The close relationship between basic and clinical research at the NIH reflects Louis Pasteur's observation that science is indivisible: "There is only science and the fruits of science." On the NIH campus, intramural clinical investigators interact with their basic science colleagues with the aim of developing improved intervention strategies for treating the knottiest disease problems. The NIH also holds Consensus Development Conferences of investigators and physicians from around the world at which panels of experts appraise new modes of therapy or evaluate existing therapies about which questions have been raised. The first, held in 1977, recommended mammography as a routine diagnostic tool for breast cancer in women over fifty. Since then more than 100 Consensus Development Conferences have rapidly channeled research findings on devices, drugs, and medical or surgical procedures to practicing physicians.
Biomedical research and development is a continuing process. New knowledge yields new drugs, devices, and procedures; the study of how the products act yields more knowledge; refinements in knowledge then enable the development of even better therapies. Whether an idea originates in a university laboratory or starts with basic product research carried out in the private sector, important findings percolate through the entire scientific community. Each new finding serves as a building block for establishing a deeper understanding of human health and disease. The 1986 Technology Transfer Act codified and fostered partnerships between NIH research and private-sector development of therapeutic products.