Social Theory & Health

, Volume 14, Issue 3, pp 312–331 | Cite as

Translational biomedicine in action: Constructing biomarkers across laboratory and benchside

  • Stefano CrabuEmail author
Original Article


This article, based on ethnographic research conducted in a major Italian institution specialising in cancer care and research, provides insight into the clinical and basic research laboratory practices articulated around an experimental protocol designed to develop a biomarker. The article adopts an ‘ecological’ perspective matured in the field of science and technology studies of the translational process and suggests that biomedical activities are multi-directional, and cannot be understood in reductionist terms, that is, as a two-way linear transfer of bio-knowledge from the bench to bedside and back. I propose the notion of technomimicry, in its dual acceptation in the clinical and experimental sense, to understand the cognitive, social and material strategies involved in the circuit of migration of heterogeneous materials and information across scientific laboratories and clinics. Clinical and experimental technomimicry theoretically capture the multi-directional and multi-modal process of the re-location of materials and bio-knowledge from one site to another. These concepts also highlight how the epistemological boundaries of the clinic and laboratory are required to be mutually adjusted and continuously realigned in order to translate laboratory facts into clinical activities, and clinical evidence into researchable issues.


translational biomedicine personalised medicine oncology biomarkers clinical and experimental technomimicry ethnography 


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© Macmillan Publishers Ltd 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Philosophy, Sociology, Education and Applied Psychology (FISPPA), University of PaduaPadovaItaly

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