NIH-NASA Biomedical Research Activities

Chris Austin, M.D., Joan Noel, M.D., Erica Rosemond, M.D., and Michael Kurilla, M.D. with NCATS-Eli Lilly scholar Josephine Taverna, M.D

NCATS staff meet astronaut Terry Virts at the NCATS Chips in Space program kickoff meeting at the Kennedy Space Center in September 2017. Left to right: Danilo Tagle, Ph.D., Christopher Austin, M.D., Terry Virts, M.S.A.E., and Lucie Low, Ph.D., NIH-NASA liaison point of contact.

Through an ongoing collaboration, NIH and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) are exploring how biomedical research can address the challenges of deep space exploration and benefit human health in space and on Earth. NIH Director Francis S. Collins, M.D., Ph.D., and former NASA Deputy Administrator Dava J. Newman, Ph.D., signed a second NIH-NASA Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) (PDF - 410KB) on Jan. 13, 2017.

In early 2018, Collins appointed NCATS Director Christopher P. Austin, M.D., as the new NIH liaison to NASA. As outlined in the MOU, NIH and NASA efforts include:

  • Establishing a framework of cooperation to encourage interaction between NIH and NASA research communities and
  • Integrating results from that research into improved understanding of human physiology and health. 


NIH and NASA have collaborated since the Project Gemini era in the early 1960s. The 2017 MOU enabled NIH and NASA to develop processes by which NIH grantees could access the National Laboratory resources on the International Space Station (ISS) for biomedical research projects designed to improve human health on Earth.

Stephen I. Katz, M.D., Ph.D., director of the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases (NIAMS), began this effort while he was the NIH liaison to NASA and a member of the NASA Advisory Council. Roderic Pettigrew, M.D., Ph.D., former director of the National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering (NIBIB), led subsequent efforts. Descriptions of past collaborative activities can be found on the NIAMS and NIBIB websites.

About the Collaboration

This collaborative effort, now led by NCATS, includes participation from numerous NIH Institutes and Centers. The purpose of the collaboration is to encourage space-related biomedical research through the exchange of expertise, scientific and technical information, data, and publications with NASA’s Human Research Program. NIH and NASA also coordinate publicity of pertinent activities, publications and research results.

NASA has identified 33 medical health risks to humans who will engage in deep space travel and is interested in research in these areas. Learn more about these 33 risks.

In the News

Related Links 

Find information about NASA’s Human Research Program and conducting research on the ISS National Laboratory:

Note: To receive an accessible PDF copy of the MOU, please send a note to