Translation research – achieving goals more efficiently through collaboration
Until just a few years ago basic research, clinical research and pharmaceutical research all preferred to work parallel to one another rather than with one another. Interaction and exchange of ideas among the disciplines were not very common. The methods, self-concept and goals of the researchers were – and still are – quite differentiated: for the one case it was an increase in findings, and for the other it was optimisation of processes and production. Results from basic research never, or seldom, made their way to clinical application – nor, for that matter, to the patient. Many developments in the academic environment only achieved a level that was considered by the pharmaceutical industry to be too high in risk to justify a commitment to production.
While, on the one hand, findings from basic research often times lead to fundamental changes in previous perceptions even though they are more slowly implemented into practice, novel findings from applied research can lead to even bigger changes. That however doesn’t happen very often, and there are various reasons for this: it is usually not enough simply to have a promising discovery at hand. Rather, it is better to have so many new findings available that the increased probability of implementation becomes assessable. Only in this manner is it more likely that public or private sponsors (fund donators) can be found who are prepared to finance further development. Furthermore, issues such as intellectual property must be clarified so that future profits can be properly allocated.
Only very close collaboration by multi-disciplinary partners can guarantee efficient development of new drugs, therapies and vaccines. The main issue here is “translation”, wherein the goal consists of a continuous exchange among various research areas. This exchange process accelerates the further development of results into application. Universities, research facilities, clinics and the pharmaceutical industry work together on mutual projects.
The idea behind translation research is: “from bench to bedside and back to the bench”. Additionally, basic research develops potential starting points for new active pharmaceutical ingredients or therapies in the laboratory. These results are further developed in clinical research and in early clinical tests for safety, and subsequently examined for their effectiveness. During these clinical tests new questions usually appear, with which basic researchers and clinical researchers concern themselves immediately.
In persistent collaboration, experts from basic research as well as practice then take the next decisive steps. These require comprehensive and time-consuming clinical studies with many participants, and results that involve increasingly complex volumes of data. At the end of this process, ideally, there is a new drug as well as respective implementation of the results into the clinical routine.