NIAID 60th Anniversary Timeline


This year, NIAID celebrates 60 years of conducting and supporting basic and applied research to better understand, treat, and ultimately prevent infectious, immunologic, and allergic diseases. For six decades, NIAID research has led to new therapies, vaccines, diagnostic tests, and other technologies that have improved the health of millions of people in the United States and around the world. Check out the events below to see some of our milestones.

The National Microbiological Institute and the Experimental Biology and Medicine Institute were established on November 1.

The National Microbiological Institute became the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases on December 29. The Biologics Control Laboratory was detached from the institute and expanded to division status within NIH.

On July 1, programs formerly managed by Office of International Research were transferred to NIAID to be administered by the Geographic Medicine Branch. These included the U.S.-Japan Cooperative Medical Science Program—initiated in 1965 by the President and the Japanese Prime Minister to explore the health problems of Asia, and the International Centers for Medical Research and Training—a 1960 congressional initiative to advance the status of U.S. health sciences through international research.

The first seven Allergic Disease Centers were established to translate basic concepts of the biomedical sciences into clinical investigations.

The first centers for the study of sexually transmitted diseases and of influenza were established.

The NIAID Extramural Research Program was reorganized into three areas: Microbiology and Infectious Diseases; Immunology, Allergic and Immunologic Diseases; and Extramural Activities. An intramural Laboratory of Immunogenetics was formed.

The first maximum containment facility (P4) for recombinant DNA research was opened in Frederick, Maryland. International program project grants and international exploratory/development research grants programs were established. Centers were created for interdisciplinary research on immunologic diseases.

The Office of Recombinant DNA Activities was transferred from NIGMS to NIAID. The International Collaboration in Infectious Diseases Research Program superseded the International Centers for Medical Research and Training established in 1960.

The Office of Tropical Medicine and International Research (OTMIR) was established to coordinate NIAID's intramural and extramural research activities in tropical medicine and other international research.

The Haemophilus influenzae type B (Hib) vaccine, which was developed by NIAID-supported researchers, was introduced. The Hib vaccine boosts immunity in infants (who have a poorly developed immune system) by linking the bacterium’s polysaccharide coat to a protein (thus creating a conjugate vaccine). The conjugate vaccine technology developed for Hib proved to be a good approach for developing vaccines for the very young.

An Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome (AIDS) Program was established in January to coordinate the institute's extramural research efforts in HIV/AIDS.

Two separate NIAID-supported studies found that antiretroviral therapy could reduce the risk of death in people with intermediate-stage HIV disease and no symptoms and that combination antiretroviral therapy could help HIV-infected people with more advanced disease.

The complete sequence of two bacteria that are among the major causes of sexually transmitted infections worldwide—Treponema pallidum, responsible for syphilis, and Chlamydia trachomatis, responsible for chlamydial infections—were obtained by two separate teams of scientists supported by NIAID and others.

A team of investigators led by an NIAID grantee discovered that a subspecies of chimpanzees native to west Africa are the origin of HIV-1, the virus responsible for the global AIDS pandemic.

A joint Uganda – U.S. study, funded by NIAID, demonstrated a highly effective, affordable, and practical strategy for preventing transmission of HIV from an infected mother to her newborn. A single-oral dose of the antiretroviral drug nevirapine given to the HIV-infected mother while in labor and another to her baby within 3 days of birth reduced the transmission rate by half compared with a similar short course of AZT.

A research effort led by NIAID scientists produced the first high-resolution genetic map of Plasmodium falciparum, the deadliest malaria parasite.

NIAID spearheaded a $144 million initiative, known as the Collaborative Network for Clinical Research on Immune Tolerance, to develop new ways of inducing immune tolerance—selectively modulating the immune system by inhibiting harmful immune responses while keeping protective ones intact. The strategy promises to improve the success of transplants and treatments for autoimmune diseases that destroy the body’s own cells. The research could lead to better management of Type 1 diabetes, lupus, arthritis, and other immune system disorders.

An NIAID study showed that a nasal spray flu vaccine protected young children against not only the three strains of influenza for which the vaccine was designed to provide protection but also against a flu strain not covered by the vaccine. It also protected the children against flu-related middle-ear infections.

A team of scientists funded by NIAID determined the complete sequence of the genome of the bacterium—Vibrio cholerae—that causes cholera.

Grantees of NIAID, NHGRI, and others sequenced the entire genome of a deadly strain of E. coli, a bacterium that is emerging as a major public health threat through contaminated ground beef, milk, fruits, and vegetables.

NIAID grantees completed sequencing the genome of Streptococcus pyogenes, a bacterium that causes a wide variety of human diseases, including strep throat, scarlet fever, pneumonia, toxic shock syndrome, blood "poisoning," acute rheumatic fever, rheumatic heart disease, and the flesh-eating disease known as necrotizing fasciitis.

NIAID released its Counter-Bioterrorism Research Agenda, a document describing an accelerated research plan for the most threatening agents of bioterrorism.

Researchers partially funded by NIAID used whole-genome sequencing technology and computational methods to genetically compare two important isolates of the anthrax bacterium: the well-known Ames strain and an isolate from the 2001 Florida anthrax attacks. 

NIAID-supported researchers proved conclusively that the malaria-causing parasite Plasmodium falciparum became resistant to the anti-malarial drug chloroquine through mutations in a single parasite gene.

NIAID established an intellectual and physical infrastructure for biodefense research through awards to support National and Regional Biocontainment Laboratories (NBLs and RBLs) and Regional Centers of Excellence (RCEs) for Biodefense and Emerging Infectious Diseases.

The complete genetic blueprint of Bacillus anthracis—the microbe that gained notoriety during the 2001 anthrax mail attacks—has been completed by NIAID-funded researchers.

An NIAID rotavirus vaccine was licensed for commercialization. Annually, rotavirus diarrhea causes hundreds of thousands of deaths in infants and children living in developing countries as well as the hospitalizations of thousands of infants and children in the United States.

An international group of researchers funded in part by NIAID sequenced the genomes of three parasites that cause deadly insect-borne diseases: African sleeping sickness, Leishmaniasis, and Chagas disease. 

Experimental allergy shots for ragweed required fewer injections than standard immunotherapy and greatly reduced symptoms for at least a year, according to a clinical trial supported in part by NIAID and NIDDK. The new therapy combines a major ragweed molecule with a small DNA strand that stimulates the immune system. It requires only six weekly injections, compared to the several years of repeated shots usually needed for current ragweed immunotherapies.

On May 2, NIH dedicated a new research facility for studying globally important infectious diseases. NIAID's new C.W. Bill Young Center for Biodefense and Emerging Infectious Diseases houses studies of naturally occurring infectious diseases, infectious agents that might be used for bioterrorism, and potential vaccines. It carries out NIAID's mission in emerging infectious disease research, including the development of medical countermeasures for biodefense.

The first comprehensive analysis of an animal’s reaction to the 1918 influenza virus provided new insights into this deadly flu, which disproportionately killed young people in the prime of life. NIAID-funded scientists found that the 1918 virus triggers a hyperactive immune response that may be the key to its lethal effects.

In December, NIAID announced an early end to two NIAID-funded clinical trials of adult male circumcision in Kenya and Uganda because an interim review of trial data showed that medically performed male circumcision significantly lowered a man’s risk of acquiring HIV through heterosexual intercourse.

NIAID-supported research on a vaccine against H5N1, a strain of avian influenza virus, resulted in the licensure of a vaccine.

NIAID scientists found that newly described proteins in drug-resistant strains of the Staphylococcus aureus bacterium attract and then destroy protective human white blood cells—a key process ensuring that S. aureus survives and causes severe disease. S. aureus disease is a global public health concern because some strains, including community-associated methicillin resistant S. aureus (CA-MRSA), have developed resistance to existing antibiotics. NIAID scientists hope this finding will lead to development of new treatments.

The first genome-wide association study of an infectious disease, conducted by an international group of researchers through the NIAID-established Center for HIV/AIDS Vaccine Immunology, yielded a new understanding of why some people can suppress virus levels following HIV infection. The investigators identified three gene variants, two of which are linked to an infected person’s ability to control HIV viral load and a third that is implicated in disease progression to AIDS. Genome-wide association studies aim to identify genetic variations among people that can be tied to variations in disease susceptibility.

NIAID researchers have decoded the genetic makeup of the parasite that causes trichomoniasis, one of the most common sexually transmitted infections, revealing potential clues as to why the parasite has become increasingly drug resistant and suggesting possible pathways for new treatments, diagnostics, and a potential vaccine strategy.

In March, NIAID announced the selection of 60 U.S. and international institutions as HIV/AIDS Clinical Trials Units, which will work on HIV/AIDS vaccine, prevention, and treatment research.

NIAID scientists identified a cellular protein, which helps guide immune cells to the gut, as a target of HIV when the virus begins its assault on the body's immune system. Identifying this protein opens up new avenues of investigation that NIAID scientists hope will increase understanding of the complex mechanisms of HIV infection pathogenesis.

A research team supported by NIAID and the NIH Roadmap identified chemical compounds that hold promise as potential therapies for schistosomiasis, a parasitic worm disease that afflicts more than 200 million people worldwide.

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