Let's Talk Translational Research
The hope of any medical research project is to make a scientific discovery that can one day be used in a clinical setting. This bench-to-bedside process, frequently referred to as translational research, often is viewed as a spectrum of steps from T1 to T4, or translation phase 1 to translation phase 4. Here is how it generally works.
At its earliest stages, T1 research can include preclinical and animal studies, as well as studies of human physiology. These studies help us develop a better understanding of a disease process to identify specific approaches for clinical application. T1 research also can include drug development and genetic studies.
Later stages of T1 research include pilot studies in healthy volunteers, patients or patient samples to test a promising new clinical application. Examples of a new clinical application include new diagnostic methods, better ways to monitor a disease or new therapies (e.g., drugs, medical devices).
T2 research builds on T1 research, with larger clinical studies performed as a follow-up to promising T1 pilot studies. These larger trials often involve investigators and patients at multiple institutions.
T3 and T4 phases of research include population-based research of disease and health outcomes, such as large-scale epidemiology studies (including molecular and genetic), processes to improve clinical practice, population-based screening tools and public policy. Also note that translational research does not always move in one direction along the spectrum; for example, discoveries at the T3 and T4 stages can lead to new T1 research.
Almost all CDI-funded research projects fall into the T1 phase along with several T2 projects. There also are a few projects that fit into the category of basic biomedical research and are not yet linked to a specific clinical application.
As a whole, CDI-funded research represents work along the full spectrum of translational research, from the very basic discovery-driven basic research to more targeted and in-depth, disease-oriented research. All parts of the spectrum are necessary for gaining an understanding of how the human body functions in health and in disease, in order to improve human health.