National Institute of General Medical Sciences
The National Institute of General Medical Sciences (NIGMS) is a part of the National Institutes of Health that primarily supports research that lays the foundation for advances in disease diagnosis, treatment and prevention. The Institute's research training programs help prepare the next generation of scientists.
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 was established in 1962. In fiscal year 2012, the Institute’s budget was $2.429 billion. The vast majority of this money goes into local economies through grants to scientists at universities, medical schools, hospitals and other research institutions throughout the country. At any given time, NIGMS supports approximately 4,700 —approximately 11% of the grants funded by NIH as a whole. NIGMS also supports approximately 26% of the trainees who receive assistance from NIH.
NIGMS produces a number of free science education materials on topics such as cell biology, genetics, chemistry, pharmacology, structural biology and computational biology. The Institute also produces the magazine Findings, which showcases diverse scientists who do cutting-edge research and lead interesting lives.
NIGMS places great emphasis on supporting investigator-initiated research grants. It funds a limited number of research center grants in selected fields, including structural biology, chemistry, computational modeling, trauma and burn research, systems biology and biomedical technology. It also supports centers that build research capacities in states that have historically received low levels of NIH funding. In addition, NIGMS supports several important scientific resources, including the NIGMS Human Genetic Cell Repository and the Protein Data Bank.
NIGMS has initiatives in structural genomics (the Protein Structure Initiative), pharmacogenomics, and computational modeling of infectious disease outbreaks. The Institute also promotes the collaborative approaches increasingly needed to solve complex problems in biomedical science.
NIGMS research training programs recognize the interdisciplinary nature of biomedical research 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 Postdoctoral Research Associate Program, in which postdoctoral scientists receive training in NIH or Food and Drug Administration laboratories.
Among the advances that scientists have made with NIGMS support are:
- Discovering a gene-silencing process called RNA interference, or RNAi, that is both a powerful research tool and a promising new approach for treating diseases.
- Revealing how a protein's shape affects its function, which plays a key role in health and disease and also informs the design of new drugs.
- Increasing survival from burn injury, in part by improving methods of wound care, nutrition and infection control.
- Explaining how genes affect the way a person responds to drugs, including those to treat cancer and prevent blood clots.
- Shedding light on the critical functions of carbohydrates, sugar molecules found on all living cells that are vital to fertilization, inflammation, blood clotting and viral infection.
- Modeling infectious disease outbreaks and the impact of interventions through computer simulations to provide valuable information to public health policymakers.
- Developing new methods to look inside cells and other living systems. These approaches have advanced what we know about basic life processes in a range of organisms.
The Division of Biomedical Technology, Bioinformatics, and Computational Biology (BBCB) supports studies in and tools for understanding complex biological systems. The research and training it funds join biology with the computer sciences, engineering, mathematics and physics. The long-term goals of the division are to leverage data and technologies to answer fundamental questions about biology and to develop a more robust computing infrastructure for the biomedical research community. The division also defines NIGMS’ needs for database development and applications as well as for a broad spectrum of biomedical technologies, techniques and methodologies. It collaborates with other NIH components and Federal agencies in developing policies in these areas.
The Division of Cell Biology and Biophysics (CBB) seeks greater understanding of the structure and function of cells, cellular components and the biological macromolecules that make up these components. The research it supports ranges from studies of single molecules to work in structural genomics and proteomics. The long-term goal of the division is to find ways to prevent, treat and cure diseases that result from disturbed or abnormal cellular activity.
The Division of Genetics and Developmental Biology (GDB) supports studies directed toward gaining a better understanding of the cellular and molecular mechanisms that underlie inheritance and development. The results of these studies form the foundation for advances in diagnosing, preventing, treating and curing human genetic and developmental disorders. Most of the projects supported by the division make use of model organisms, which speed advances in understanding human biological processes.
The Division of Pharmacology, Physiology, and Biological Chemistry (PPBC) supports a broad spectrum of research and research training aimed at improving the molecular-level understanding of fundamental biological processes and discovering approaches to their control. Research supported by the division takes a multifaceted approach to problems in pharmacology, physiology, biochemistry and biorelated chemistry that are either very basic in nature or that have implications for more than one disease area. The goals of supported research include an improved understanding of drug action and mechanisms of anesthesia; pharmacogenetics/pharmacogenomics and mechanisms underlying individual responses to drugs; new methods and targets for drug discovery; advances in natural products synthesis; an enhanced understanding of biological catalysis; a greater knowledge of metabolic regulation and fundamental physiological processes; and the integration and application of basic physiological, pharmacological, and biochemical research to clinical issues in anesthesia, clinical pharmacology and trauma and burn injury. Among the division’s leading areas of interest are quantitative and systems pharmacology, improved synthesis and availability of complex carbohydrates, and genomic studies of natural product biosynthesis.
The Division of Training, Workforce Development, and Diversity supports programs that foster research training and the development of a strong and diverse biomedical research workforce. The division funds research training, career development, diversity and capacity-building activities through a variety of programs at the undergraduate, graduate, postdoctoral, faculty and institutional levels.