Master of Translational Medicine: All-in-one training in science, business and technology

UCSF-UC Berkeley joint MTM program guides students interested in developing medical technologies

By Alexandra Folias, PhD

For those interested in the life science industry, specific training in one expertise can be impractical, and possibly career limiting, for the multi-disciplinary aspects that make up product development. That reality is echoed in biotech job descriptions that are increasingly demanding a diverse background in healthcare, bioengineering and business in addition to an advanced degree from an innovative program.

How can a researcher find the right, all-encompassing training to prepare for a potential career beyond research?

One program that offers such preparation is the Master’s of Translational Medicine (MTM) run jointly by UC San Francisco and UC Berkeley. This intensive 11-month program is focused on training students in the multiple disciplines needed for effective translational medicine: turning research discoveries into products or services that address unmet clinical needs and improve overall health. Emphasizing the use of engineering and scientific principles to solve biological questions (bioengineering), the MTM program is designed to accelerate early translational medicine.

Before: Couple an advanced degree (MBA, PhD, PharmD or MD) with years of industry or clinical experience…this is a long road that may lead to excess training in some areas, and a lack of training in others. Before deciding on a career path, it is worth taking the time to define the specific areas of interest, and explore emerging options that offer more focused and concentrated training.

Do you already know that you want to be involved in the development of new medical technologies? Maybe you don’t have a specific unmet need in mind, but you have a strong entrepreneurial interest in how medical products are created.

Executive Director Kyle Kurpinski, PhD, describes how the MTM program “was created in response to the vision and generosity of Andy Grove (former CEO of Intel), who saw a need for faster, more efficient translation of new medical technologies. The development pathways for pharmaceuticals and medical devices are fraught with complications (regulatory pathways, financial issues, intellectual property concerns, etc., etc) that are generally not covered in graduate level scientific or medical curricula. With initial funding provided by a donation from the Grove Foundation, the goal was to create a formal training program in translational medicine so that graduates can bring new medical technologies to market more effectively with the hope of reducing the cost of healthcare and providing greater medical benefits to society.” 

So who is the ideal candidate? 

While this competitive MTM program is well suited for a variety of people at different career stages, the most successful candidates have a clear interest in developing medical technologies. The MTM program can be ideal for someone who already has clinical experience and a sense of existing unmet medical needs, as well as for someone with an undergraduate bioengineering background and interest in business training in biotechnology. All students leave equipped with a professional degree in the fundamentals of disease processes, bioengineering, business and clinical design. The program culminates in a team-based capstone project provided by a client from academia, industry or a clinic. Projects cover various phases of the translational process and are designed to give students real-world experience as they address the already defined needs of an outside partnership under the supervision of a faculty mentor.

“The MTM program’s strengths lie in its multidisciplinary curriculum in clinical, health and engineering processes to teach students how to turn a research discovery into an applied clinical tool or treatment,” Clay Johnston, MD, PhD, former director of CTSI and leader in the development of the MTM program .

Alexandra Folias, PhD, is finishing her post-doctoral fellowship at the University of California, San Francisco.


Related links:

MTM Facebook page

CTSI is a member of the National Institutes of Health-funded Clinical and Translational Science Awards network focused on accelerating research to improve health. The Institute provides resources, training, and funding for researchers at every stage, and promotes collaboration and networking through UCSF Profiles, an online tool that features 4,200+ UCSF faculty and staff, includes 99,000+ publication listings, and is visited by 30,000+ users each month.