Originally, all of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) research was intramural, that is, performed in federal research facilities. The NIH traces its roots to 1887, when a one-room laboratory on Staten Island was created within the Marine Hospital Service, a predecessor agency to the U.S. Public Health Service. This lab evolved into the Hygienic Laboratory, which moved to Washington, D.C., in 1891 and, with the Ransdell Act of 1930, became the National Institute of Health. This was the start of something grand.

Several Institutes were established over the next two decades. Then, with the golden era of expansion beginning after World War II, the primary focus of the NIH turned to a rigorous grants program to bolster research in U.S. colleges and universities.

Enduring at the heart of the NIH mission, however, is the Intramural Research Program (IRP), an expanse of highly productive federal laboratories with an emphasis on high-risk, high-reward research in a stably funded environment that attracts the most talented researchers. In combination with our training activities, the IRP has been designed to maximize the scope and impact of our basic research accomplishments on the practice of medicine and improvements in public health.

Our model has been—and remains—an excellent one for other federal laboratories, research foundations, academic centers, and other governments that seek to establish research laboratories.

Read more about the history of the NIH IRP.

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This page was last updated on Monday, January 10, 2022