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History of Translational Medicine

The term translational medicine was introduced in the 1990s but only gained wide usage in the early 2000s. Originally, translational medical research emerged from the concept of B2B (bench-to-bedside), as a class of medical research aiming to eliminate the barriers between laboratory and clinical research.

In 2003, the Institute of Medicine Clinical Research Roundtable described the current terminology and model of translational research as a two-phase process of research, progressing from:
1) Basic science to clinical science
2) Clinical science to public health impact

In 2008 a more detailed three-phase description came up, and described translational (T) medicine as:
The most current translation model in the literature is the 4 T’s model:
  • T1 basic scientific discovery (basic knowledge) to potential clinical application (theoretical knowledge) to
  • T2 evidence-based guidelines (efficacy knowledge) to
  • T3 clinical care or intervention (applied knowledge) to
  • T4 the health of a community or population (public health knowledge).

As we see, a clear and coherent definition of translational medicine is lacking because translational medicine means different things to different people. This is illustrated in the following examples:

Barry S. Coller from the Rockefeller University, NY defines translational medicine as:

’The application of the scientific method to address a health need.’

He holds that, in contrast to basic investigation, which has the generation of new knowledge as its primary goal, the primary goal of translational science is improvement in human health.

John Hutton from the Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Centre, describes that a perfectly reasonable, ’official’ definition of translational medicine should be:

‘Translational medicine transforms scientific discoveries arising from laboratory, clinical or population studies into new clinical tools and applications that improve human health by reducing disease incidence, morbidity and mortality’

This definition has been taken and adapted from ’Transforming Translation – Harnessing Discovery for Patient and Public Benefit(Report of the Translational Research Working Group of the National Cancer Advisory Board, US NIH , 2007).

Yet another author, Claudio Spada from the Fatebenefratelli & Ophthalmiatric Hospital in Milan, Italy, suggested that translational medicine is:

’The art to use scientific concepts and procedures to create interactions and synergies between different scientific medical disciplines and clinical practices, with a multi-modal process that integrates the exchange of information in order to optimise the efficiency and efficacy of the research, and advance the knowledge that can improve the patient care with better clinical applications'