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Translating the Life Sciences: Why Specialization is Crucial

by Jim Dulin

Contemporary science is progressing at an unprecedented rate, aided by continuous global collaboration. This movement has driven an increased demand for translators in the field. However, translators working with the scientific industry require much more than just an understanding of the language. As science and technology advance, there is an ever-increasing necessity for translators specializing in the life sciences.

Precision and Speed: Medical and Research Interpreters

A medical interpreter is often the best option for situations like clinical trials, scientific conferences, and hospital environments, where life sciences professionals work very closely with other people. Interpreters must be very comfortable with the subject matter in order to quickly provide precise translations. In these cases, is essential to have an interpreter who is proficient in both the language and the related scientific jargon in order to communicate effectively between professionals and civilians alike.

Familiarity with Regulatory Standards

One of the most challenging aspects of life sciences translation is that different languages also come with different regulatory standards. Across the globe, a few of the major organizations overseeing regulations for the life sciences are:

  • The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) – United States of America
  • The European Medicines Agency (EMA) – European Union
  • The China Food and Drug Administration (CFDA) – China
  • The Central Drugs Standard Control Organization (CDSCO) – India
  • The Pharmaceuticals and Medical Devices Agency (PMDA) – Japan
  • The Saudi Food and Drug Authority (SFDA) – Saudi Arabia

Each organization has a unique set of rules. For example, to regulate certain medical products, the FDA requires a Common Technical Document (CTD or eCTD), whereas the EMA calls for a Quality Review of Documents (QRD). With so many organizations to keep track of, it is extremely beneficial to have a life sciences translator who is well-versed in the appropriate guidelines.

Promoting Global Standards: MedDRA

In an effort to further standardize and unify global medicine, experts launched the Medical Dictionary for Regulatory Activities (MedDRA) in the late 1990s. This is a multilingual reference of medical and physiological terminology that allows life sciences professionals to fluently communicate across language barriers. MedDRA is a vital (and often required) tool for medical translators, and requires some training to use. Any translator working with the life sciences should be familiar with MedDRA or similar collaborative resources.

Translators in the life sciences are unlike any other; they possess an entire specialized skill set. Investing in an experienced life sciences translator is a good way to avoid miscommunication and regulation problems in the future.

Need a translation? Contact us for more information.

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