Studying both sexes: a guiding principle for biomedicine

FASEB J. 2016 Feb;30(2):519-24. doi: 10.1096/fj.15-279554. Epub 2015 Oct 29.


In May 2014, the U.S. National Institutes of Health (NIH) announced that it will ensure that investigators account for sex as a biological variable (SABV) in NIH-funded preclinical research as part of the agency's rigor and transparency initiative. Herein, I describe in more detail the rationale behind the SABV policy component and provide additional detail about policy goals. In short, studying both sexes is a guiding principle in biomedical research that will expand knowledge toward turning discovery into health. NIH expects that considering SABV in preclinical research will help to build a knowledge base that better informs the design of clinical research and trials in humans. Integrating the practice of studying both sexes in preclinical research will, over time, expand our currently incomplete knowledge base that plays a critical role in informing the development of sex- and gender-appropriate medical care for women and men.

Keywords: NIH; SABV; gender; inclusion; sex-based biology.

MeSH terms

  • Biomedical Research / standards*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • National Institutes of Health (U.S.) / standards*
  • Sex Factors
  • United States