Translational Medicine 2020: What Does the Future Hold?
Translational medicine is intended to bridge the gap between scientific discoveries and treatments – and the signs suggest it has a strong future in store.
In the United States, President Barrack Obama announced a collaboration between the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency( DARPA) and the Food and Drug Administration to develop a chip to test the toxicity of drugs before they are trialled on humans.
The first translational medicine unit in Canada was recently conceived in a joint agreement between PharmaNet and the Research Institute of McGill University Health Center, while the National Cancer Institute launched a new research centre focusing on translational medicines for colon cancer
These projects also come with serious sums of money attached to them.
The project by the NIH and DARPA will see up to $140 million (£90.7 million) committed to the development of a chip which is capable of being loaded with specific cell types to reflect human biology, whichwill be able to provide various readouts showing if the drug is suitable for use on humans.
Drug toxicity is one of the most common barriers stopping promising compounds progressing further down the drug development pipeline.
According to the NIH, the research would be similar to that undertaken at the proposed NationalCenterfor Advancing Translational Sciences, which would be tasked with a solitary aim of developing the tools and methods to speed up the development of therapeutics.
NIH director Francis S Collins said: "We know the development pipeline has bottlenecks in it, and everyone would benefit from fixing them. What we need are entirely novel approaches to translational science, to take full advantage of the deluge of new biomedical discoveries that have been made in recent years."
This is a view seemingly shared by The Research Institute of McGill University Health Centre and PharmaNet. Expected to open in 2012, the pair's research centre will be the first translational medicine until for Phase I - IIa clinical studies in Canada.
Looking at specific therapeutic areas, oncology is expected to be a key research area for translational medicine in the future, as can be seen by the establishment of a Specialized Program of Research Excellence (SPORE) in Gastrointestinal (GI) Cancers at Case Western Reserve University School.
Some $11.3 million has been granted for a focus on translational research aimed at cutting deaths from colon cancer, currently the second leading cause of cancer deaths in the United States, and cancers of the oesophagus.
The SPORE research will look to develop new drugs for the treatment of colon cancer, create tests to identify those at risk of developing colon cancer, trial a new non-invasive tool test for detecting colon cancer and developing tests which can distinguish between cancers than can be treated by surgery and those which will require further therapy.
Pamela B. Davis, MD, PhD, Dean of the School of Medicine and Vice President for Medical Affairs, Case Western Reserve University, said: "We believe passionately in the importance of bench-to-bedside research – that is, to ensure discoveries made in laboratories effectively reach the patients who need them most."
Elsewhere, researchers are looking to combine the emerging field of genomics with translational medicine.
Complete Genomics Inc and Inova Health System formed a partnership earlier this year to sequence 1,500 genomes from 500 babies and their parentsaimed at creating prognostic, diagnostic and therapeutic targetsfor pre-term births. The scheme forms part of a pilot programme with the Inova Translational Medicine Institute.
Dr. Clifford Reid, chairman, president and chief executive officer of Complete Genomics, said: "We view this as an important opportunity for our sequencing service to potentially help create new treatment options for some of the smallest and sickest patients in the hospital."
With strong support from both public and private enterprises, the future for translational medicine looks promising.
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