Biomedical Translation

In the context of recent debates about medical innovation, Translational Research (TR) has become a major and widely acknowledged approach. The promise of a ‘translational turn’ is raising high expectations, despite the fact that a widely shared definition of what TR is or should be is still missing. Generally, the goal of TR is to improve the translation of knowledge from ‘bench to bedside and back’. Different models describe how research is transferred into innovation, but they vary in their characterization and enumeration of translational phases. Whereas some highlight a linear phase-oriented view of knowledge transfer, others take a more evolutionary stance emphasizing multidirectionality and feedback loops.

Besides the narrower context of quality and efficiency in scientific research, the meaning and importance of TR extend into the domains of policy, education, ethics, economics and organizational design. Professional associations, research funding organizations, and ministries in Western European and North American countries propagate the concept and provide funding for research dedicated to TR. As TR moves money, people and institutions around the world, it becomes clear that TR amounts to a profound transformation of the biomedical system.

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What TR implies and how translation from ‘bench to bedside and back’ (and beyond!) can be achieved in practice is one of the questions we address in our research at Humboldt-Universität. Currently, we are interviewing more than 70 biomedical practitioners in Germany, working at various junctions between bench and bedside, to find out where and how they think translation can be improved. This effort is part of a continuous cooperation with the Berlin Institute of Health (BIH), for which our group has already produced two reports: on the international development and understanding of TR as well as on TR’s organizational implementation in the US.

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