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Centre for the History of Science, Technology and Medicine

Translational medicine

Translational medicine (TM) is a fairly recent concept: few clinicians and researchers used the term before the new millennium. A 2008 editorial in the British Medical Journal characterised it as: "all the steps that are involved in getting a new remedy from the laboratory bench to the bedside as efficiently as possible, from basic research, through evaluation, to the clinical application and the development of practice guidelines". TM is now centre-stage in medical research policy.  However, new goals and policies are being formulated without the benefit of rigorous historical studies of how 'bench and bedside' relations have operated in recent decades.

As part of a five-year Wellcome Trust Programme Grant commenced in January 2011, CHSTM is producing the first in-depth historical study of bench-clinic relations in British medical research in the second half of the twentieth century, whilst developing new methods for studying recent and contemporary history and making history available to inform policy making and implementation.

Michael Worboys (PI) is working on translational practices within inflammation research whilst Carsten Timmermann (co-PI) is examining translational medicine and cancer research. The main research programme is focussed on diseases of the brain and is structured around three research strands: neuropsychopharmacology and mental health (lead - Rob Kirk), dementia (lead - Duncan Wilson) and stroke (lead - Stephanie Snow). Additionally, Andrew Black is pursuing a doctoral project examining translational policy and practice within the UK Medical Research Council. Our shared hypothesis is that interactions between laboratory and clinic were, and still are, multiple and complex, and that the emphasis on linear, unidirectional models of bench to bedside are unhelpful.

An important part of the work is to develop outreach activities and training aimed at biomedical researchers, medical practitioners, health service managers, and policy makers, with the aim of communicating the lessons of past experience in what is now termed Translational Medicine. There will also be a range of engagement events and resources for a number of publics, especially schools and patient groups, and to encourage wide appreciation and informed appraisal of the dynamics of recent and contemporary medicine and biomedical research.

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