6 Trends in Translational Science that Will Improve Your Health

By Deborah Grady,

Grady, MD, MPH, is interim director of CTSI

Translational science, also known as bench-to-bedside research, aims to translate biomedical discoveries into useful applications and treatments, such as a drug, device, diagnostic or behavioral intervention, that impact health and health outcomes.

At UC San Francisco, my colleagues and I at the UCSF Clinical and Translational Science Institute (CTSI) are collaborating and innovating in ways that are transforming health care as we know it.

We're also looking ahead at the trends and influences that are reshaping – and more importantly, accelerating – translational science, all with a focus on improving health. We partnered with Carry The One Radio to produce podcasts on each of the trends. Learn more about them below, or listen to the full playlist here.

1.  Academic-Industry Partnerships

What does it look like when academic medical institutions reimagine industry-academic partnerships?

June Lee, MD, FACCP, director of CTSI Early Translational Research, and her colleague, Danielle Schlosser, PhD, an assistant professor in the UCSF School of Medicine, explain how the UCSF-CTSI Catalyst Awards program is expanding the role that industry experts play in accelerating research. In particular, that involves customized consultations to help researchers navigate the lengthy and complex process of translating big ideas and exciting discoveries into therapeutics, diagnostics, devices and digital health solutions that improve health.

2.  Team Science

Multidisciplinary collaboration, or team science, may seem like an obvious way to conduct research.

Dan Lowenstein, MD, professor of Neurology in the UCSF School of Medicine, explains that the concept of team science is actually revolutionary.

As a leader in the Epilepsy Phenome/Genome Project – a collaboration that includes 27 clinical centers and more than 100 scientists and clinicians worldwide – Lowenstein and his team are part of that revolution by rethinking how research happens, and creating models that encourage and support change.

3.  Internet-Enabled Clinical Research

Mark Pletcher, MD, associate professor of Epidemiology and Biostatistics, shares how he and his colleagues are using the Internet as a tool for gathering data to predict and prevent heart disease as part of the innovative Health eHeart Study,

While the internet has long been used to conduct small-scale studies and recruit study participants, researchers worldwide are now recognizing, and leveraging, the unique opportunities offered by Internet-based clinical research. These include reduced costs, improved accessibility, eliminating inefficiencies such as the need for office visits, and access to a previously unimaginable number of potential study participants.

4.  Online Learning Meets the Old-Fashioned Classroom

What’s generally now passing for online education – MOOCs, or massive open online courses – is a model that’s proven to be scalable and effective for some, but it also has its drawbacks for more intensive distance learning.

Vanessa Jacoby, MD, MAS, assistant professor of Obstetrics, Gynecology and Reproductive Sciences, and online experts at UCSF are seeing the benefits of a hybrid model that brings the intimacy of the classroom to all corners of the world.

It’s proving that asynchronous online learning can be effective for graduate education, particularly if it includes opportunities for mentoring and collaboration with experts, as well as team learning that happens through interaction with peers.

5.  Big Data for Health

With a focus on leveraging big data, health and technology experts are revolutionizing health care in all kinds of ways.

However, one of the challenges involves creating a uniform system to collect and organize data so that it can be accessible and useful to everyone involved in improving health, including scientists.

Mini Kahlon, PhD, former executive director of UCSF’s CTSI, highlights how a collaboration that includes the five University of California health systems is thinking big and has created the UC Research Exchange (UC ReX), a clinical data-sharing program that securely aggregates patient data with the goal of improving and accelerating the clinical research process.

6.  Streamlining Regulatory Approval

For every study involving humans, research institutions have an Institutional Review Board (IRB) or ethical committee charged with approval, monitoring and review. But because institutions often differ significantly in their IRB processes and procedures, it can be difficult and time consuming to engage in large-scale institutional research.

Rachael Sak, RN, MPH, executive director of the University of California Biomedical Research Acceleration, Integration and Development (UC BRAID), explains how, amidst a rapidly changing landscape of how research is administered, collaborative efforts such as UC BRAID are streamlining and aligning the regulatory approval process across institutions, and already transforming the conduct of research.

This post is presented by the Clinical and Translational Science Institute (CTSI) at the University of California, San Francisco. CTSI is funded by the National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences at the National Institutes of Health.