NIH Clinical Center opened it's doors in 1953. This new renovation and addition is slated to be complete by 2029. Credit: Elia Griffin

On Tuesday, the National Institutes of Health celebrated the groundbreaking for a new addition and renovation to the NIH Clinical Center at its Bethesda campus, 70 years after the center opened its doors in 1953. Included in the new construction will be the Surgery, Radiology and Laboratory Medicine (SRLM) Wing and modernizing the existing building with new state-of-the-art medical and research equipment.

The NIH Clinical Center is the country’s largest research hospital and has seen over 500,000 patients from all 50 states. The center is devoted to clinical research for rare diseases, cancer and the development of new treatments.

The nine-story addition is scheduled for completion in 2029.

James Gilman, the chief executive officer of the NIH Clinical Center, told MoCo360 that he does not think there will be much of an impact for the surrounding neighborhoods from the construction.

“Most of the planning that goes into this is about trying to mitigate the impact on the surrounding community. So, having all the construction vehicles come in through one area,” he said. “I can’t tell you that the traffic on Old Georgetown Road isn’t going to be impacted by a lot of construction vehicles, but a lot of work went in to add entry points further up the road so [it] could be construction only entrance.”

NIH is the nation’s leading medical research agency, and its Clinical Center has a rich history of scientific and clinical discovery.


Some notable medical milestones at the center include the first cure of a solid tumor with chemotherapy in 1958, the development of a screening test for AIDS in 1985 and the treatment of patients with metastatic melanoma using cell therapy in 1994. More recently, NIH developed improved testing to detect SARS-Cov-2, the coronavirus, in 2021.

“Rarely has the work in a single hospital been so influential in the development of modern medicine. The ongoing and future work of clinicians and future scientists deserves the best state of the art hospital in which to work,” said Dr. Steve Rosenberg, chief of the surgery branch of the National Cancer Institute, at the groundbreaking ceremony on Tuesday.

The construction will entail a nine-story and 547,290-square-foot addition onto the building, and a renovation that will cover approximately 82,000 square feet of the existing building. The current NIH Clinal Center consists of two facilities that are a total of 3.3 million square feet.


According to Dan Wheeland, associate director for Research Facilities at NIH, the new addition will be LEED-certified with a rating of gold–the second highest level.

LEED stands for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design and is a certification program that highlights sustainable design, construction and operations standards, according to the U.S. Green Building Council.

The cost of the construction began with an initial $630 million contract with Hensel Phelps Construction company.