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Questions and Answers

Research Areas

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What types of global research does NIAID fund?

NIAID funds a wide range of international biomedical research in infectious, immunologic, and allergic diseases and conditions. NIAID trains and collaborates with scientists from around the world and supports projects in more than 100 countries. Global research covers a broad spectrum of diseases and conditions, including HIV/AIDS, malaria, influenza, tuberculosis, diabetes, asthma, and many others.

See the NIAID Global Research Website and Research by Topic for information on specific research areas.


Is NIAID the only Institute at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) that supports HIV/AIDS research?

No. There are many NIH Institutes and Centers that support research related to HIV/AIDS, both domestically and internationally. The Office of AIDS Research, located within the NIH Office of the Director, coordinates the scientific, budgetary, and policy elements of AIDS research across NIH.

See NIH Office of AIDS Research for more information.


I hear a lot about NIAID efforts to fight HIV/AIDS in Africa. What is NIAID doing to help people in the United States fight HIV/AIDS?

NIAID is committed to supporting research on HIV/AIDS that will benefit people living in the United States, as well as people worldwide. NIAID HIV/AIDS clinical trials networks, for example, have sites across the country that focus on the specific needs of U.S. populations, including HIV vaccine research and development, drug development, and prevention of HIV infection.

NIAID also works closely with community organizations in the United States to disseminate information about HIV infection, AIDS, and related NIAID research activities. For example, the NIAID HIV Vaccine Research Education Initiative (NHVREI) works with community leaders, national organizations, health professionals, and educators to provide information on HIV vaccine research and on ways that they can help in the research effort. The NHVREI goal is to create an environment in which HIV-affected communities and individuals are more aware, educated, and supportive of HIV vaccine research and have more positive attitudes toward volunteering for clinical studies.

See HIV/AIDS Clinical Networks and NHVREI website for more information.


I thought malaria was no longer a problem in the United States. Why is NIAID supporting research to create a malaria vaccine?

Though malaria was eradicated in the United States during the early 1950s, approximately 1,500 cases of the disease occur each year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The vast majority of these cases occur in travelers and immigrants coming from malaria-endemic areas.

Although malaria is not endemic in most temperate countries, there are significant concerns that it may re-emerge as drug-resistant malaria parasites and pesticide-resistant mosquitoes evolve and spread. More than 3 billion people (over 40 percent of the world’s population) live in countries and territories that are at risk of malaria. Malaria research and vaccine development are essential elements in the strategy to reduce and ultimately eradicate malaria worldwide.

About 1,500 cases of malaria are diagnosed in the United States each year. The vast majority of cases in this country are in travelers and immigrants coming from at-risk areas for malaria. Malaria research and vaccine development are essential elements in the strategy to reduce and ultimately eradicate malaria worldwide.


Do NIAID scientists perform research outside the United States?

Yes. Many NIAID scientists regularly collaborate with foreign researchers and biomedical research organizations, and some work in foreign laboratories or research sites. In addition, NIAID scientists and science administrators frequently travel overseas to facilitate collaborative research or to provide management and oversight of international research and awards.

NIAID also has established long-term research projects and sites overseas. Currently, NIAID has full-time staff posted in China, India, Mali, South Africa, and Uganda.


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How much money does NIAID spend on international research?

In fiscal year (FY) 2011, NIAID spent approximately $371.2 million to support international health research.


In how many countries does NIAID support research programs?

In FY 2011, NIAID supported research in 107 countries.


Grants and Training

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How does funding foreign scientists support NIAID’s mission?

The NIAID mission is to better understand, treat, and ultimately prevent infectious, immunologic, and allergic diseases. Given the complexities of biomedical science and the fact that many infectious diseases occur primarily outside the United States, international collaboration is an essential part of successful infectious disease and immunology research. In addition, foreign scientists often have valuable specialized expertise and experience and they can share local knowledge, assist with NIAID-supported clinical trials, and provide other critical contributions to advance NIAID research programs.

Because effective collaboration requires that NIAID scientific partners enhance their capacity to undertake biomedical research, the Institute also invests in training and scientific capacity-building, usually in partnership with local organizations and governments worldwide. NIAID also actively supports the development of scientific networks through which foreign scientists become long-standing collaborators of U.S. scientists.

Often, international research is required to answer critical scientific questions, particularly regarding infectious diseases that are less common in the United States. In today’s interconnected society, outbreaks of infectious diseases have worldwide implications, both directly through the transmission of disease and indirectly through the economic and political instability that these health concerns can provoke. NIAID support of international research helps develop new knowledge to improve diagnosis, prevention, and treatment of infectious diseases that have potential global impact.


Where can I find information for foreign grantees and applicants?

Check the NIAID International Awards section of the NIAID Research Funding website for resources, funding links, and contact information.


Where can I learn about working on a grant as a non-U.S. citizen?


Do I need U.S. affiliation or citizenship to be a grantee or principal investigator on a grant?

No. You don't need U.S. affiliation or citizenship to become a grantee or principal investigator. Find out more at Qualifying for a Grant. The U.S. Congress has mandated that NIH support promising biomedical research both in the United States and internationally.


Do I need U.S. affiliation or citizenship to be a trainee on a training grant or to receive a career award or fellowship?

Yes, with one exception: the K99/R00 award. For career development awards and training grants, you must be a U.S. citizen, a non-citizen national, or a permanent resident with a valid Alien Registration Receipt Card (also known as a green card) at the time of award. For more information, read Advice on Research Training, Career Awards, and Research Supplements.


Are there any training opportunities that are available to non-U.S. citizens or residents?

Yes. NIAID-supported research training takes place through research grants and contracts. Because these are not formal training mechanisms and programs, you do not need to be a U.S. citizen or resident to participate in them.


Does visa status affect my ability to work on an NIH grant?

It may. See the Foreign Workers on NIH Awards SOP for more information.


Can foreign applicants succeed in obtaining an NIH grant?

Yes. Foreign applicants can and do succeed in obtaining NIH grants, if they offer expertise, innovative ideas, or resources not available from U.S. applicants. For more information, see Foreign Applications Have an Extra Review Step.


Foreign Scientists in Federal Labs

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Does NIAID pay foreign scientists to perform research at NIAID facilities?

Yes. The NIH Visiting Program provides opportunities for foreign scientists to train and conduct collaborative research at NIH.


Why does NIAID pay foreign scientists to conduct research at NIAID facilities?

Foreign researchers make important contributions to NIH research. By partnering with the best scientific minds throughout the world, NIAID can enhance the cutting-edge research that benefits the health of people in the United States and throughout the world. When these scientists return to their home countries, they become part of scientific networks and develop long-term collaborations with scientists at NIAID, to the continuing benefit of biomedical innovation and progress.


Are there unpaid opportunities for foreign scientists to be involved with NIAID research?

Yes. Foreign scientists may work at NIAID without salary or stipend as volunteer researchers. It is also possible for foreign scientists to receive a salary or stipend from their home institution and work at NIAID as guest researchers.


How many foreign scientists conduct research at NIAID facilities?

Each year under the NIH Visiting Program, thousands of scientists from other nations conduct research on the NIH campus and in several field units around the country. In FY2011, more than 400 researchers from 61 countries worked at NIAID. Countries with the highest participation were Brazil, Canada, China, France, Germany, India, Israel, Italy, Japan, and South Korea.


Clinical Trials

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Why does NIAID test vaccines, treatments, and therapies on citizens of foreign nations?

Clinical testing (testing in humans) is essential to develop vaccines, prevention strategies, and treatments. Many diseases exist only in foreign countries or can be studied more easily and effectively abroad, where they are more common. Malaria, Ebola hemorrhagic fever, and dengue fever are examples in a very long list of such infectious diseases. Even diseases that do exist in the United States often can be studied more thoroughly elsewhere.

For example, the incidence of heterosexually transmitted HIV/AIDS is higher for women in many parts of Africa than for women in the United States, making research on the management of HIV/AIDS among women more feasible and productive in Africa. Similarly, the incidence of extensively drug-resistant tuberculosis is higher in many other countries than in the United States. By studying diseases where they are most common, not only will the research benefit these populations but also it is more likely the United States will be prepared if and when the need for prevention, treatment, and care of these diseases becomes more prevalent in U.S. populations.


Under what conditions do citizens of foreign nations participate in clinical trials?

All clinical trials supported by NIAID are conducted in accordance with internationally accepted standards of protection for participants, as well as in compliance with all local laws and regulations. Therapies, drugs, or vaccines are tested on humans only after they have been proven effective in laboratory research studies.

Human clinical trials are permitted only if the participants volunteer and fully understand the risks and benefits of taking part in the study. Participants are informed, in language they can understand, of the risks of volunteering before the trial begins and throughout the trial’s duration.

Participants may withdraw from a trial at any time. In every instance, international clinical trials are undertaken with the same rigor and protections used when clinical trials are conducted in the United States.


Does NIAID pay people to participate in clinical trials abroad?

No. While NIAID does reimburse participants for their expenses and to meet any local requirements for similar compensation, international policy does not allow the federal government to pay for people to participate in clinical trials abroad.


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Who can I contact if I have more questions about NIAID global research efforts?

Office of Global Research
National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases
National Institutes of Health
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
6610 Rockledge Drive
Bethesda, MD 20892
Tel: 301-496-0070
Fax: 301-480-2954


Last Updated September 07, 2012