Dr. Harold Varmus, a Nobel Prize winner, cancer biologist and director of the National Cancer Institute. Manuel Balce Ceneta/AP hide caption

itoggle caption Manuel Balce Ceneta/AP

Coalitions of patient advocates now help steer research funding toward particular projects. Lilli Carré for NPR hide caption

itoggle caption Lilli Carré for NPR

Ian Glomski outside his home in Charlottesville, Va., where hops grow in his garden. He quit an academic career in microbiology to start a liquor distillery. Richard Harris/NPR hide caption

itoggle caption Richard Harris/NPR

Victoria Ruiz (left), a postdoctoral fellow in immunology, works with Brianna Delgado, a high school student that she mentors, at the Blaser Lab, inside NYU's Langone Medical Center in New York, NY. Ramsay de Give for NPR hide caption

itoggle caption Ramsay de Give for NPR

Tom Murphy, 56, in his home in Gainesville, Va., was diagnosed with ALS four years ago. An experimental drug seems to have slowed the progression of his disease, he says, though most ALS patients aren't as lucky. T.J. Kirkpatrick for NPR hide caption

itoggle caption T.J. Kirkpatrick for NPR

Randen Patterson left a research career in physiology at U.C. Davis when funding got too tight. He now owns a grocery store in Guinda, Calif. Max Whittaker/Prime for NPR hide caption

itoggle caption Max Whittaker/Prime for NPR

Protective equipment is in short supply. Here, a Liberian burial team carefully disinfects its gloves before disposing of them. John Moore/Getty Images hide caption

itoggle caption John Moore/Getty Images

A health worker cleans his hands with chlorinated water before entering an Ebola screening tent at the Kenema Government Hospital in Sierra Leone. More than 300 Sierra Leoneans have died of the disease. Michael Duff/AP hide caption

itoggle caption Michael Duff/AP

In 1995, amid an Ebola outbreak, Zairian Red Cross personnel picked up sick people and bodies left on the streets of Kikwit, 250 miles from the capital Kinshasa. Jean-Marc Bouju/AP hide caption

itoggle caption Jean-Marc Bouju/AP

Particles of H5N1 virus — a particularly dangerous type of bird flu that can infect people — attack lung cells. Chris Bjornberg/Science Source hide caption

itoggle caption Chris Bjornberg/Science Source