During the Burroughs Wellcome Fund's "Terrain Mapping," we consider the changing landscape of science and funding across the biomedical research enterprise and how our portfolio of grant programs contributes to it. Based on this review, the BWF Board has decided to discontinue the Clinical Scientist Awards in Translational Research (targeted at mid-career, established investigators) and, instead, focus its involvement in translational research on providing early-career support for physician scientists.
The Clinical Scientist Awards in Translational Research program is a classic example of the catalytic effect that foundations can have on a field. When the program started in 1998, translational research was a new idea. BWF entered the field ahead of others and helped to define it. Translational research--moving basic discoveries, which may have been inspired by clinical experience, into first-in-human studies--was harder to fund and harder to do than pure basic science.
BWF’s significant investment in the award program as well as its involvement in various policy activities helped to raise the profile of translational research. BWF, along with others, called for greater attention to the obstacles faced by translational researchers, and the need for more funding, better infrastructure, better career paths, and reformed policies and practices for research involving human subjects and development of new therapeutics from discoveries made in academic laboratories. Now, twelve years later, the environment for translational research has changed dramatically. Many of the resources we called for are being put into place, and unprecedented federal funding, in the form of NIH support for 60 Clinical and Translational Science Awards, means that translational research can no longer be considered an undervalued area.
BWF’s Career Awards in the Medical Sciences (CAMS) began in 2007 and provides postdoc-to-faculty bridging funding to MD-trained investigators. Nearly half of BWF’s CAMS awardees describe their work as ‘translational’, and thus, through this program, BWF will continue to have a vital stake in the future of translational research. BWF will also continue its involvement in the ongoing national conversation, so that we can speak to the issues that concern the investigators we have supported in the past as well as those we will be supporting in the future.