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Understanding the Spectrum of Translational Research

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Clinical & Translational Research Through the Diabetes Lens

Clinical and translational research is characterized by a spectrum of activities where critical insights are passed between research modalities so that biomedical discoveries can lead to tangible improvements in human health. Prior to human investigation, preclinical and animal studies are conducted. This is sometimes referred to as the T0 domain of research. Pathfinder defines the C/T research spectrum as T1 through T4 research, and outlines a wide range of applicable Harvard Catalyst resources and educational opportunities at each stage of the spectrum, as well as examples of researchers who work in these domains.

We encourage you to explore the numerous ways in which insights and ideas can travel back and forth across the translational spectrum (e.g., how a T4 finding can fuel T3-based research in guideline development, or even new laboratory benchwork).

Pathfinder is based on material contained in the following three journal references.


Sung NS, Crowley WF Jr, Genel M, Salber P, Sandy L, Sherwood LM, et al. Central challenges facing the national clinical research enterprise. JAMA. 2003 Mar 12;289(10):1278-87. PubMed ID: 12633190
Westfall JM, Mold J, Fagnan L. Practice-based research - "Blue Highways" on the NIH roadmap. JAMA. 2007 Jan 24;297(4):403-6. PubMed ID: 17244837
Szilagyi PG. Translational research and pediatrics. Acad Pediatr. 2009 Mar-Apr;9(2):71-80. PubMed ID: 19329097

Clinical and Translational Research Spectrum

Basic Scientific Discovery
Clinical Insights
Implications for Practice
Implications for Population Health
Improved Global Health
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  • Community-Based Participatory Research (CBPR)
  • Cost Effectiveness/Comparative Effectiveness
  • Health Disparities
  • Public Policy
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  • Observational Studies
  • Personalized Medicine
  • Guideline Development
  • Systematic Reviews/Meta-Analyses
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Examples include:

  • Human Physiology
  • First in Humans (FIH) (healthy volunteers)
  • Proof of Concept (POC)
  • Phase 1 Clinical Trials

Examples include:

  • Phase 2 Clinical Trials
  • Phase 3 Clinical Trials

Examples include:

  • Phase 4 Clinical Trials
  • Health Services Research
    • Dissemination
    • Communication
    • Implementation
  • Clinical Outcomes Research

Examples include:

  • Population-level Outcome Studies
  • Social Determinants of Health