Who's in Charge of Translating Science into Cures? Understanding the Vital Importance of Translational Research

June 25, 2013

Washington, D.C.


Health, Science

Related Center



A FasterCures Hill Briefing
Margaret Anderson, Chris Austin, Francis Collins and Sharon Terry



Every day we see stories in the media about the latest medical "breakthroughs" that could lead to cures for dreaded diseases. And yet, over the years, many breakthroughs like these have yet to bear fruit for patients.

The fact is that many basic discoveries barely get to start the journey down the therapeutic development pipeline. Fascinating observations and creative insights often get lost in translation because they lack funding, incentives and technical expertise to advance any further. They get stuck in an ever-widening gap in funding and support for the kind of research that moves basic science down the path toward treatments. That translational gap has come to be called by many the "Valley of Death."

According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), 80 percent to 90 percent of research projects fail before they ever get tested in humans. By industry's reckoning, the number may be even higher: For every 5,000 compounds tested, just five make it to clinical trials, and only one is ever approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Half of all experimental drugs in Phase III trials never become approved medicines.

Translational research applies ideas, insights and discoveries generated through basic scientific inquiry to the treatment and prevention of disease. It is the critical bridge between basic research, the majority of which is led by the NIH, and clinical research, led by the biopharmaceutical industry.

This expert panel will highlight the importance of translational research in the therapeutic development process and examine effective translational efforts, including progress at the newly created National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences at the NIH, which focuses on addressing scientific and technical challenges to reduce, remove, or bypass bottlenecks in the development of new treatments and tests that will ultimately improve human health.


  • Opening Remarks: The Honorable Eric Cantor, Majority Leader
  • Chris Austin, M.D., Director, NIH's National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences
  • Francis Collins, M.D., Director, National Institutes of Health
  • Sharon Terry, President and CEO, Genetic Alliance, and Vice Chair of the Institute of Medicine's Committee to Review the Clinical and Translational Science Awards Program
  • Moderator Margaret Anderson, Executive Director, FasterCures