Volume 12 Issue 2 (2016)
Provocative Idea

Challenges of T3 and T4 Translational Research

Charles J. Vukotich, Jr.
University of Pittsburgh
Published November 7, 2016
  • translational research,
  • medical research,
  • public health,
  • research application,
  • research education


Translational research is a new and important way of thinking about research. It is a major priority of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) in the United States. NIH has created the Clinical and Translational Science Awards to promote this priority. NIH has defined T1 and T2 phases of translational research in the medical field, in order to bring the benefits of scientific results into communities. Current discussions focus on clarifying the subsequent phases of translational research necessary to achieve the intended social impact of research. This article suggests that T3 translational research could aim at getting research out of the highly controlled environment of the academic health center and into the real world. Likewise, it suggests T4 translational research could aim at policy development through policy analysis and evaluation, cost-benefit analysis, and surveillance studies. Translational research has challenges beyond definitions. Translational research is incomplete at any level unless appropriate steps are taken to communicate the results to relevant stakeholders. It appears that communication is currently suboptimal at all levels of translation. Translational research also faced challenges in research funding and training of researchers. Translational thinking should be a key part of research policy and research practice at all levels.