The National Institutes of Health (NIH) is a U.S. Federal government agency, located in a suburb of Washington, D.C., that disburses more than $28 billion annually to fund biomedical research. The extramural, or granting, program, distributes 80% of the funds to universities and foundations in the United States and across the world. The scientists in the intramural, or oncampus, program conduct basic and clinical research based in 27 institutes and centers, including a brand-new (2004) 242-bed research hospital.

The NIH traces its origins to 1887 and a one-room laboratory in Staten Island, New York. Originally conceived of as the research division of the Marine Hospital Service (MHS), the NIH, then known as the Hygienic Laboratory, was an experiment. The MHS had been charged with preventing people ...

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