NIAID supports a robust basic science portfolio that pursues fundamental knowledge about the nature and behavior of infectious and immune-mediated diseases. This knowledge, if exploited, can be used to develop new and improved diagnostic, prevention, and treatment strategies that ultimately can improve health and save lives.
Translational studies are a bridge between the laboratory and the clinic. Through translational research, scientists apply the fundamental knowledge gained from basic research toward the development of new or improved clinical products that will reduce disease burden, suffering, and death. NIAID also oversees translational research focused on minimizing the effects of exposure to harmful radiological or chemical substances.
Translating laboratory advances into clinical tools and strategies is challenging. It begins with a scientific discovery in the lab, and is followed by the following steps:
Researchers and manufacturers must work with the FDA to ensure that all steps taken provide the information required to move to new stages of development and to prepare for product licensure. The steps may vary slightly depending on the product. Many products fail along the way. For this reason, NIAID maintains a robust translational research program that supports various products at different stages of development—a “pipeline” from the laboratory to final product.
It can take years for a promising laboratory discovery to be used in developing a new vaccine, diagnostic device, or drug. Often, scientists do not know how to navigate the steps involved in product development or lack the resources to move a discovery from the laboratory to the clinic. NIAID helps to shepherd promising discoveries made in laboratories in the United States and abroad through the many challenging and costly steps involved in developing products and obtaining regulatory approval (licensing) for use in clinical practice. NIAID works with academia, industry, government agencies, and non-government partners to provide assistance and bridge gaps to facilitate the development of new and improved drugs, vaccines, and diagnostic tests.
NIAID defines product development according to three categories:
As a product moves through each phase of the pipeline, it moves further from being an idea in the lab and closer to being a medical product that can be used to save lives.
In FY 2010, NIAID reviewed its translational research activities and projects. This review allowed NIAID to do the following:
In FY 2010, NIAID funded approximately 2,000 translational research projects: 83 percent applied research, 10 percent advanced research, and 7 percent clinical research. The majority of projects support products in the early developmental stages (applied); the projects are split equally between research conducted and initiated by NIAID (intramural and solicited) and investigator-initiated research (unsolicited). The majority of awards for products in the later stages of development (advanced and clinical) are conducted and initiated by NIAID. (Figure 2)
A survey of NIAID intramural and extramural staff revealed some common challenges or obstacles that hinder the Institute’s translational research efforts. Identifying these enables the Institute to
A few examples of the various ways staff and grantees/partners are working together to address translational research challenges are listed below:
NIAID’s translational research funding in FY 2010 and in prior years made it possible to do the following:
The contributions NIAID made through support of translational research programs, research resources, and clinical studies led to many accomplishments; however, much work remains to be done. In support of these efforts, NIAID will continue to identify opportunities to enhance current and new translational research programs to accelerate the speed at which basic scientific discoveries are converted into medical products that can be used in clinics in the United States and abroad.
back to top
Last Updated November 17, 2011
Last Reviewed August 09, 2011