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The need to improve the translation of basic and fundamental research findings into routine clinical practice was one of the main observations of the ‘Review of UK Health Research Funding’ by Sir David Cooksey.1 This has been reinforced by the National Health Service review2 from Professor the Lord Darzi, who highlighted that research is an under-recognised force for health-service and system reform. Indeed, encouraging innovation improves quality of healthcare, and continuous enquiry brings continuous improvement. These sentiments are not unique to the United Kingdom and have been promoted by governments and healthcare providers across the world. Moreover, research translation is of major interest to a pharmaceutical industry that has been faced with an unprecedented number of potential therapeutic targets that need to be developed in a strategic, effective and timely manner. Better target validation and proof-of-concept studies coupled with earlier attrition of ineffective compounds or misleading therapeutic paradigms will facilitate more focused and successful development of the next generation of therapeutic agents. Thus, there is a major drive to translate and realise the scientific, societal and economic benefits of clinical research findings by academia, governments and healthcare industries.
What is translational research? This term continues to be used and interpreted in a range of ways; usually reflecting the viewpoint of each observer. This mirrors the continuum of the process from discovery of a basic scientific phenomenon all the way through to the widespread use of a healthcare innovation (figure 1). However, the Cooksey report described two areas of translational medicine research that were seen as blocks to the rapid and effective delivery of healthcare innovation: (a) the translation of scientific findings into the clinic and (b) the …