, Volume 29, Issue 3 Supplement, pp 804-807
Date: 17 Jul 2014

Important Role of Translational Science in Rare Disease Innovation, Discovery, and Drug Development


Rare diseases play a leading role in innovation and the advancement of medical and pharmaceutical science. Most rare diseases are genetic disorders or atypical manifestations of infectious, immunologic, or oncologic diseases; they all provide opportunities to study extremes of human pathology and provide insight into both normal and aberrant physiology. Recently, drug development has become increasingly focused on classifying diseases largely on genetic grounds; this has allowed the identification of molecularly defined targets and the development of targeted therapies. Clinical trials are now focusing on progressively smaller subgroups within both common and rare disease populations, often based on genetic tests or biomarkers. Drug developers, researchers, and regulatory agencies face a variety of challenges throughout the life cycle of drug research and development for rare diseases. These include the small numbers of patients available for study, lack of knowledge of the disease’s natural history, incomplete understanding of the basic mechanisms causing the disorder, and variability in disease severity, expression, and course. Traditional approaches to rare disease clinical research have not kept pace with advances in basic science, and increased attention to translational science is needed to address these challenges, especially diagnostic testing, registries, and novel trial designs.