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If you want personal fame as a big-shot NIH scientist, stop dreaming. Your work has a better chance of being famous than you do. Take Gardasil—that’s the vaccine for human papillomavirus (HPV), a sexually transmitted disease. But you probably didn't know that scientists at the NIH developed the techniques and technology behind it, or the names of these scientists. They patented the technology and sold the rights to Merck Pharmaceuticals, which then went on to develop the vaccine. Merck researchers do get most of the credit, but scientists at the NIH were the ones who made that vaccine even possible.

Scientists at the NIH found a way to detect preeclampsia, an often-fatal complication, in pregnant women months before symptoms presented. Now, what were their names?

Still others developed a genetic test that screens for the most common genetic mutations in breast cancer. Yet again, great work done in anonymity. There are stories like this all over the news if you keep an eye out for them. The NIH is huge—it's like its own small town with over 20,000 employees. So think about when your local newspaper runs a story about Farmer Johnson growing an 82-pound watermelon. At the NIH "town," that story will be about some major new advancement that's killing the West Nile virus.