What Is Translational Research?

Call it what you will – a “golden spike,” a “missing link,” a “crossroads” – translational research is a critically important trend at NIH.

Translational research activities are intended to bring knowledge from the lab into practice, and ideally, allow practice to influence what occurs in the laboratory. It is defined by NIH as “the process of applying ideas, insights, and discoveries generated through basic scientific inquiry to the treatment or prevention of human disease.” Several NIH institutes are stimulating new connections between basic and clinical behavioral research through such mechanisms as: Requests for Application, providing greater access to clinical populations and collaborators, workshops connecting basic researchers with public health and clinical investigators, and new peer review procedures that draw on experts from both clinical and basic perspectives.

These were the kind of results Congress was looking for when it chose to double the NIH budget: the fruits of research being used to treat patients with complex disorders in an effective and efficient manner. APS has paid close attention to this trend, not only by citing it in previous Observer articles, but through other means as well. APS co-hosted a Capitol Hill briefing dedicated to the subject (Observer, November 2002), and was also very supportive of translational research in testimony before Congress last spring. In the Senate report that accompanied FY 03 appropriations for NIH, seven NIH institutes were commended for their focus on the importance of translating basic research into application and treatment.

Several NIH institutes are now working on translational research projects of their own, and also are collaborating with each other as well. This collaboration is indicative of the nature of this research, which must cross disciplinary boundaries if it is to be successful.

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