When I was a young and idealistic medical student I set my aims high. My long term plan was to become a medical scientist who could provide new treatments for incurable diseases. Retrospectively, I (and perhaps even my supervisor) was quite naive when starting an ambitious cell biology project aiming to understand the cause of type 1 diabetes by conducting experiments on human fetal pancreatic cells in the former living room of Prof. Hallman (Skidicum nowadays). Nevertheless, I managed to somehow end up with some results that made sense and started to understand a little about Translational Research. (Read more)
The term "translational research" is often used without really thinking what it ultimately means. All truly important new advancements in medicine only come from the detailed understanding of pathogenetic mechanisms behind the patient's problem. With the exponentially increasing amount of information at all levels of science, it has become increasingly difficult to maintain a "holistic" picture of medical research. This is probably one reason for the fact that the bulk of medical publications have become more and more specialized, focusing on only one aspect, be it genetics, epidemiology, clinical care etc. Consequently, the average importance (impact) of these pieces of work has decreased. Perhaps this is just my personal opinion and I am not even trying to justify it with any facts. However, I do think that all of us who spend our time with research should always aim at making truly important findings, and not just be happy with picking the obvious "lowest hanging fruit". We should try to actively develop our approaches into something that makes it possible to actually solve a problem, instead of just describing it in new terms. The best way to do it is often to join forces with top experts from other fields who can provide new insights and approaches to take you further. The result of such fruitful collaboration can be called "translational research" and in the best case its fruit can make a huge impact.
I hope that the Pediatric Research Center could be one way to help young ambitious researchers at the Children's Hospital to take that extra step in their projects. Personally, I am extremely happy to see signs of this development emerging.