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The National Institute of General Medical Sciences (NIGMS) primarily supports basic research that lays the foundation for advances in disease diagnosis, treatment, and prevention. The Institute's research training programs help provide the next generation of scientists.

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.

Each year, NIGMS-supported scientists make many advances in understanding fundamental life processes. In the course of answering basic research questions, these investigators increase our knowledge about the mechanisms and pathways involved in certain diseases. Institute grantees also develop important new tools and techniques, some of which have medical applications. In recognition of the significance of their work, a number of NIGMS grantees have received the Nobel Prize and other high scientific honors.

NIGMS is organized into divisions and a center that support research and research training in a range of scientific fields. One division has the specific mission of increasing the number of biomedical and behavioral scientists who are members of underrepresented minority groups.

Major areas in which these units fund research are listed below their names:

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
  • extrachromosomal inheritance
  • mechanisms of mutagenesis
  • 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
  • RNA transcription and processing
  • stem cell biology

Division of Pharmacology, Physiology, and Biological Chemistry

  • anesthesiology
  • biochemistry
  • bioenergetics
  • bio-organic and bio-inorganic chemistry
  • biotechnology and metabolic engineering
  • drug absorption, distribution, metabolism, excretion, and predictive toxicology
  • enzymology
  • glycochemistry and glycobiology
  • molecular immunobiology
  • pharmacogenetics/pharmacogenomics                
  • pharmacology and clinical pharmacology
  • physiology
  • synthetic and medicinal chemistry
  • trauma and burn injury
  • wound healing

Division of Minority Opportunities in Research

  • undergraduate student training and development
  • post-baccalaureate research education
  • predoctoral research
  • postdoctoral research and teaching skill development 
  • faculty development
  • faculty research 
  • efficacy of interventions research

Center for Bioinformatics and Computational Biology

  • biomedical software development
  • cell and molecular modeling and simulation
  • computational genomics
  • database design and enhancement
  • high-throughput data analysis
  • systems biology

NIGMS was established in 1962. In Fiscal Year 2008, the Institute's budget is $1.9 billion. The vast majority of this money goes to fund grants to scientists at universities, medical schools, hospitals, and research institutions throughout the country. At any given time, NIGMS supports approximately 4,500 research grants--approximately 10 percent of the grants funded by NIH as a whole. NIGMS also supports approximately 25 percent of the trainees who receive assistance from NIH.

The Institute places great emphasis on supporting investigator-initiated research grants. It funds a limited number of research center grants in selected fields, including structural genomics, trauma and burn research, and systems biology. In addition, NIGMS supports several important scientific resources, including the NIGMS Human Genetic Cell Repository and the Protein Data Bank.

In recent years, NIGMS has launched initiatives in structural genomics (the Protein Structure Initiative), pharmacogenetics, and computational modeling of infectious disease outbreaks. The Institute also has several “glue grants” that promote the collaborative approaches increasingly needed to solve complex problems in biomedical science. NIGMS participates in the NIH Roadmap for Medical Research, a series of far-reaching initiatives designed to transform the nation’s medical research capabilities and speed the movement of research discoveries from the bench to the bedside.

NIGMS research training programs recognize the interdisciplinary nature of biomedical research today 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 Pharmacology Research Associate Program, in which postdoctoral scientists receive training in pharmacology in NIH or Food and Drug Administration laboratories.

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This page last updated November 19, 2008