Department of Defense (DoD)

Defense R&D covers the world

The Department of Defense (DoD) and military services’ medical research operations respond to diseases many Americans may never see up close, but which service personnel stationed in the developing world experience alongside local communities. DoD has participated in the development of one of every four vaccines approved by the US Food and Drug Administration in the last century, helping to control infectious diseases such as meningitis, typhoid, Japanese encephalitis, yellow fever, mumps, measles, and polio. The study of diseases—such as malaria, dengue fever, and smallpox—has also been a historically important component of DoD’s medical research programs worldwide.

While focused on protecting and treating US armed forces, the global health efforts of DoD and its partners include substantial research and development, infrastructure and capacity building, and training programs that benefit countries with few resources for health care.

Health programs across the globe

DoD’s projects include:

  • The Walter Reed Army Institute of Research (WRAIR), the largest and most diverse biomedical research laboratory in the DoD. WRAIR’s Center for Military Infectious Disease Research combines expertise in the development of vaccines and drugs for diseases such as malaria, HIV/AIDS, dengue fever, wound infections, leishmaniasis, and enteric diseases.
  • The US Army Medical Research Unit-Kenya, where over the past three decades researchers have studied trypanosomiasis, malaria, leishmaniasis, HIV/AIDS, arboviruses, and entomology.
  • The US Military HIV Research Program, operating in Kenya, Nigeria, Tanzania, Thailand, and Uganda. The program conducted the first large-scale human trial of an HIV vaccine that showed potential to prevent HIV infection. The program has also conducted pioneering studies on the epidemiology, viral evolution and recombination, and population genetic responses to HIV.
  • The US Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases (USSMRIID), which since 1969 has been conducting pilot, bench-scale, and scale-up production of new vaccine, drug, and diagnostic products against infectious diseases. USAMRIID conducts basic and applied research on biological threats resulting in medical solutions to protect military service members and people living in endemic countries.
  • The Armed Forces Research Institute of Medical Sciences, an alliance with the Royal Thai Army since 1958. The institute possesses extensive basic and clinical science capabilities for specific pathogen research, enteric diseases, animal model research, malaria study, entomology, and immunology. It has been described as the most sophisticated diagnostic and research laboratory in Southeast Asia.

DoD was the lead partner, along with GlaxoSmithKline Biologicals in the early development and clinical testing of RTS,S, the world’s most advanced malaria vaccine candidate. The agency is also building research and development capacity by providing training and education support to scientists in the developing world. Since 2004, more than 846 professionals from 22 African and Asian countries have received laboratory training as part of this effort. DoD also provides infrastructure for trials conducted by product development partnerships, industry, and other US public agencies through a network of clinical trial sites supported by the agency’s four overseas medical research laboratories in Egypt, Thailand, Kenya, and Peru. 

For more information on the above data, please see:

Global Health Technologies Coalition. Saving lives and creating impact: Why investing in global health research works.

Walter Reed Army Institute of Research.

US Army Medical Research Unit - Kenya Walter Reed Project.

Makerere University Walter Reed Project.

US Military HIV Research Program.

US Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases.

Armed Forces Research Institute of Medical Sciences.


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