Also inherent in the NEI mission is the application of the knowledge gained through research to benefit those who suffer from diseases of the eye or disorders of vision. This translational research is a critical component of NEI research programs. It is defined as the application of fundamental scientific discoveries and novel technologies to the development and testing of solutions for clinically relevant problems and thus may be relevant to the prevention, treatment, or diagnosis of eye diseases.
There are several aspects to translational research: (1) It may involve the development of techniques to diagnose or better characterize disease and therefore may not be hypothesis-driven; (2) it should be based on recognized biological principles but may not lead to new biological insights; (3) it can involve knowledge transfer among scientific fields; (4) it may bring together already-established technologies, biological models, and/or conceptual approaches to solve a specific disease-related problem; and (5) it may ultimately result in clinical trials following nonhuman animal experimentation and initial human testing.
Because translational research focuses on preventing disease and developing treatments and diagnoses for diseases, the scientific principles on which it is based may vary in depth. Thus, while it is desirable to have a complete understanding of the basic biological mechanisms underlying a specific disease process, this may not always be possible or necessary to develop or achieve a successful treatment for a disease. The collaboration between basic scientists and clinicians is an essential aspect of translational research, and the NEI will continue to promote and support this collaboration to encourage high-quality, innovative translational research. Also, the diverse, nontraditional, and multifactorial nature of translational research should be recognized, as well as the fact that it can differ significantly from the traditional, hypothesis-driven research typically funded by the National Institutes of Health.