructure

The Division of Research Infrastructure develops and invigorates the nation’s research capacity and infrastructure at all stages of research—from basic discoveries in the laboratory to advanced treatments for patients. The Division sponsors the following programs:

Research Centers in Minority Institutions (RCMI)

The RCMI Program is an initiative that provides grants to institutions that award doctoral degrees in health-related fields and that have a 50% or greater enrollment of students from minority communities underrepresented in the biomedical sciences. These communities include African Americans, Hispanics, American Indians, Alaska Natives, Native Hawaiians, and Pacific Islanders. Because many RCMI investigators study diseases that disproportionately affect minority populations—such as a variety of cancers, diabetes, AIDS, and cardiovascular diseases—the program serves the dual purpose of increasing the number of minority scientists engaged in biomedical research and enhancing studies on minority health.

Specifically, the RCMI program supports faculty development and provides resources to acquire advanced instrumentation, modify laboratories for competitive research, and support core research facilities. The program also expands the capacity for clinical research in RCMI institutions that have affiliated medical schools through the Clinical Research Infrastructure Initiative. This program encourages minority scientists to participate in clinical investigations and increases volunteer participation by minorities in clinical research studies.

Institutional Development Award (IDeA)

The IDeA Program was initiated by Congress to broaden the geographical distribution of NIH grant funding for biomedical and behavioral research. Through this Program, NCRR fosters health-related research and improves the competitiveness of investigators in states that historically have not received significant levels of competitive research funding from NIH. The IDeA Program supports multidisciplinary centers or collaborative partnerships that increase an institution’s capacity to conduct cutting-edge biomedical research. Specifically, the IDeA Program establishes Centers of Biomedical Research Excellence within an institution to explore multidisciplinary research themes and foster mentoring opportunities. It also creates networks within a state that share multidisciplinary, thematic scientific goals. Funding for these IDeA Networks of Biomedical Research Excellence supports statewide partnerships that include undergraduate and graduate/professional institutions.

Research and Animal Facilities Improvements

Research Facilities Improvement grants increase the nation’s ability to conduct state-of-the-art research by providing competitive funding to modernize and construct research facilities that support basic and/or clinical investigations. Funding has supported the construction of cancer laboratories; improved research imaging capabilities; and much more. Through the Animal Facilities Improvement Program, NCRR provides institutional funding to improve animal research facilities, including facility upgrades and the development of programs and policies related to laboratory animal care and use.

NCRR Information Dissemination

A new NCRR multimedia presentation—Harnessing Innovation to Advance Human Health how the Center brings together diverse research teams to realize the full potential of shared biomedical resources. Featuring NCRR’s support to unique and essential research and resources, this project was made possible by grantees who provided photographs and video footage of NCRR-funded laboratories, technologies, resource centers, and animal models.

The NCRR Reporter is a quarterly publication of the National Center for Research Resources. Its purpose is to foster communication, collaboration, and resource sharing in areas of current interest to scientists and others in the biomedical field. Subscriptions to the electronic (e-mail) and print editions of the NCRR Reporter are available free of charge. Subscribe to the E-Reporter by using the NCRR Reporter subscriber page on the NIH LISTSERV Web site. Subscribe to the print edition by contacting the NCRR Information Officer at

The Clinical and Translational Science Awards (CTSA) Consortium has developed a Web site ( to ensure access to CTSA resources, enhance communication, and encourage information sharing.

This page was last reviewed on May 19, 2008 .
skip main navigation National Institutes of Health - Transforming Health Through Discovery U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Health Information Page NIH Grants News and Events Research Institutes and Centers About NIH