Perspectives on translational science

4 November 2011

This year’s theme for the fourth annual Building Bridges in Medical Science conference was translational science and interdisciplinary research. 

The PHG Foundation was one of the sponsors of this event, which gave a number of perspectives on bench-to-bedside research. This ranged from discussions of the role of universities by Professor Sir Leszek Borysiewicz, the current Vice Chancellor of the University of Cambridge, to the social determinants of health by Professor Sir Michael Marmot. Useful partnerships that can be formed between industry and universities and the changing landscape of translational research were also discussed; Dr Ruth McKernan (CSO of Pfizer Regenerative Medicine) said “Post-genomic scientific challenges are too great for a single organisation, and partnerships are the only sensible way forward”.

The importance of interdisciplinary research was illustrated by Professor Luke O’Neill of Trinity College, Dublin, using research into inflammation as an example, and Professor Sir Alan Ferscht, who is well known for his work on the tumour suppressor protein p53. Progress had been made possible in these areas, they said, through collaborations not only between different fields in biology but also by researchers in chemistry, physics and maths. Nobel Laureate James Watson’s talk highlighted how such research has always been a part of major scientific discoveries.

Comment: The PHG Foundation is concerned with acceleration of the effective translation of genomic and biomedical innovations into public health and healthcare practice. It considers that translational research is a crucial step in this process, but concentrates on the more neglected but equally essential downstream stages of developing policy and practice guidance that allow clinical implementation. Multi-disciplinarity is important both within the PHG Foundation and as part of collaborative projects that bring together experts from diverse fields to bridge the gap between research and practice.

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