"Translational medicine" --

The IPKat is always a little suspicious of terminology with which he is unfamiliar, particularly if he hasn't coined it himself, but he's always pleased to share his concerns, and his thoughts, with his readers. That's why he thought he'd post this item on "translational medicine", a term of which, until he stumbled across it on the Coller IP Management IP Matters newsletter, he was alas quite ignorant.

Right: from bench to bedside -- transformational medicine treats the child and his teddy ...

The context is explained in this article, "Translating Medical Research into Practice", which reads (in relevant part):
"The term “translational medicine” has come to be widely used in recent years [Not sure. The term attracted only 276,000 Google hits, as against for 1,080,000 for "lemon meringue"] – but what does it mean and why do intellectual property (IP) issues arise?
A simple description is that it is “taking laboratory-based research to the patient’s bedside” [This is a very wide concept, though]. The Wikipedia definition provides a more progressive angle relating to modern medicine:
“Translational Medicine is an emerging view of medical practice and interventional epidemiology, as a natural 21st century progression from Evidence-Based Medicine. [This is encouraging. "Progression from ..." means that it's still in touch with evidence-based medicine] It integrates research inputs from the basic sciences, social sciences [!] and political sciences [!!] to optimise patient care and preventive measures, which may extend beyond the current provision of healthcare services.”
For example, there is increasing realization that reliance on clinical treatments alone will be insufficient to control rising incidence of conditions such as obesity, diabetes and other diseases associated with lifestyle factors [Ah, now the Kat gets it: treat the behaviour that leads to the condition as well as the condition itself]. There is also an increasing need to understand communities where health statistics reveal a common health issue so that the underlying causes can be investigated [Is it the need that has increased, or the realisation that the need exists?]. An example of this is the high propensity to heart disease in Scotland. This approach involves integrating a study of community health with laboratory-based research, understanding how disease proliferates in the community, and clinical data on the effectiveness of treatments, to inform the development of healthcare strategies [A shame about those deep-fried Mars bars ...]. It focuses on preventative, as well as therapeutic, measures and extends to a study of genomics and genetic propensities. It is about developing an understanding across the spectrum from the molecular level to lifestyle and environmental factors [Fine, but isn't this pretty well everything that medicine should be doing in the first place, and has been doing for years without the need for a cute label?].

... Translational medicine poses interesting challenges for the commercial management of IP [i.e. If it's got a cute label, it's easier to package as an investment proposition], as it involves the combined expertise of so many different parties; various university departments, teaching hospitals, NHS Innovations, healthcare and medical companies are all working to innovate in this space. The question of who owns IP becomes a key issue. At one time, a clinical consultant might simply have created a new treatment or procedure and put it into practice. Now, clinicians who are also academics work for a university and for the NHS, and may also be research-funded by a healthcare company; all of these are proactively seeking to own and commercialize arising IP [Indeed, and many are distracted by the IP issues from getting down to what they do best in their respective fields. Preventive treatment by early professional advice and a decent dose of contract drafting can work wonders here, as Coller later observes]. ...

The UK has an internationally competitive clinical academic research base, renowned high quality teaching hospitals, and state of the art clinical research facilities. It also has advanced patient databases [They're a bit leaky though, if chronic breaches of the data protection regulations are an accurate reflection of the current position]. Scotland and Ulster are particularly interesting regions in which to run translational medicine projects. Both have large communities where the population has not changed as much as in other parts of the UK. Because there is less mobility, patterns of disease are more easily understood. ... ".
The IPKat proposes to keep an eye on translational medicine, to see how and when it features within the IP community. He supposes that interesting issues will arise where patents seek to claim an invention that is a means of treating an entire community rather than a specific patient or medical condition, wondering if they'll fall half way between the exceptions to patent protection in Europe that bar methods of medical treatment and business methods respectively. Merpel says, I bet Coller get really fed up with people reading their name as 'Collier' or spelling it as 'Collar'.
"Translational medicine" -- "Translational medicine" -- Reviewed by Jeremy on Tuesday, October 20, 2009 Rating: 5


  1. As a rough rule of thumb, I always tended to equate the relationship between translational and traditional medicine with the relationship between applied and 'pure' research.

  2. The "study of community health with laboratory based research, understanding how disease proliferates in the community" - sounds a lot like epidemiology, hardly a new discipline.


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