Dana-Farber elaborates on the differences between Basic, Clinical and Translational Research: What’s the Difference?

“Research” is an exceedingly broad term. However, when considering medical research, there are important distinctions among the three principal types  — basic research, clinical research and translational research.

Basic research is evaluating to how nature works, translational research takes knowledge acquired from basic research and applies that in the development of solutions to medical problems. Clinical research takes those solutions and applies them in clinical trials and studies them. When combined, each form of research creates a continuous research cycle.

Science based “basic” research describes something that’s an essential starting point. Associate Professor of Medicine, Medical Oncology, at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, David Frank, MD, explains “If you think of it in terms of construction, you can’t put up a beautiful, elegant house without first putting in a foundation. In science, if you don’t first understand the basic research, then you can’t move on to advanced applications.”

Basic medical research is usually performed by scientists with a PhD in fields like biology and chemistry, to name a few. They will typically seek to answer fundamental questions about the structures of DNA, cells, proteins, molecules, etc. learning how they work.

“Basic research is fundamentally curiosity-driven research. Think of that moment when an apple fell on Isaac Newton’s head. He thought to himself, ‘Why did that happen?’ and then went on to try to find the answer. That’s basic research,” notes Program Director, Chemical Biology at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, Milka Kostic. To learn more about research, visit the Dana-Farber website.