The translational science spectrum represents each stage of research along the path from the biological basis of health and disease to interventions that improve the health of individuals and the public. The spectrum is not linear or unidirectional; each stage builds upon and informs the others. At all stages of the spectrum, NCATS develops new approaches, demonstrates their usefulness and disseminates the findings. Patient involvement is a critical feature of all stages in translation.
Basic research involves scientific exploration that can reveal fundamental mechanisms of biology, disease or behavior. Every stage of the translational research spectrum builds upon and informs basic research. NCATS scientists typically do not conduct basic research; however, insights gained from the Center’s studies along the translational spectrum can inform basic research.
Preclinical research connects the basic science of disease with human medicine. During this stage, scientists develop model interventions to further understand the basis of a disease or disorder and find ways to treat it. Testing is carried out using cell or animal models of disease; samples of human or animal tissues; or computer-assisted simulations of drug, device or diagnostic interactions within living systems.
Clinical research includes studies to better understand a disease in humans and relate this knowledge to findings in cell or animal models; testing and refinement of new technologies in people; testing of interventions for safety and effectiveness in those with or without disease; behavioral and observational studies; and outcomes and health services research. The goal of many clinical trials is to obtain data to support regulatory approval for an intervention.
The clinical implementation stage of translation involves the adoption of interventions that have been demonstrated to be useful in a research environment into routine clinical care for the general population. This stage also includes implementation research to evaluate the results of clinical trials and to identify new clinical questions and gaps in care.
In this stage of translation, researchers study health outcomes at the population level to determine the effects of diseases and efforts to prevent, diagnose and treat them. Findings help guide scientists working to assess the effects of current interventions and to develop new ones.