Prize Categories: Translational Medicine

 Translational medicine prize categoryScientific research areas for 2017 prize awards

Each year the Science and SciLifeLab Prize for Young Scientists focuses on four important fields of life science research to select winners for the annual awards. The Grand Prize winner can be from any of the four categories, and additional winners are chosen from each of the remaining three life science categories.

Translational medicine is one of this year’s categories.

Research in this category builds on in vitro or animal model studies of biological processes to develop potential therapies or medical procedures.

What is translational medicine?

 Translational medicine (also referred to as translational science) is a discipline within biomedical and public health research that aims to improve the health of individuals and the community by “translating” findings into diagnostic tools, medicines, procedures, policies and education.

Often described as an effort to carry scientific knowledge “from bench to bedside,” translational medicine builds on basic research advances – studies of biological processes using cell cultures, for example, or animal models – and uses them to develop new therapies or medical procedures.

According to the editors of Science, translational medicine is becoming ever more interdisciplinary. For example, researchers need new computational approaches to deal with the large amounts of data pouring in from genomics and other fields, and as new advances in physics and materials science offer new approaches to study or diagnose medical conditions.

Origination of the field

The term translational medicine was introduced in the 1990s but didn’t become widely used until the early 2000s. The term may be mean different things to different people. For example, to patients, physicians, and other practitioners, translation medicine may primarily reflect the need to accelerate the rate at which new research findings are incorporated into clinical medicine.

Academics, however, may focus on the value of testing novel concepts uncovered in basic research in clinical situations in order to identify new possibilities. In industry, the primary focus may be on accelerating the development and commercialization of known therapies. Although different, these viewpoints are not at odds with each other. Rather, they reflect different priorities for achieving a common goal.

The clinical benefits of translational medicine are realized on a timeline measured in decades, whereas applied research aspires to shorter-term results without concern for of generating radical breakthroughs. None of the goals encompassed by translational medicine, however, are unique to the discipline, since most biomedical scientists and practitioners firmly believe that their work is to some extent relevant to the cure of disease.

As a result, translational medicine, in enhancing the efficiency of biomedical discovery and application, rather than attempting to modify existing processes within disciplines, has come to serve as a unifying concept in the increasingly complex, specialized, and fragmented field of biomedical research.

Important issues

Some key issues for translational medicine include:

• Establishing surrogate endpoints. When studying chronic diseases, biological markers are needed that can be measured in order to assess the benefits of a treatment during the early stages of clinical testing. These surrogate endpoints are needed to prevent clinical trials from taking decades.

• Shortening the duration of clinical trials. Translational medicine may help reduce the length of clinical trials by using methods that establish quantifiable comparisons and key stages of research.

• Speeding the process of drug discovery. By translating biological and molecular knowledge of disease and how drugs work into innovative development strategies, translational medicine can reduce the cost and increase the speed of delivering new medicines for patients.

• Testing new diagnostic and therapeutic tools. Before new technologies can be incorporated into medicine, they require careful testing in clinical trials, which can require a large number of subjects and considerable cost. Translational medicine can shorten the validation process by facilitating the transfer of testable agents into the clinic setting.

Find out more. Read the journal: Science Translational Medicine from AAAS/Science.

Winning thesis from this category

See a past example from translational medicine.

Essay:  A Novel Target for Pharmacological Intervention in an Untreatable Human Disease

Read more about the other prize categories:

Cell & Molecular Biology
Ecology & Environment
Genomics & Proteomics