Seeing a discovery translated into a new drug, vaccine, diagnostic test, or medical device that improves human health is something that gives a biomedical scientist tremendous professional and personal satisfaction. But with almost 70,000 biomedical scientists in this country, why is it rare to meet one who has had that experience?
Translating fundamental scientific knowledge into actual treatments for diseases is exceedingly challenging. Research often reveals the molecular and systemic changes that cause or contribute to a disease. Although that can lead to new ideas about how to prevent or treat that condition, only a tiny fraction of these ideas ever make it to being tested in humans. Of the few that do, the necessary clinical trials can take hundreds of millions of dollars and many years to complete, and in that process most will fail to show sufficient safety and effectiveness. It’s also next to impossible to predict which avenues of research will ultimately lead to medical breakthroughs.