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Clinical and Translational Science

Lab operated by the Scripps Translational Science Institute in La Jolla, Calif. Photo Credit: Scripps HealthThe process of developing a new intervention or treatment currently takes about 14 years and $2 billion, with a failure rate exceeding 95 percent. Even when a new drug or other intervention is developed and shown to be effective in clinical trials, many years may go by before all patients who could benefit from it are identified and treated.

NCATS is directly addressing this problem through new technologies and other clinical and translational approaches that may greatly accelerate the process of transforming laboratory discoveries into new treatments for patients.

Translation is the process of turning observations in the laboratory, clinic and community into interventions that improve the health of individuals and the public — from diagnostics and therapeutics to medical procedures and behavioral changes.

Translational science is the field of investigation focused on understanding the scientific and operational principles underlying each step of the translational process.

Addressing Research Challenges

Researchers nationwide face common barriers in clinical and translational research that can delay the development of new interventions for patients in need. These challenges include:

  • Difficulties in recruiting, mentoring and retaining a critical mass of qualified clinical and translational investigators
  • Increased research costs and complexity
  • Low patient recruitment and retention in clinical research studies
  • Inflexible study designs
  • Increased regulatory burdens

Transforming Translation

Researchers performing experiment involving smoke.The NCATS Division of Clinical Innovation (DCI) is charged with planning, conducting and supporting research across the clinical phases of the translational science spectrum. DCI staff administer the Clinical and Translational Science Awards (CTSA) program, which supports a national consortium of medical research institutions collaborating to transform how clinical and translational science is conducted nationwide.

For successful clinical trials and related studies, researchers need access to tools, expertise and resources that can expedite an often lengthy process while providing for patient safety. Through its CTSA and other programs, NCATS offers tools that can help researchers design clinical trials, recruit appropriate patients for their studies and engage communities in the research process.

CTSA Program: Spanning the Spectrum

Using new technologies and information systems, training laboratory and clinical investigators improve communications between lab discovery, patient-centered research, and therapeutics delivered to the community.

CTSA-funded sites aim to accelerate scientific discovery along the entire biomedical research spectrum, from basic science to patient studies to clinical practice, using an integrated approach. Information sharing at each stage of the process ensures that researchers are meeting community health needs and that progress in the clinic, in turn, informs work in the laboratory.