The Intramural Research Program (IRP) of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) is the largest biomedical research institution in the world. There are 27 Institutes of Health, each with its own specific research program including immunology, epidemiology, cell and molecular biology, structural biology, bioengineering, health sciences, neuroscience, molecular pathology, toxicology, cancer biology, behavioral research and developmental biology. There are more than 1,200 principal investigators, 4,000 post-doctoral research fellows and 500 graduate students who conduct multi-disciplinary, transformational scientific research that consistently pushes the boundaries of biomedical knowledge.

For the newest success stories in biomedical research at the NIH, visit the IRP blog or check out the IRP on X. We invite you to explore the research interests of our faculty and our vibrant immunology community by visiting the NIH Immunology Interest Group.


Prospective students enter the program by applying for admission to the Immunology Graduate Group through the PhD, VMD/PhD, or MD/PhD programs at the University of Pennsylvania. Once admitted to the IGG program, students have the opportunity to rotate at the NIH prior to starting at Penn and/or during summer after the first year.  If an NIH lab is chosen as the thesis lab, the student will then transition to the NIH Intramural Research Program at/around June 1 of the 2nd year until their thesis work is completed.

Mission Statement

Our mission is to educate and train the next generation of innovative scientists who will be prepared to tackle the next big challenges in basic, clinical and translational immunology. The Partnership between NIH and the University of Pennsylvania serves this mission by creating an environment, which encourages independent critical thinking and offers an integrated network of over 350 immunology laboratories with a unified goal of deciphering how the immune system functions in health and disease.


Dr. Harold Varmus
Dr. Harold Varmus

In 1999, Harold Varmus, MD and Michael Gottesman, MD proposed the idea of forming partnerships with existing graduate programs at universities. What soon became the Graduate Partnerships Program (GPP) enabled students to work in intramural laboratories while earning their doctoral degrees from their home universities. Michael Lenardo, MD, having been involved in creating the Immunology Interest Group and Immunology Workshop was invited by Dr. Varmus to the first organizational meeting to discuss how to implement the GPP concept. Recognizing the academic strength and size of the intramural immunology faculty, Dr. Lenardo began discussions with several universities about possible immunology doctoral program partnerships. He found a welcoming partner in John Monroe, PhD, the then chair of the Immunology Graduate Group at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine. The NIH-Penn Immunology partnership program was initiated in the summer of 2001 with the appointment of 10 NIH investigators as University of Pennsylvania adjunct professors. Dr. Lenardo served as director of the NIH-Penn Immunology partnership program until 2006 and was succeeded by Alfred Singer, MD, Rémy Bosselut, MD, PhD, and Vanja Lazarevic, PhD.


NIH Image Gallery NIH Medical Research Scholars Program
NIH Partnership Programs allow students to conduct basic, translation and clinical research within intramural laboratories.

The NIH-Penn Immunology partnership provides trainees with access to groundbreaking science at the NIH. There is great breadth and depth of research taking place in the Intramural Research Program (IRP):

There is a long history of scientific breakthroughs at the NIH, and these are just some of the immunology-related discoveries that demonstrate why research at the NIH is a great choice for trainees:

 NIH Image Gallery Novel Coronavirus SARS-CoV-2
President Joe Biden visits the NIH.