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NIH Roadmap for Medical Research


The National Eye Institute (NEI) is joining with the other 26 National Institutes of Health (NIH) in an ambitious new NIH initiative–a “Roadmap for Medical Research”–that would accelerate the medical research process. NIH is committing $128M in FY2004 and plans to spend more than $2B by FY2009 to speed discoveries from “bench to bedside to practice.”

The NIH Roadmap was designed to build on the strengths of the existing Institute structures and of the entire science community. The Roadmap process identified areas of critical scientific challenge and national-scale resources that will be needed to move cutting-edge science forward vigorously and rapidly. This effort will augment exiting mechanisms of individual investigator-initiated research with the concept of interdisciplinary teams that can work on problems that currently are intractable due to large scale or cross-discipline complexity. Particular attention will be given to human resource needs, to train a next generation of scientists and clinician-researchers of the future. The NEI and the vision research community are positioned very well to take advantage of these initiatives, and together will contribute to the cross-NIH efforts.

The Roadmap is established with the acknowledgement that the traditional route of research needs to change. It hinges on three initiatives, for which corresponding grant opportunities were announced, and funded in FY2004. New initiatives are also being developed for FY2005 funding and beyond. Investigators should check this site periodically, as additional links will be added as they are published. (An NIH overview of the Roadmap is also available at http://nihroadmap.nih.gov/) It is anticipated that approximately 28 Roadmap programs will be announced and funded by September 30, 2004. Roadmap initiatives will have an RM designator in place of the traditional Institute or Center designators in order to stress their special collaborative, cross-NIH nature. The Roadmap will be centrally organized through the office of the NIH Assistant Director for Roadmap Coordination, Dushanka V. Kleinman, D.D.S.

Roadmap Core Themes

1. New Pathways to Discovery

This theme of the Roadmap addresses the need to advance our understanding of the complexity of biological systems. Future progress in medicine will require a quantitative understanding of the interconnected networks of molecules that comprise our cells and tissues, as well as their interactions with one another. Initiatives in this area will provide a solid scientific foundation for new strategies for diagnosing, treating, and preventing disease. Implementation groups in this area are:

Molecular Libraries and Imaging

Molecular Libraries High Throughput Screening Centers

High Throughput Molecular Screening Assay Development

Molecular Libraries Small Molecule Repository

Building Blocks, Biological Pathways, and Networks

Structural Biology

Bioinformatics and Computational Biology


The NEI is the lead institute for the Roadmap Nanomedicine initiative. Nanomedicine is an offshoot of the field of nanotechnology, which refers to highly specific medical intervention at the molecular scale for curing disease or repairing tissue. To stimulate work in this field, the NIH will support a major research effort to obtain the fundamental knowledge required to make Nanomedicine a reality. The goal of this initiative is to quantitate and characterize the molecular-scale components, or nanomachinery, of the cell. This knowledge will be employed to control and manipulate these molecules and their supramolecular assemblies in living cells to improve human health.

Nanomedicine Development Centers will be solicited in the summer and funded in September, 2005.

2. Research Teams of the Future

The scale and complexity of today’s biomedical research problems increasingly demands that scientists work beyond the confines of their own discipline and explore new organizational models for team science. This theme in the Roadmap seeks to encourage greater interdisciplinary interaction, with incentives for high risk research and support for public/private partnerships. Implementation groups in this area are:

Interdisciplinary Research

Curriculum Development Award in Interdisciplinary Research

Short Programs for Interdisciplinary Research Training

Interdisciplinary Health Research Training: Behavior, Environment and Biology

Supplements for Methodological Innovations in the Behavioral and Social Sciences

Training for a New Interdisciplinary Research Workforce

High-risk Research

NIH Director’s Pioneer Award (NDPA)

Public/Private Partnerships

3. Re-engineering the Clinical Research Enterprise

The most challenging, yet most critical, part of the Roadmap is the need to quickly transform basic research discoveries into clinical practice. At the core of this vision is the need to develop new partnerships of research with organized patient communities, community-based physicians, and academic researchers. This theme will promote better integration of existing clinical research networks, encourage the development of technologies for the assessment of clinical outcomes, harmonize regulatory processes, and enhance the training of the next generation of clinical researchers. Implementation groups in this area are:

Harmonization of Clinical Research Regulatory Processes

Integration of Clinical Research Networks

Re-Engineering the Clinical Research Enterprise: Feasibility of Integrating and Expanding Clinical Research Networks

Enhance Clinical Research Workforce Training

Clinical Research Informatics: National Electronic Clinical Trials and Research System (NECTRS)

Regional Translational Research Centers

Enabling Technologies for Improved Assessment of Clinical Outcomes

Dynamic Assessment of Patient-Reported Chronic Disease Outcomes