About the NIH Roadmap


The NIH Roadmap for Medical Research was launched in September, 2004, to address roadblocks to research and to transform the way biomedical research is conducted by overcoming specific hurdles or filling defined knowledge gaps. Roadmap programs span all areas of health and disease research and boundaries of NIH Institutes and Centers (ICs). These are programs that might not otherwise be supported by the NIH ICs because of their scope or because they are inherently risky. Roadmap Programs are expected to have exceptionally high potential to transform the manner in which biomedical research is conducted. They are also expected to be short term, 5–10 year programs. This incubator space time frame is intended to allow the major roadblocks that were defined for each program to be overcome, thereby stimulating further research conducted through the ICs.


Roadmap programs were initially funded by a 1 percent contribution from each of the NIH ICs. In 2006, Congress responded to the need for NIH to develop innovative and cross-cutting programs by authorizing and funding the NIH Common Fund within the Office of the Director. The NIH Common Fund, including the programs of the NIH Roadmap for Medical Research, and is coordinated by the Office of Strategic Coordination, one of the six offices of the Division of Program Coordination, Planning, and Strategic Initiatives (DPCPSI) within the Office of the Director. The annual Common Fund budget was $498 million in 2008, highlighting its importance in the overall NIH funding environment. To date, the Common Fund has been used exclusively to support the Roadmap.


Planning and implementation of Roadmap/Common Fund programs are highly dynamic to allow the NIH the flexibility to respond quickly to new ideas, challenges, gaps and advances in biomedicine. Roadmap/Common Fund programs are developed from a strategic planning process involving broad, representative input from multiple scientific and public sources. Through this process, 12 roadblocks were articulated that are being addressed through many initiatives. These 12 challenges have been categorized according to three themes: New Pathways to Discovery, Research Teams of the Future, and Reengineering the Clinical Research Enterprise. Initiatives funded through the Roadmap/Common Fund fit into one or more of these major themes and address specific roadblocks or gaps to:

  • Foster high-risk/high-reward research
  • Enable the development of transformative tools and methodologies
  • Fill fundamental knowledge gaps
  • Change academic culture to foster collaboration
Although the NIH Roadmap is still in its infancy, many of its programs have achieved significant research advances.

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Division of Program Coordination, Planning, and Strategic Initiatives  •  National Institutes of Health  •  Bethesda, Maryland 20892