WHAT IS TRANSLATIONAL BIOCHEMISTRY?
Scientific research is often classified into two categories: basic scientific research and clinical research. Since it is not safe or feasible to transition research conducted at a lab bench directly to the treatment of patients, translational biochemistry serves as a bridge. The overall goal at any stage is the same: to better prevent, detect, and treat disease. An increasingly growing concern is the limited application, or translation, of scientific discoveries into clinical human benefit, and a translational biochemist aims to overcome this concern. This research doesn’t simply advance scientific discoveries from bench to bedside; it also develops the backwards “bedside to bench” flow of ideas to help guide focus within the laboratory towards clinically relevant questions about human diseases.
WHAT DOES IT TAKE TO BE A TRANSLATIONAL BIOCHEMIST?
Translational biochemistry bridges the gap between basic and clinical science and, thus, requires expertise in both fields. For the most part, there is no hard and fast path for pursuing a career in translational biochemistry. A background in biology is helpful, but many backgrounds within the life sciences can also progress towards higher education in this field. It is often recommended that aspiring researchers gain a fundamental appreciation for basic science by first spending time in a research lab in order to have a meaningful career in translational research, though this is certainly not the only path to take. An ideal start to such a career would be to join an academic medical center, where you get exposure to both experiments performed in a laboratory and clinical patient samples. Such a rounded experience, supported by extensive knowledge in basic and clinical science, would be incredibly useful to career progression.
WHERE IS THE FIELD OF TRANSLATIONAL BIOCHEMISTRY HEADING?
Translational research has been a hot topic in recent times. Thanks to increasingly optimized methods in translational biochemical research, our understanding of diseases such as prostate cancer have significantly progressed. By using methods such as artificial organ development to study the initiation and spread of cancer, incredible opportunities for drug testing have come to the forefront of research en route to the clinic. Translational research will progress bidirectionally through increased collaboration, advancing scientific research into a clinical setting and using findings from clinical observations to further basic scientific investigation. There is high potential for this area of biochemistry to make a big impact in medical and cancer research, making it an exciting area of research looking ahead.