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Research Programs

The NIEHS supports a variety of research programs to understand how environmental agents cause or exacerbate human diseases and disorders. Scientists utilize the full spectrum of research approaches including basic, applied, clinical, and community-based. The development of innovative technology is another essential component of environmental health research. Several of these programs are administered in partnership with other NIH institutes or federal agencies.

Advanced Research Cooperation in Environmental Health

Research Programs The Advanced Research Cooperation in Environmental Health ( program addresses the need for increased minority participation in the health research mission of the NIEHS. The program focuses on establishing research partnerships between investigators at Research Intensive Universities with significant environmental health sciences research and investigators at Minority-Serving Institutions with a strong interest in such research.

Comparative Biology

The primary purpose of the Comparative Biology ( program is to utilize comparative biology studies and approaches with environmental health expertise to further the understanding of mechanisms of susceptibility to environmentally-influenced diseases. The grants accepted into this program are interdisciplinary and multidisciplinary projects that have a broad scope of approaches spanning many key model organisms for a wide range of environmentally-relevant diseases.

Environmental Epigenetics

The Environmental Epigenetics ( program supports the examination of the role of environmental exposures on several mechanisms of epigenetic regulation, including imprinting, DNA methylation at promoter or other sites, chromatin modifications, gene silencing induced by siRNA, and other novel epigenetic mechanisms to obtain a better understanding of the role of epigenetics in disease and dysfunction with an environmental exposure component.

Environmental Genome Project

NIEHS organized the Environmental Genome Project (EGP) ( in 1997 to better understand how individuals differ in their susceptibility to environmental agents and how these susceptibilities change over time. The goal of the EGP is to characterize how specific human genetic variations, or polymorphisms, contribute to environmentally induced disease susceptibility.

Environmental Health Sciences as an Integrative Context for Learning

The purpose of the Environmental Health Sciences as an Integrative Context for Learning ( program is to improve overall academic performance, as well as enhance students' comprehension of and interest in environmental health sciences. The program fosters partnerships among environmental health scientists, educators, and state departments of education to develop standards-based curriculum materials that integrate environmental health sciences within a variety of subject areas (e.g. geography, history, math, art) and to train teachers how to implement the materials in their classrooms. The nine grantees have created more than 80 engaging materials for use in the classroom (grades pre-Kindergarten to 12th grade).

Environmental Justice and Community-Based Participatory Research

Initiated in 1994, the purpose of Environmental Justice and Community-Based Participatory Research ( program is to enable community residents to more actively participate in the full spectrum of research. The program brings together three partners: a community organization, an environmental health researcher, and a health care professional to develop models and approaches to building communication, trust and capacity, with the final goal of increasing community participation in the research process. The Community-Based Participatory Research program has been instrumental in enhancing and strengthening community-university partnerships in the pursuit of addressing environmental health research and interventions.

Exposure Biology

The purpose of the Exposure Biology ( program is to create a new understanding of environmentally-induced disease by applying a comprehensive view of multiple steps along the cascade from exposure through early response to dysfunction and overt disease.

NanoHealth and Safety

The NIEHS has been working to encourage and support research into the underlying properties of engineered nanomaterials (ENM) ( to determine their potential biocompatibility or toxicity to human health. Recent grants, funded in partnership with other NIH institutes and federal agencies, are helping to build the foundation of our understanding of how the unique chemical and physical properties that emerge at the nanoscale may affect the interactions between environmental exposures and the body.

Obesity and the Built Environment

The Obesity and the Built Environment ( program supports research focused on two specific areas related to the built environment and obesity: understanding the role of the built environment in causing/exacerbating obesity and related co-morbidities; and developing, implementing, and evaluating prevention/intervention strategies that influence parameters of the built environment in order to reduce the prevalence of overweight, obesity and co-morbidities. Participating NIH institutes include the National Cancer Institute, the National Institute of Child Health and Development, and the Office of Behavioral and Social Science Research, and two centers within the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Oceans and Human Health

Oceans & Human Health (OHH) ( research addresses marine-related human health issues. The NIEHS has and continues to support harmful algal bloom research that focuses on mechanisms of toxicity, chemical synthesis of marine toxins and human health impacts on the consumption of contaminated seafood.

Partnerships for Environmental Public Health (PEPH)

The PEPH ( program is an umbrella program that brings together scientists, community members, educators, health care providers, public health officials, and policy makers in the shared goal of advancing the impact of science-based inquiries of environmental health threats of concern to communities on local, regional, and national levels. By fostering partnerships between and among community residents/organizations, researchers, and other stakeholders in the research process, vital information about the linkages between exposures and disease can be used to promote health and reduce the risk of disease across all populations.

Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) and Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR)

The goals of the SBIR ( and STTR ( programs are to stimulate technological innovation in the private sector, strengthen the role of small business concerns in meeting Federal research and development needs, increase the commercial application of federally supported research results, and foster and encourage participation by socially and economically disadvantaged persons and women-owned small businesses in technological innovation. The STTR program further expands the goals through cooperative R/R&D carried out between small business concerns and non-profit research institutions.

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Last Reviewed: March 12, 2009