Due North

Translational Research: Bridging the Gap Between Basic Research and Commercialization


Research and commercialization efforts normally do not have the same end goals. Traditionally, basic science focuses on discovery while business focuses on product development. Simply put, what drives science does not drive business [1].

With the recent growth in commercialization efforts in biomedical science there is a natural movement to advance translational research further and bridge the gap between science and industry. This advancement is due, in part, to the most recent hardships in government research funding. As a result, more universities and research groups are turning towards commercialization. This is apparent in the National Institutes of Health’s (NIH) recent push for scientists to be involved in translational research programs along with the increased efforts behind small business innovation research (SBIR) funding.

For years translational research drove the “bench to bedside” model. Initially this model was meant to push basic research into clinical research to ensure the outcomes would find their way into the clinic [2]. However, this model did not necessarily convert the research into development of a product for patient use.

The current translational research paradigm focuses on product development and can be divided into three areas:

  1. Translation to humans: basic research translated into clinical research
  2. Translation to patients: basic and clinical research translated into commercialization
  3. Translation to practice: clinical use of a product.

One way to bridge the gap between research and industry is to employ a common understanding of the commercial pathway including specificity to translational studies. The translational research paradigm has not been well defined and the lack of training on commercialization does not prepare researchers for effective industry collaboration [2]. By familiarizing people with the commercial pathway commercialization efforts can be collaborative and facilitate product development in a research environment.

To better understand the current translational research paradigm I will be following up this blog post with in-depth look into how basic research translates to clinical practice focusing on the process of product development.

  1. Fletcher AC, Bourne PE (2012) Ten Simple Rules To Commercialize Scientific Research. PLoS Comput Biol 8(9): e1002712. doi:10.1371/journal.pcbi.1002712
  2. Rubio DM, Schoenbaum EE, Lee LS, Schteingart DE, Marantz PR, Anderson KE, Platt LD, Baez A, Esposito K. Defining Translational Research: Implications for Training Acad Med. 2010 March; 85(3): 470-475.

doi: 10.1097/ACM.0b013e3181ccd618

Don't miss Shelby Suckow's follow up blog post on the importance of IP in product development!