Skip to main content

NATIONAL INSTITUTES OF HEALTH (NIH)

The NIH is the Nation's premier medical research agency. As a member of the Public Health Emergency Medical Countermeasure Enterprise (PHEMCE), the NIH is responsible for conducting research to better understand public health threats and establish a foundation for developing medical countermeasures. The Institutes and Centers within the NIH fund and conduct basic, clinical, and translational research to expand scientific knowledge and apply it to enhance health, lengthen life, and reduce the burdens of illness and disability. The NIH works in partnership with other PHEMCE members involved in the medical countermeasure enterprise.

NIH research provides the foundation for developing medical products and strategies to diagnose, treat and prevent a wide range of infectious diseases, whether those diseases emerge naturally or are deliberately introduced as an act of bioterrorism. The National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) is the lead agency at the NIH for research in the development of medical countermeasures for Chemical, Biological, Radiation, and Nuclear (CBRN) threats. NIAID supports research on viruses, bacteria, and other infectious agents that cause diseases of public health concern chemical threats, and radiological and nuclear threats. In addition, NIAID partners with other NIH Institutes and Centers, to coordinate research and programmatic activities related to medical countermeasure development.

Research in Medical Countermeasure Development

Following the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, and the subsequent anthrax mailings of that fall, NIH has played a key supportive role in the larger national strategy to develop medical products and strategies to counter bioterrorism and emerging and re-emerging infectious diseases. NIH focuses on basic and translational research. Basic research is needed to better understand infectious agents and mechanisms of chemical or radiologic injury and to identify therapeutic targets and drug candidates. Translational research advances promising concepts and product candidates along the development pathway. For example, research conducted and supported by NIH lays the groundwork for developing broad-spectrum antibiotics and antivirals-drugs that can prevent or treat diseases caused by multiple types of bacteria or viruses-and multi-platform technologies that could be used to more efficiently develop vaccines and diagnostics against a variety of infectious agents.

This move from the "one bug-one drug" approach toward a more flexible, broad approach using sophisticated genomic and proteomic technologies has yielded numerous scientific advances and has equipped the United States with a much more integrated, coordinated approach to addressing public health crises. This was demonstrated during the SARS epidemic, pandemic flu preparedness efforts resulting from the H5N1 avian influenza outbreak, and the 2009 H1N1 influenza pandemic.

NIH's medical countermeasure work supports the White House-mandated Concept Acceleration Program (CAP). CAP is one of four complementary initiatives designed to enhance and streamline the medical countermeasure (MCM) development process to develop promising, high-priority MCMs more rapidly.

NIH supports research on MCMs against radiological and nuclear threats. These programs, part of NIH's larger medical countermeasures program aim to identify and develop new diagnostic tools and therapeutics to protect against and mitigate radiological injury. In addition, NIH coordinates a program on MCMs against chemical threats, a joint effort between multiple NIH Institutes and Centers. The overall goal of the program is to integrate cutting-edge research with the latest technological advances in science and medicine for a more rapid and effective response during an emergency.

Additional Resources: