National Library of Medicine (NLM)

National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI)

Scientific Director: Jim Ostell, Ph.D.

The National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI) creates and maintains over 40 databases for the medical and scientific communities as well as the general public; these include literature, molecular, and genomic databases. NCBI’s core literature database is PubMed, which provides abstracts and citations for millions of articles from thousands of biomedical journals. PubMed records include links to full-text versions of the articles (when available) from NCBI’s PubMed Central (PMC) electronic archive, as well as links to information from other NCBI sites. For example, key scientific terms in PubMed abstracts are linked to explanatory information in NCBI’s Bookshelf, a growing collection of biomedical books that can be searched electronically.

The sequencing of the human genome, completed in 2003, marked the beginning of a new era in the evolution of biological science and laid a new foundation for research on the genetic causes of disease. NCBI provides integrated, linked resources for genomic information intended to aid researchers in this effort. Some of NCBI’s core genomic resources are GenBank, an annotated collection of all publicly available DNA sequences; RefSeq, a curated collection of DNA, RNA, and protein sequences; dbSNP, a database of single nucleotide polymorphisms (areas of the genome that have been found to vary among humans); and the Influenza Virus Resource, which provides flu sequence data. NCBI also offers databases on protein sequences, protein structure, chromosomal aberrations in cancer, genes and gene expression, and taxonomy. One of NCBI’s newest databases is PubChem, which aims to offer comprehensive information on the biological activities of small molecules, including the results of high-throughput screening to assess the effects of compounds on target proteins.

The majority of NCBI databases are linked through its Entrez search engine, which provides integrated access to literature, sequence, mapping, taxonomy, and structural data. The system facilitates the process of research and discovery by linking records and terms to related information across NCBI databases. Another key tool is BLAST, which, in a matter of seconds, identifies similar gene and protein sequences to the sequence being queried.

Basic Research

NCBI has a multi-disciplinary research group composed of molecular biologists, biochemists, computer scientists, mathematicians, research physicians, and structural biologists concentrating on basic and applied research in computational molecular biology. Together they are studying fundamental biomedical problems, including comparative genomics, proteomics, molecular evolution, and disease. These investigators not only make important contributions to basic science but also serve as a wellspring of new methods for applied research activities, including enhancements to NCBI’s publicly available databases and software tools. Read more about NCBI’s research.

Learn more about the National Library of Medicine’s National Center for Biotechnology Information.


Lister Hill National Center for Biomedical Communications (LHNCBC)

Scientific Director: Clement J. McDonald, M.D.

Established by a 1968 Joint Resolution of the United States Congress in 1968, the Lister Hill Center is a research and development division of the U.S. National Library of Medicine. Seeking to improve access to high quality biomedical information for individuals around the world, the Lister Hill Center conducts and supports research and development in the dissemination of high quality imagery, medical language processing, high-speed access to biomedical information, intelligent database systems development, multimedia visualization, knowledge management, data mining and machine-assisted indexing.

Lister Hill Center research activities fall into several broad categories. Language and knowledge processing research involves basic research in medical language processing and medical knowledge representation. Image processing research involves the development of algorithms and methods to effectively process biomedical images of all types. The Center develops and continues to support a number of information systems, all of which are informed by our basic research activities.

A diverse staff with backgrounds in medicine, computer science, library and information sciences, linguistics, cognitive science, education, and engineering are committed to maintaining the Lister Hill Center’s leadership position in biomedical information research and development. Staff regularly publish their research results in the medical informatics, computer and information science, and engineering communities.

Learn more about the National Library of Medicine’s Lister Hill National Center for Biomedical Communications.