The National Institutes of Health, 1991-2008

The National Institutes of Health, 1991-2008

The National Institutes of Health, 1991-2008

The National Institutes of Health, 1991-2008


This book describes the premier organization for the performance and funding of biomedical research in the United States. By articulating events that occurred at the National Institutes of Health from 1991-2008, this volume also examines the leadership of directors Bernadine Healy, Harold Varmus and Elias Zerhouni. To conduct his research, Dr. Kastor interviewed more than 200 people currently working at the NIH, those who have left and those funded by the institute. In an engaging and dynamic prose style, Dr. Kastor presents his findings on the operations, problems, controversies, finances, politics and structure of the NIH. The book begins by examining topics such as the NIH's evaluation of grant funding, the argument between those who favor support of basic biomedical science versus clinical research, the inclusion of HIV/AIDS in the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, and the unique features of the Clinical Center, the hospital of the NIH. The volume concludes with a review of the recent conflict of interest controversy, the NIH's response to recent budget constrictions and the role of the institute in the Obama administration.


This is a book about the premier organization for performing and funding biomedical research in the United States. It is owned by the people of the United States and is an example of how an organization, although part of the federal bureaucracy, can function admirably for the benefit of all.

The book describes what happened at the nih from 1991 to 2008, during the terms of directors Bernadine Healy, Harold Varmus, and Elias Zerhouni. I started the work by interviewing Zerhouni, then the nih director, on January 24, 2007. Although the body of the text and most of the reporting ends in 2008, I have included a few of the most newsworthy events at the nih since the end of 2008, such as the increase in the nih budget early in 2009 and Barack Obama’s lifting of the Bush administration’s limits on stem cell research in March. By the time this book is published, other important changes will have occurred at the nih and in the support it receives from the federal government. For the most part, I identify people by the jobs they were holding when the interviews were conducted.

The scientific accomplishments of the nih during the 17 years covered by this book have been extraordinary. of great importance also to the future of biomedical science has been the training of thousands of biomedical scientists that the nih has supported.

In this book, however, there is relatively little medical science, except for a few examples where I attempt to emulate Scientific American. I am not a basic scientist and am unqualified to explain most of the research conducted at the nih. Rather, I write about how the nih operates, its problems, its finances, its politics, and its

the nih has developed a comprehensive website with detailed information about what each of the institutes and centers do. Start at

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