Translational research

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For the journal, see Translational Research (journal).

Translational research applies findings from basic science to enhance human health and well-being. In a medical research context, it aims to "translate" findings in fundamental research into medical and nursing practice and meaningful health outcomes. Translational research implements a “bench-to-bedside”, from laboratory experiments through clinical trials to point-of-care patient applications,[1] model, harnessing knowledge from basic sciences to produce new drugs, devices, and treatment options for patients. The end point of translational research is the production of a promising new treatment that can be used with practical applications, that can then be used clinically or are able to be commercialized.[2]

As a relatively new research discipline, translational research incorporates aspects of both basic science and clinical research, requiring skills and resources that are not readily available in a basic laboratory or clinical setting. It is for these reasons that translational research is more effective in dedicated university science departments or isolated, dedicated research centres.[3] Since 2009, the field has had a specialized journals, the American Journal of Translational Research and the Translational Research (journal) dedicated to translational research and its findings.

Translational research is broken down into five levels, T1 through to T5. T1 research, refers to the “bench-to-bedside” enterprise of translating knowledge from the basic sciences into the development of new treatments; and T2 research refers to translating the findings from clinical trials into everyday practice.[2]

Translational research includes two areas of translation. One is the process of applying discoveries generated during research in the laboratory, and in preclinical studies, to the development of trials and studies in humans. The second area of translation concerns research aimed at enhancing the adoption of best practices in the community. Cost-effectiveness of prevention and treatment strategies is also an important part of translational science.[2]

Definitions of Translational Research[edit]

As translational research is a relatively new field, an exact definition is difficult to achieve. If ten researchers were asked to define the concept, the ten responses would more than likely differ. Two succinct definitions are listed below.

  • The National Institutes of Health (NIH) defines translational research as the movement of discoveries in basic research to application at the clinical level.[4]
  • A paper named 'The Meaning of Translational Research and Why It Matters', by S.H. Woolf, defines translational research as ‘the “bench to bedside” enterprise of harnessing knowledge from basic sciences to products new drugs, devices and treatment options for patients.”[2]


Translational research is characterized by stages (T1 though T4):[5]

  • T1 - Translation to humans
  • T2 - Translation to patients
  • T3 - Translation to practice
  • T4 - Translation to population health

Comparison to basic research or applied research[edit]

Basic research is the systematic study directed toward greater knowledge or understanding of the fundamental aspects of phenomena and is performed without thought of practical ends. It results in general knowledge and understanding of nature and its laws.[6]

Applied research is a form of systematic inquiry involving the practical application of science. It accesses and uses some part of the research communities' (the academia's) accumulated theories, knowledge, methods, and techniques, for a specific, often state, business, or client-driven purpose.[7]

In medicine, translational research is increasingly a separate research field. A citation pattern between the applied and basic sides in cancer research appeared around 2000.[8]

Challenges and criticisms of translational research[edit]

Critics of translational research point to examples of important drugs that arose from fortuitous discoveries in the course of basic research such as penicillin and benzodiazepines,[9] and the importance of basic research in improving our understanding of basic biological facts (e.g. the function and structure of DNA) that go on to transform applied medical research.[10]

Examples of failed translational research in the pharmaceutical industry include the failure of anti-aβ therapeutics in Alzheimer's disease.[11] Other problems have stemmed from the widespread irreproducibility thought to exist in translational research literature.[12]

Translational research facilities[edit]

Although translational research is relatively new, it is being recognised and embraced globally. There are currently committed translational research institutes or research departments at the following locations:

Additionally, translational research is now acknowledged by some universities as a dedicated field to study a PhD or graduate certificate in, in a medical context. These institutes currently include Monash University in Victoria, Australia,[15] the University of Queensland, Diamantina Institute in Brisbane, Australia,[16] at Duke University in Durham, North Carolina, America,[17] and at Creighton University in Omaha, Nebraska.[18]

See also[edit]

External links[edit]


  1. ^ "What is Translational Science". Tufts Clinical and Translational Science Institute. Retrieved 9 June 2015. 
  2. ^ a b c d "The Meaning of Translational Research and Why It Matters". Woolf, S.H., The Journal of the American Medical Association, JAMA 2008;299;211-213. Retrieved 3 June 2015. 
  3. ^ "Obstacles facing translational research in academic medical centers". Obstacles facing translational research in academic medical centres. Retrieved 12 June 2015. 
  4. ^ "Advancing translational research with the Semantic Web". BMC Bioinformactics. 2007; 8(Suppl 2): S2, 09 May 2007. Retrieved 12 June 2015. 
  5. ^ "Clinical and Translational Research Spectrum". Harvard Clinical and Translational Science Center. Retrieved 16 November 2015. 
  6. ^ "What is basic research?" (PDF). National Science Foundation. Retrieved 2014-05-31.
  7. ^ Roll-Hansen, Nils (April 2009). Why the distinction between basic (theoretical) and applied (practical) research is important in the politics of science (PDF) (Report). The London School of Economics and Political Science. Retrieved November 30, 2013. 
  8. ^ Cambrosio, Alberto; Keating, Peter; Mercier, Simon (December 2006), "Mapping the emergence and development of translational cancer research", European Journal of Cancer (Elsevier Ltd) 42 (28): 3140–3148, doi:10.1016/j.ejca.2006.07.020 
  9. ^ Tone, Andrea (2009). The Age of Anxiety: the History of America's Love Affairs with Tranquilizers. 
  10. ^
  11. ^ Koo, Edward. "Anti-aβ therapeutics in Alzheimer's disease: the need for a paradigm shift.". Cell Press. Retrieved 28 April 2014. 
  12. ^ Prinz, Florian. "Believe it or not: how much can we rely on published data on potential drug targets?". Nature Publishing Group. Retrieved 28 April 2014. 
  13. ^ "Maine Medical Center Research Institute attracts top scientists, licenses discoveries". Mainebiz. Retrieved 17 June 2015. 
  14. ^ "Translational Research Institute". The Scripps Research Institute. Retrieved 17 June 2015. 
  15. ^ "Translational Research - PhD and Graduate Certificate". Monash University. Retrieved 17 June 2015. 
  16. ^ "MPhil in Translational Research". /. University of Queensland Diamantina Institute. Retrieved 17 June 2015. 
  17. ^ "Clinical and Translational Research". Duke University. Retrieved 17 June 2015. 
  18. ^ "Center for Clinical and Translational Science". Creighton University. Retrieved 14 July 2015.