National Institutes of Health

National Institutes of Health (NIH)
NIH Master Logo Vertical 2Color.png
National Institutes of Health logo
NIH Clinical Research Center aerial.jpg
Aerial photo of the NIH Mark O. Hatfield Clinical Research Center, Bethesda, Maryland
Agency overview
Formed1887 (1887)
Preceding agency
  • Hygienic Laboratory
HeadquartersBethesda, Maryland, U.S.
Annual budgetIncrease US$37 billion[2] (as of 2018)[3]
Agency executive
Parent agencyDepartment of Health & Human Services
Child agencies

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) (/; each letter separately) is the primary agency of the United States government responsible for biomedical and public health research. It was founded in the late 1870s and is now part of the United States Department of Health and Human Services. The majority of NIH facilities are located in Bethesda, Maryland. The NIH conducts its own scientific research through its Intramural Research Program (IRP) and provides major biomedical research funding to non-NIH research facilities through its Extramural Research Program.

As of 2013, the IRP had 1,200 principal investigators and more than 4,000 postdoctoral fellows in basic, translational, and clinical research, being the largest biomedical research institution in the world,[4] while, as of 2003, the extramural arm provided 28% of biomedical research funding spent annually in the U.S., or about US$26.4 billion.[5]

The NIH comprises 27 separate institutes and centers of different biomedical disciplines and is responsible for many scientific accomplishments, including the discovery of fluoride to prevent tooth decay, the use of lithium to manage bipolar disorder, and the creation of vaccines against hepatitis, Haemophilus influenzae (HIB), and human papillomavirus (HPV).[6]


The Laboratory of Hygiene in 1887
Ida A. Bengtson, a bacteriologist who in 1916 was the first woman hired to work in the Hygienic Laboratory.[7]
Dedication of first six NIH buildings by President Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1940
NIH campus in Bethesda, Maryland, in 1945

NIH's roots extend back to the Marine Hospital Service in the late 1790s that provided medical relief to sick and disabled men in the U.S. Navy. By 1870, a network of marine hospitals had developed and was placed under the charge of a medical officer within the Bureau of the Treasury Department. In the late 1870s, Congress allocated funds to investigate the causes of epidemics like cholera and yellow fever, and it created the National Board of Health, making medical research an official government initiative.[8]

In 1887, a laboratory for the study of bacteria, the Hygienic Laboratory, was established at the Marine Hospital in New York.[9][10] In the early 1900s, Congress began appropriating funds for the Marine Hospital Service. By 1922, this organization changed its name to Public Health Services and established a Special Cancer Investigations laboratory at Harvard Medical School. This marked the beginning of a partnership with universities. In 1930, the Hygienic Laboratory was re-designated as the National Institute of Health by the Ransdell Act, and was given $750,000 to construct two NIH buildings. Over the next few decades, Congress would increase funding tremendously to the NIH, and various institutes and centers within the NIH were created for specific research programs.[11] In 1944, the Public Health Service Act was approved, and the National Cancer Institute became a division of NIH. In 1948, the name changed from National Institute of Health to National Institutes of Health.

In the 1960s, virologist and cancer researcher Chester M. Southam injected HeLa cancer cells into patients at the Jewish Chronic Disease Hospital.[12]:130 When three doctors resigned after refusing to inject patients without their consent, the experiment gained considerable media attention.[12]:133 The NIH was a major source of funding for Southam's research and had required all research involving human subjects to obtain their consent prior to any experimentation.[12]:135 Upon investigating all of their grantee institutions, the NIH discovered that the majority of them did not protect the rights of human subjects. From then on, the NIH has required all grantee institutions to approve any research proposals involving human experimentation with review boards.[12]:135

In 1967, the Division of Regional Medical Programs was created to administer grants for research for heart disease, cancer, and strokes. That same year, the NIH director lobbied the White House for increased federal funding in order to increase research and the speed with which health benefits could be brought to the people. An advisory committee was formed to oversee further development of the NIH and its research programs. By 1971 cancer research was in full force and President Nixon signed the National Cancer Act, initiating a National Cancer Program, President's Cancer Panel, National Cancer Advisory Board, and 15 new research, training, and demonstration centers.[13]

Funding for the NIH has often been a source of contention in Congress, serving as a proxy for the political currents of the time. In 1992, the NIH encompassed nearly 1 percent of the federal government's operating budget and controlled more than 50 percent of all funding for health research, and 85 percent of all funding for health studies in universities.[14] While government funding for research in other disciplines has been increasing at a rate similar to inflation since the 1970s, research funding for the NIH nearly tripled through the 1990s and early 2000s, but has remained relatively stagnant since then.[15]

By the 1990s, the NIH committee focus had shifted to DNA research, and launched the Human Genome Project.[16]

Other Languages
српски / srpski: Nacionalni instituti za zdravlje
srpskohrvatski / српскохрватски: Nacionalni instituti za zdravlje