At NCUB we are firm believers in the importance of good university/business collaboration, with numerous studies highlighting the value of ensuring the gap between research and practice is as small as possible.

A good example of this comes via a recent study published by three Oxford University based researchers looking into the effective transition of medical research into clinical practice.

The paper, published in the journal Science Translational Medicine, calls for a new approach to the training of clinicians so that a new breed of so called clinician-scientists are produced.  These are doctors that are suitably skilled in both research and practice.

It goes on to say that the existing approach to medical training is superb for developing clinical skills, but doesn’t do so well in matching this up with skills in research.  Teaching timetables tend to see the two areas as firmly discrete, with this disconnect further entrenched by the trend for moving research into specialist centres and away from hospitals.

“Many medical school labs that previously focused on clinical teaching and clinical investigations have moved out of hospitals to purpose-built institutes and research centres that focus on basic sciences,” the researchers say.

This was reflected in the changing nature of Nobel Prize winners in Medicine.  In the first 60 years of the award, people were primarily rewarded for discoveries related to human disease.  Since then however the awards have typically gone to researchers making discoveries in basic molecular biology and genetics.

“The downside of this shift is that most basic science discoveries have yet to be translated into therapies and improved patient care, while the burden of chronic disease associated with the 21st century’s aging population is escalating,” the authors say.

The importance of translation

To tackle this shift, the authors believe a greater focus needs to be placed on translational research, which would involve taking basic science and turning into effective treatments for health problems.  Clinician-scientists are ideally suited to this task as they can effectively translate medical research into tones suitable to ensure it reaches medical practice.

Suffice to say, achieving this is far from straightforward as they may require longer degree courses that subsequently incur higher costs for students.  The authors suggest that a change in medical training may help by giving students the option of training as clinician-scientists and thus given more flexibility in how they tackle the medical curriculum to allow them to research in areas linked to their learning.

This could be supported by mentors and a renewed focus on teaching to overcome the perception that teachers are somehow little more than failed clinicians or scientists.

By bringing together training in the lab and on the ward, they say that this would encourage scientific innovation for patient benefit and ensure medical schools are turning out graduates better poised to overcome the medical challenges of this century.