Immunology and infectious disease research has been central to our mission since the National Institutes of Health (NIH) was founded in 1887 as the Staten Island-based “Laboratory of Hygiene”, established to find better means of screening for infectious diseases carried by passengers arriving on ships from abroad.
The NIH Intramural Research Program (IRP) is now home to an extraordinary community of researchers and clinicians in the field of immunology. Over 200 IRP laboratories in multiple Institutes and Centers pursue basic, translational, and clinical research on the immune system, with the goal of better-understanding the underlying causes of allergy, infectious diseases, primary and secondary immunodeficiencies, cancer and transplant immunology, and autoimmunity.
Researchers in the IRP have made fundamental discoveries and advances in immunology, including:
- Development of Freund’s Adjuvant
- Identification of many of the cytokines and chemokines that regulate immune function
- Co-discovery of the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV)
- Understanding the causes of genetic immunological diseases, such as chronic granulomatous disease, autoimmune lymphoproliferative syndrome, and familial Mediterranean fever
Working in partnership with and as part of the largest clinical research hospital in the world, the NIH Clinical Center, IRP physician-scientists have helped develop many now-standard therapies for immunological diseases, such as systemic lupus erythematosus and vasculitis. Many of the first trials of monoclonal antibody therapy and gene therapy took place at the NIH Clinical Center.
Today, IRP researchers work at the forefront of vaccine development for HIV and other emerging infectious disease threats. A dedicated Vaccine Research Center on the main NIH research campus opened in 1999. In addition, the recently launched trans-NIH Center for Human Immunology, Autoimmunity, and Inflammation aims to pioneer a new integrated approach that combines the expertise of basic immunologists, clinicians and epidemiologists to jointly improve clinical therapies and fundamental knowledge of immune-mediated diseases.
Many of the world’s leading immunologists and infectious disease experts make their home within the IRP, including ten members of the National Academy of Sciences. We invite you to explore the research interests of our faculty and our vibrant immunology community by visiting the Immunology Scientific Interest Group.