medical research (or experimental medicine) encompasses a wide array of research, extending from “basic research” (also called bench science or bench research),– involving fundamental scientific principles that may apply to a preclinical understanding – to clinical research, which involves studies of people who may be subjects in clinical trials. Within this spectrum is applied research, or translational research, conducted to expand knowledge in the field of medicine.
Both clinical and preclinical research phases exist in the pharmaceutical industry’s drug development pipelines, where the clinical phase is denoted by the term clinical trial. However, only part of the clinical or preclinical research is oriented towards a specific pharmaceutical purpose. The need for fundamental and mechanism-based understanding, diagnostics, medical devices, and non-pharmaceutical therapies means that pharmaceutical research is only a small part of medical research.
The increased longevity of humans over the past century can be significantly attributed to advances resulting from medical research. Among the major benefits of medical research have been vaccines for measles and polio, insulin treatment for diabetes, classes of antibiotics for treating a host of maladies, medication for high blood pressure, improved treatments for AIDS, statins and other treatments for atherosclerosis, new surgical techniques such as microsurgery, and increasingly successful treatments for cancer. New, beneficial tests and treatments are expected as a result of the Human Genome Project. Many challenges remain, however, including the appearance of antibiotic resistance and the obesity epidemic.