Translational research is pushing a fundamental change in the way science has operated for decades, breaking down the literal and figurative walls that separate basic scientists and clinical researchers. The concept isn’t new, but in the last few years funding agencies have made translational research and training a priority.
In the United States, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) is doing its part with the Clinical and Translational Science Awards (CTSA) program, in which the agency will invest $500 million annually by 2012. The European Commission has earmarked much of its €6 billion health-research budget for the next 7 years for translational projects. In the United Kingdom, the National Institute for Health Research has established 11 biomedical research centers devoted to translational research at a cost of ₤450 million over 5 years. Private foundations and organizations are investing as well.
M.D.-Ph.D. programs are well established in the United States and have offered a route for translational research training for decades. An even more common–and long-established–route is for physicians to take a postdoc or a research fellowship. These days, however, universities and research centers in the United States and abroad are coming up with innovative ways to prepare a larger translational-research work force. These include offering medical school courses to Ph.D.’s, creating certificate programs in translational science for M.D.’s, and establishing entirely new Ph.D. programs in translational research.
In , science writer Siri Carpenter takes a closer look at how U.S. organizations, including NIH, are investing in translational research and examines some of the training programs that offer M.D.’s and Ph.D.’s routes into translational research.
In , freelance writer Ken Garber describes how the University of Pennsylvania brought its Institute for Translational Medicine and Therapeutics into being and how the university is making translational research a priority.
In Europe, as in the United States, scientists who can cross the lab-clinic divide are in demand. In , south Europe editor Elisabeth Pain profiles three academic programs that offer specialized degrees in translational research.
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Photo credit: Johanna Bless