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Leading research to understand, treat, and prevent infectious, immunologic, and allergic diseases
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NIAID Research and Science Management Framework

NIAID’s Mission and Research Plan

The mission of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases is to conduct and support basic and applied research to better understand, treat, and ultimately prevent infectious, immunologic, and allergic diseases. NIAID research has led to therapies, vaccines, diagnostic tests, and other technologies that have improved the health of millions of people in the United States and around the world.

In fiscal year (FY) 2010, the NIAID budget was $4.8 billion. NIAID dedicated these funds to support scientific opportunities that align with its mission and address domestic and global health problems and diseases.

Among the 27 Institutes and Centers that comprise the National Institutes of Health (NIH), NIAID has a unique mandate, which requires the Institute to respond to emerging public health threats. Toward this end, NIAID manages a complex and diverse research portfolio that aims to do the following:

micrograph of M. tuberculosis
Mycobacterium tuberculosis, the bacterium that causes tuberculosis.
Credit: NIAID
  • Expand the breadth and depth of knowledge in all areas of infectious, immunologic, and allergic diseases
  • Develop flexible domestic and international research capacities to respond appropriately to emerging and re-emerging disease threats at home and abroad

NIAID advances the understanding, diagnosis, and treatment of many of the world’s most intractable and widespread diseases. Key research areas include newly emerging and re-emerging infectious diseases such as tuberculosis (TB) and influenza, HIV/AIDS, biodefense, and immune-mediated diseases including asthma and allergy.

How NIAID Is Organized

Office of the Director

The NIAID Office of the Director (OD) provides scientific leadership, policy guidance, and overall operational and administrative coordination for the Institute. The OD oversees budget and financial planning, strategic planning and evaluation, program development, communications and legislative affairs, workforce development, technology transfer, and global research coordination.

NIAID OD serves as the chief liaison with the director of NIH, other components of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), other federal agencies, Congress, professional societies, voluntary health organizations, and additional public health groups. It also coordinates the activities of NIAID’s extramural and intramural divisions.

Extramural Divisions

Most of NIAID’s budget supports research at academic and research institutions outside of the Institute (referred to as extramural research) through grants, contracts, and cooperative agreements. Three research divisions at NIAID direct and manage the extramural research portfolio:

photo of Leela Raj
Leela Raj, participant in the 2010 Summer Research Program for Science Teachers, working in a laboratory at Columbia University. Credit: Columbia University’s Summer Research Program for Science Teachers

A fourth extramural division, the Division of Extramural Activities (DEA), oversees policy and management activities related to funding grants and contracts, manages NIAID’s research training program, and conducts initial peer review for grants and contracts that address an Institute-specific need or focus.

Intramural Divisions

Three NIAID research divisions conduct studies and clinical investigations within NIAID’s own laboratories (known as intramural research):

The NIAID intramural research program is located on the NIH campus in Bethesda, Maryland; in nearby Rockville and Frederick, Maryland; and at its Rocky Mountain Laboratories in Hamilton, Montana. Through collaborative research efforts, NIAID’s intramural researchers have also been able to develop and sustain research programs in resource-poor areas through partnerships with local scientists in countries such as Indonesia, Mali, and Uganda.

Mission Areas

The NIAID annual budget appropriation is broken into three mission areas: HIV/AIDS, biodefense and emerging infectious diseases, and infectious and immunologic diseases. These areas cut across the Institute’s organizational structure and include support for more than 300 major research programs and initiatives.


NIAID’s mandate to support research on HIV/AIDS began in response to the pandemic that started more than 30 years ago. The Institute supports and conducts studies in the following areas:

Image of an HIV-infected immune cell
An HIV-infected immune cell.
Credit: NIAID
  • Basic biology of HIV
  • Virus’s effect on the body
  • HIV infection and disease prevention, including vaccines and treatment
  • Treatment of HIV and its complications and co-infections, such as TB and hepatitis C
  • Consequences of living with HIV, including long-term use of antiretroviral therapy
  • Impact of a compromised immune system on a person’s long-term health
  • Cure for HIV/AIDS

NIAID's support of these research efforts has led to advances that have helped save millions of lives and played a key role in defining standards of care for treating HIV infection. 

Learn more about NIAID’s HIV/AIDS research activities.

Biodefense and Emerging Infectious Diseases

In 2003, NIAID assumed the principal responsibility within HHS and NIH for research and development of medical countermeasures against terrorist threats of infectious disease, chemical weapons, and radiation.

Disease-causing organisms evolve naturally, re-emerge with new properties or in new settings, and can be introduced deliberately, as in the case of the anthrax attacks in 2001. To help ensure that the nation is prepared for all of these possibilities, NIAID has integrated its research efforts for biodefense and emerging and re-emerging infectious diseases. The Institute’s research agenda in this area includes the following:

  • Understanding how deliberately emerging (intentionally caused) and naturally emerging infectious agents cause disease and how the immune system responds to these pathogens
  • Creating and developing new and improved vaccines, treatments, and diagnostic tests through industry collaborations and partnerships
  • Developing and using broad-spectrum strategies to produce treatments for a range of infections
  • Developing technologies that allow vaccines and treatments to require fewer doses and remain effective for longer periods of time
  • Establishing biosafety laboratories and databases and providing other research resources to help scientists conduct safe and effective biodefense research

Learn more about NIAID’s biodefense research effort.

Infectious and Immunologic Diseases

photo of a bucket containing mosquitoes
Hatched mosquitoes that carry malaria. Credit: NIAID

NIAID conducts and supports research on nearly 300 infectious agents (including bacteria, viruses, parasites, fungi, and prions) and investigates the biological properties of these pathogens and the immune system’s responses to them. Findings from this research are vital to NIAID’s efforts to create vaccines, drugs, and diagnostic tools to better diagnose, prevent, and treat infectious disease.

NIAID also supports research to better understand how the immune system functions in maintaining health and how it malfunctions to cause immune-mediated diseases (such as autoimmunity, immunodeficiency, asthma, and allergy) and transplant rejection of organs, tissues, and cells. This research provides the foundation for developing new diagnostics, preventive measures, and therapeutics for these disorders, which affect people throughout the world.

How NIAID Plans and Sets Priorities

NIAID uses a rigorous and dynamic planning process to fund high-quality research that advances NIAID’s overarching mission. This planning process enables NIAID to remain flexible enough to pursue unanticipated scientific opportunities and respond to critical public health concerns.

NIAID’s planning process combines semiannual, Institute-wide planning meetings and ongoing efforts to develop and prioritize specific research initiatives. NIAID strategic priorities provide the framework for decision making. Each year, the Institute revisits these priorities and revises them in light of scientific advances, new research opportunities, and current and anticipated public health challenges. Throughout the planning process, NIAID routinely consults with its stakeholders, including scientific experts, professional societies, and patient advocacy organizations, to help shape the Institute’s priorities and research programs.

Learn more about NIAID Strategic Plans and Research Agendas

NIAID Strategic Priorities for FY 2010

  • Maintain a robust portfolio of basic research for infectious diseases and immunology
  • Develop effective AIDS prevention strategies, particularly combination strategies that include vaccines, pre-exposure prophylaxis, topical microbicides and other modalities
  • Develop new platform technologies and medical countermeasures for emerging/re-emerging infectious diseases such as influenza, TB, malaria, and antibiotic-resistant bacteria
  • Develop new platform technologies and medical countermeasures for biodefense purposes
  • Expand the study of human immunology and develop medical interventions for immune-mediated diseases using immune tolerance strategies

Last Updated August 14, 2012

Last Reviewed August 13, 2012