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Research Center

Translational Research: Taking Less Time to Improve Your Health

     A New Approach to Discovery

The goal of research is to improve health. Traditional research often takes a long time. As we learn more, the research system has become more complicated and spread out. It is hard to organize it in a way that is efficient. It can take as long as 20 years for new drugs and other medical treatments to be discovered! Translational research was developed as a way to transform research. It will make the process faster and more effective so that people benefit sooner from new knowledge, drugs and treatments.

Communication is the key

Many kinds of research are needed to make progress in every medical condition. Researchers doing basic science and clinical studies, including social and behavioral research, are all needed to move discovery forward. Researchers in these fields have become more and more specialized. They work in different locations and do very different jobs. Some work in labs with microscopes. Some work with numbers and computers. Others work with people testing new kinds of treatments. To make progress, research from all these fields needs be combined. The National Institutes of Health (NIH) worked out a way to put the pieces together through translational research.

The National Institutes of Health: Putting the Pieces Together

NIH oversees a lot of the research done in the United States and provides the most medical research funding in the world. The purpose of the NIH is to improve people's health through research. With so many important new fields they wanted to find a way for researchers to talk to each other and work together. They have introduced translational research so the process would move faster and work better.

Traditionally, each researcher does their part and passes it along to the next person, and so on, as if they're all standing in a line next to each other. In translational research, everyone is standing in a circle. Researchers in different fields work on a medical condition together and give input from many perspectives. Researchers also learn about new results faster so that they can move the process forward. There are fewer delays because everyone is talking; everyone understands what the others do and how they can help each other. For example, basic science studies that find a new medicine for heart disease can be more quickly shared with a doctor who does research involving people so that it gets to the person who needs it.

The NIH has started a major program, Clinical and Translational Science Awards, to accomplish the goals of translational research in major medical centers across the United States and transform the way that research is done.

To learn more, see Clinical and Translational Science Awards, the CTSA national consortium website and, the CTSA Fact Sheet.

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Last Reviewed: May 31, 2011