What is Translational Research?
Translational research is an emerging and innovative field focused on finding solutions to unmet medical needs based on observations in the laboratory, clinic and community. The term itself is derived from the Latin trans and latus meaning ‘to carry across’. Translational research is often used interchangeably with “bench-to-bedside” referring to the process that begins with the first-time observation of an unmet need through creating a safe and effective solution that can improve health outcomes and save lives of patients.
What is Bench-to-Bedside Research?
“Bench to bedside” translational research is an illustrative term for translational research symbolizing the journey of innovation. The “bench” refers to the engineering, research, and design of the product or solution, whereas the “bedside” refers to the hospital, clinic or intervention site where care is provided, lives are saved, or health is improved.
Examples of Translational Research
Translational Research builds upon basic scientific research to advance the project to the next step in the translation process. While basic research in the biomedical field seeks to ‘understand’, translational research seeks to ‘fix’. Please see the translational research examples below:
Breast Cancer Detection / Piezoelectric Fingers / Biosensors Platform
A new device may enable breast cancer screening and cancer detection in populations where mammography is not widely available or successful, including women in developing countries, and those under the age of 40. Dr. Wan Shih with Dr. Wei-Heng Shih and their team at Drexel University have developed a non-invasive, radiation-free, portable device used for breast cancer detection based on measurements of tissue elasticity. The goal of the project is to develop a portable, radiation-free, breast scanning system that not only is capable of locating small tumors but also able to predict tumor malignancy.
Chronic Wound Healing / Biomedical Ultrasonics: Sensors Platform
Drexel researchers have developed a light-weight, wearable low-power, low-frequency ultrasound applicator that can be used for the treatment of chronic wounds. This device has been tested in a limited clinical study, in which chronic venous ulcer wounds were treated at Dr. Weingarten’s Wound Management Center, Drexel University College of Medicine. “There is no other existing treatment you can compare it with,” said Peter Lewin, PhD, the project’s principal investigator and the Richard B. Beard Distinguished University Professor in the School of Biomedical Engineering, Science and Health Systems. “If we can prove this is effective for a large group of patients, then we have the potential to solve a very costly and debilitating health problem.”
Traumatic Brain Injury / Near Infrared Based Optical Imaging Platform
A Drexel team and InfraScanner, a local medical firm, have committed to a contract with the U.S. Navy and Marine Corps to work on a device that will evaluate brain injuries. The device uses near-infrared light to detect brain bleeds. Using a physics equation, Infrascanner can tell the volume of the blood in the brain. Although some of the light is absorbed in the brain tissue, the rest returns to the device with information. Drexel biomedical engineers participated in the design and testing of the original Infrascanner and will utilize their expertise in the optical brain imaging technology they've been developing.
Undergraduate Opportunities: Translational Design Clinical Immersion Co-op
The Translational Design Clinical Immersion Co-op is part of an innovative new Junior Design / Senior Design program in the School of Biomedical Engineering, Science and Health Systems. This program is funded by the National Institutes of Health and gives junior-year students the opportunity to spend their co-op cycle working alongside clinicians and biomedical engineers to identify unmet clinical needs and translate novel technologies from bench to bedside.
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Graduate Opportunities: Coulter Fellowship Program
The Coulter Fellowship Program is an innovative opportunity to work with research teams, as well as to seamlessly learn about the industry landscape for upcoming biomedical technologies. Qualified students get hands on experience with the commercialization process in translating a technology from university laboratories to the real world.
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Why is Translational Research Important?
Translational research is centered on the practical clinical application of research results. Typical projects focus on applying developed technologies to solve an unmet or underserved clinical need, or to change a medical practice. Without translational medical research, it takes innovations a long time to arrive if at all to address unmet clinical needs causing disparities in healthcare. Addressing these clinically unmet needs makes a positive difference to individual patients at the point of care and improves overall population health. Translational medical research can also reach those with low healthcare access, leading to higher quality healthcare for all.
Drexel Biomed's Impact in Translational Research
A National Best Practice
Mihir Shah '00 founded UE Lifesciences to create the iBreastExam, which was developed through the Coulter-Drexel Translational Research Partnership.
Drexel University School of Biomedical Engineering is recognized as a national best practice in translational research, evidenced by the award of Wallace H. Coulter Translational Research Partnership Program. The Drexel-Coulter Translational Research Partnership Program promotes, develops, and supports innovations to improve patient care. The program provides mentoring, project management, and funding to promising translational projects with the goal of moving innovative technologies to clinical application through commercialization. The ultimate goal of this partnership is to develop health care solutions that address unmet or underserved clinical needs and lead to improvements in patient health care.
The Coulter-Drexel Translational Research Partnership Program recently passed the necessary requirements to continue through 2021, which will create additional opportunities for Drexel faculty and students to work on groundbreaking clinical technologies and to develop companies that improve human health.
Global Innovation Partnerships Accelerating Binational Commercialization (GIP~ABC)
Global Innovation Partnership (GIP) is an endowed initiative of Drexel University. Hosted by the School of Biomedical Engineering, Science and Health Systems, GIP is focused on academic programs that enable partners from research, entrepreneurship, business and investment communities to accelerate life saving solutions to healthcare worldwide. GIP~ABC is a new member of the Philadelphia innovation family that advances biomedical innovations globally by leveraging, integrating and managing existing and complementary translation and commercialization resources within and across US and China contributing extensive industry and market know-how and experience in Asia-Pacific and US.
Awards and Honors
Drexel Advances Among Top 100 Worldwide Universities Granted US Utility Patents
The report, which uses data obtained from the United States Patent and Trademark Office to demonstrate how patents reflect university research and innovation, ranked Drexel at 54. The issued patents covered the range of research areas that Drexel investigators explore every day. They include a patent covering the non-invasive tumor detector developed by Wan Shih, PhD, a professor in the School of Biomedical Engineering, Science and Health Systems, and Wei-heng Shih, PhD, a professor in the College of Engineering, that was brought to market by UE Lifesciences.
Milken Institute Ranks Drexel University in Top 50 for Tech Transfer
In a report recently released by the Milken Institute, an independent economic think tank, Drexel University was ranked 46th out of 225 universities across the country based on its “technology transfer,” or ability to translate its academic innovators’ research into actual technologies, products and research-driven startups. Drexel ranked above area institutions like Penn State (81), Temple University (99) and Thomas Jefferson University (129).