The National Institutes of Health issued a new five-year plan today to ensure the agency continues to enhance health, lengthen life, and reduce illness and disability. The NIH-Wide Strategic Plan, Fiscal Years 2016–2020: Turning Discovery Into Health was developed after soliciting input from hundreds of stakeholders and scientific advisers in collaboration with its own leaders and staff.

Over the next five years, the NIH will strive to deliver on these promises among others:

  • Longer survival for cancer patients by virtue of precision medicine
  • The development of a (first-step) candidate, universal flu vaccine
  • An efficacy trial for a novel HIV vaccine that confers at least 50 percent protection against acquisition of the virus
  • Radical new methods to revolutionize new drug screening and optimization
  • A wearable biosensor for monitoring blood-alcohol levels in real time
  • Technologies to reverse paralysis and restore functions for spinal cord injury patients

As explained within the plan pages, the vast majority of NIH’s funds support scientists at universities, research institutions, and small businesses in all 50 states. Discoveries not only fuel the biomedical industry but also keep the nation globally competitive.


Officially designated “NIH” by Congress in 1930, the agency began in 1887 as a one-room laboratory on Staten Island, N.Y. Since then, the combined institutes have grown into the world’s largest source of medical research funding, the plan booklet explains. Decades of advances in the areas of fundamental science and health can be attributed to the NIH.

“To date, 148 NIH-supported researchers have received Nobel Prizes for their groundbreaking achievements,” wrote the authors of the report.

What is relevant to you? In the United States, a baby born today can expect to live to nearly age 79 — about three decades longer than one born in 1900. Among its other achievements, the agency counts a reduction in cardiovascular disease death rates by more than 70 percent over the last 60 years. A decrease in cancer death rates is occurring by 1 to 2 percent per year, with each 1 percent drop saving about $500 billion. The agency also notes the current HIV therapies, which it helped develop to enable people in their 20s to live a full lifespan.

Mission Possible

Following the new plan, the NIH will advance opportunities in biomedical research in fundamental science, treatment and cures, and health promotion and disease prevention. At the same time, NIH will foster innovation by prioritizing around nimbleness and opportunity. Other objectives include recruiting and retaining “an outstanding biomedical research workforce” and “developing the ‘science of science,’” which includes reviewing peer review and tracking effectiveness of risk management in decision making.

“This strategic plan will guide our efforts to turn scientific discoveries into better health, while upholding our responsibility to be wise stewards of the resources provided by the American people,” Dr. Francis S. Collins, NIH Director, stated in a press release.