, Volume 130, Issue 3, pp 333-345,
Open Access This content is freely available online to anyone, anywhere at any time.
Date: 25 Jun 2011

Realizing the promise of population biobanks: a new model for translation

Abstract

The promise of science lies in expectations of its benefits to societies and is matched by expectations of the realisation of the significant public investment in that science. In this paper, we undertake a methodological analysis of the science of biobanking and a sociological analysis of translational research in relation to biobanking. Part of global and local endeavours to translate raw biomedical evidence into practice, biobanks aim to provide a platform for generating new scientific knowledge to inform development of new policies, systems and interventions to enhance the public’s health. Effectively translating scientific knowledge into routine practice, however, involves more than good science. Although biobanks undoubtedly provide a fundamental resource for both clinical and public health practice, their potentiating ontology—that their outputs are perpetually a promise of scientific knowledge generation—renders translation rather less straightforward than drug discovery and treatment implementation. Biobanking science, therefore, provides a perfect counterpoint against which to test the bounds of translational research. We argue that translational research is a contextual and cumulative process: one that is necessarily dynamic and interactive and involves multiple actors. We propose a new multidimensional model of translational research which enables us to imagine a new paradigm: one that takes us from bench to bedside to backyard and beyond, that is, attentive to the social and political context of translational science, and is cognisant of all the players in that process be they researchers, health professionals, policy makers, industry representatives, members of the public or research participants, amongst others.