Translational biomedical research is research that focuses on translating new insights or hypotheses (obtained from either clinical observations or fundamental or strategic basic research) into new or better prevention, diagnostic or therapeutic applications. This kind of research thus forms the bridge between the fundamental and strategic basic research on the one hand and application-driven biomedical clinical research on the other. In this regard, exchanging findings in two directions is crucial: transfer of knowledge from the research laboratory to the patient (from bench to bedside) and conversely relaying from the patient to clinical research (from bedside to bench). The patient is directly affected/central in this research, a fact which can be supplemented by relevant pre-clinical research. The translational research always has a corporate and/or economic purpose for the (possible) improvement of preventive or curative medical practise.
Flanders is in a very strong position to play a leading role here, provided the required investments are made. By setting up collaborations between the different actors and filling in the existing lacunae, among other things, the efficiency of the present development of medicines/medical devices can be substantially increased. The importance and potential of translational biomedical research already appeared from the Life Sciences White Paper (published by representatives of the life sciences industry in 2006) and the accompanying Round Table Life Sciences, and was again confirmed in VRWB's exploratory exercise 'Technology and Innovation in Flanders: priorities' of 2006.
Upon the request of Patricia Ceysens, the then Flemish minister for Science and Innovation, the Flemish Science Policy Council researched the possible scenarios for expanding translational research in Flanders in the current situation and European and international development in the short and medium-to-long term.
In view of the specificity of the topic and the questions which needed to be answered, the VRWB decided to set up an ad-hoc workgroup of experts for this purpose, in which it was monitored that all relevant expertise, actors and aspects are present.
In advisory report 120, the VRWB presents a global multiple-year plan for translational research in Flanders which strengthens all affected actors via an integrated approach and also ensures consultation and harmonisation of all expertise in a new centre for translational research.
The following four essential action points are presented concretely within the multiple-year plan:
- increase of the number of well-trained researchers and doctor-researchers with sufficient career options;
- financing of projects and programmes, whether or not in collaboration with industry;
- structural financing and organisation of a limited number of full-fledged Clinical Research Centres (including bio-banking and data management);
- concertation, harmonisation and integration of expertise by setting up a centre for translational research.
Number 21 from the VRWB study series includes advisory report 120 in part I; in part II, the results of the comparative analysis about the manner in which translational research is financed in eight reference countries are reflected.