Intended for healthcare professionals

Career Focus

Online learning in translational medicine

BMJ 2007; 335 doi: (Published 22 September 2007) Cite this as: BMJ 2007;335:s107
  1. Ava Blass, educational coordinator, MSc in translational medicine (ava.blass{at}
  1. University of Edinburgh College of Medicine and Veterinary Medicine


Ava Blass describes a new discipline and new way of learning about it

Translational medicine is a rapidly emerging discipline focused on bridging technologies and discoveries in the laboratory with clinical research and practice. The same principles apply in academic, biotechnology, and pharmaceutical environments. Numerous definitions of translational medicine exist, but the Medical Research Council sums up the concept succinctly as, “The process of the bidirectional transfer of knowledge between basic work (in the laboratory and elsewhere) with that of the person, in health or disease.”1

Is it really a big deal?

A large number of developments show the growing influence of translational medicine across academia and industry. A couple of these over the past year include a £50m investment by Wyeth and Scottish Enterprise in the Translational Medicine Research Collaboration across a consortium of research universities2 and the launch of six major MRC translational medicine centres.3

It's a relief to see that not only academia and industry but also government is tuning in to the potential for translation medicine to overhaul medical research. Gordon Brown's pre-budget report at the end of last year flagged the Cooksey review recommendation for publicly funded health research to “facilitate rapid translation of research findings into health and economic benefits.”4

New careers

Successful translational approaches to research need individuals with the capacity to envisage the whole process from “bench to bedside” as well as their own specialist areas. There is an opportunity for people from across academic, biotechnology, and pharmaceutical environments who can drive effective take-up of translational medicine to give organisations a competitive edge.

Innovative learning

The University of Edinburgh's new online programme in translational medicine is the first of its kind and highlights interdependence of medical, scientific, regulatory, and societal components, with experts from academia and industry in each of these areas contributing. The principles are applied in real life examples of research, explored through individual and group based learning.

After an induction weekend in Edinburgh, the programme is delivered via the internet using online learning opportunities. Participants are able to study at times and in the places that suit them best and fit learning around work and home commitments.

Cloning to clinic

At the end of the programme, participants will be able to picture the pathway of research from cloning to clinic. The programme will appeal to a broad range of clinicians, scientists, paramedical researchers, and regulators in academia, biopharmaceutical, policy, and health care. In the first instance we are offering a postgraduate certificate. In 2008 the certificate will be extended to diploma and MSc levels. We plan to deliver a programme that will for many provide an alternative to, or high quality preparation for, an MD or PhD. For others, I believe, it will provide substantial benefit to their employers and career prospects.

Key details and further information

  • Programme title: Certificate in Translational Medicine

  • Fee: £1785

  • Duration: 12 months part time

  • Delivery method: Online learning and one weekend in Edinburgh

  • Programme website:


  • Contact details: The Graduate School of Medicine and Veterinary Medicine, University of Edinburgh, The Chancellor's Building, Room SU223, 49 Little France Crescent, Edinburgh EH16 4SB. Tel +44 (0)131 242 6461, fax +44 (0)131 242 6462, email


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