What is Translational Science?

Implementation of the ASCPT Strategic Plan will be guided by a broad and inclusive description of translational science to reflect the diversity of scientific disciplines involved in translational research within our Society. For the purpose of this document, translational research, translational science and translational medicine will be used interchangeably with a unifying principle that the ultimate purpose is to improve human health via a “bench to bedside” approach. There are many definitions of translational science as well as translational medicine and translational research, which provide context for ASCPT’s efforts. Chris Austin1 frames out the high level context, “’Translation’ is the term commonly used to describe the process by which a biomedical observation is turned into an intervention that improves health.” John Hutton 2 defines translational research as “Research [that] 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.” Another perspective3 is “Translational research fosters the multidirectional integration of basic research, patient-oriented research, and population-based research, with the long-term aim of improving the health of the public.”

From ASCPT’s perspective, translational science is a multi-faceted discipline with a focus on translational therapeutics. In a broad sense, translational medicine bridges across the discovery, development, regulation, and utilization spectrum. It may include application of research findings from genes, proteins, cells, tissues, organs, and animals, to clinical research in patient populations, all aimed at optimizing and predicting outcomes in specific patients. For clinical pharmacology, the focus of translational research is on the discovery, development, regulation and use of pharmacologic agents to improve clinical outcome, and inform optimal use of therapeutics in patients. In addition, translational research in clinical pharmacology may include evaluation of various biomarkers of pharmacologic response and assessing the linkage between biomarker response and clinical endpoints in patients. Our broad description also includes how the response to a therapeutic intervention in a particular disease may translate to a response in another disease, as well as translation of safety signals across species and/or patient populations. Translational research is bolstered by quantitative, model-based and mechanistic understanding of disease biology and pharmacology. Consequently core disciplines, including clinical pharmacology, pharmacogenomics, systems pharmacology, precision medicine, as well as others play an integral role in enabling translational research and translational science.

1 Austin, C.P., Opportunities and challenges in translational science. Clinical and Translational Science, 2021, 14: 1629-1647. https://doi.org/10.1111/cts.13055
2 Wang X. A new vision of definition, commentary, and understanding in clinical and translational medicine. Clinical and Translational Medicine 2012;1:5.
3 Rubio DM, et al. Defining translational research: Implications for training. Acad Med. 2010;85:470-5.

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