SIDEBAR: High Risk, High Payoff

From the early days of research in molecular biology--the discovery of restriction enzymes, which paved the way for recombinant technology, for example--to pharmacologist Alfred G. Gilman's 1994 Nobel Prize-winning investigations of G proteins, scientists funded by the National Institute of General Medical Sciences (NIGMS) have been advancing the life sciences. In fact, more than half of the National Institutes of Health-supported Nobel Prize winners have received grants from NIGMS.

Today the institute--which supports extramural investigators almost exclusively--funds basic research in such areas as cell biology, genetics, and biochemistry aimed at finding out how systems work, usually before the implications for specific diseases are known.

Last October, NIGMS reorganized its administrative structure with the purpose, according to an institute statement, of becoming more efficient in its support of basic biomedical research and training and to reflect the increasingly interdisciplinary nature of science.

Specifically, four program branches--cellular...

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