What is Translation and Translational Research?
By: Kimberly Schonhorst and Baiju R. Shah
As you read through our posts, you will likely see the terms “translation,” and “translational research” frequently. That’s due to their relation to the valley of death and drug development.
Translation, as defined by the NIH National Center for Advancing Translational Science (NCATS), is the process of translating basic scientific research into a viable product that can improve the health of patients. It is the process of turning observations in the laboratory, clinic, and community into interventions that improve the health of individuals and the public – from diagnostics and therapeutics to medical procedures and behavioral changes.
There are many interconnected steps in the translational process – basic research (also called academic research), preclinical research (also called preclinical development), clinical research (also called clinical development), clinical implementation, and public health. The term translational research refers to the efforts to traverse a particular step of the translational process, to go from one stage to the next.
The Harrington Project and BioMotiv were established in 2012 with the goal of assisting scientific researchers through one of the earliest and most difficult steps of the translation process – turning a promising discovery into a potential therapeutic that can be tested in clinical studies.
Preclinical drug development is intrinsically iterative and risky, typically taking many years and millions of dollars before a product has been developed, and sufficient safety and efficacy data is generated to meet the FDA’s requirements to commence human clinical studies. In addition to the funding and time, preclinical drug development also requires different resources, skills, and capabilities than basic (or academic) research.
For years, pharmaceutical companies and venture capital firms have been distancing themselves from this stage of translational research as their business models have shifted to focus on products at later stages of development.
The unique model established by BioMotiv and the Harrington Project provides resources, including funding, drug development expertise, and partnerships, at this critical point in the translation process, establishing, as Christopher Austin, MD, Director of NCATS stated, “a beacon for people who are thinking differently about drug development.” There is a need for more creative models that use different mechanisms and provide capabilities and funding, impact investing, to bridge the valley of death and accelerate breakthrough discoveries into medicines.
Read more about our model and the part we play in bridging the valley of death here.