Scientists in the lab, athletes on the trail — how does one helmet make the journey from lab to trail? Translational science fills the gap between research and practice.

What is Translational Research?

Translational research (research that translates scientific advances from a new clinical approach to a publicly-available advance) is a pathway of stages that build upon one another. It begins when scientists develop a new approach to a particular health problem, demonstrate that approach’s usefulness in a lab, and then concludes when healthcare providers or the marketplace disseminate those findings to the public. Read the Translational Science Spectrum article on the National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences website.

Here’s a quick dive into the stages of research and how WaveCel made the journey through each:

Basic Research

Basic research involves scientific exploration that can reveal fundamental mechanisms of biology, disease or behavior. Every stage of the translational research spectrum builds upon and informs basic research. While new basic research may not have been necessary for the development of WaveCel technology, the extensive research that was completed to develop WaveCel built on well-established basic research from biology, physics, and chemistry.

Learn more about the basics of how WaveCel works with this Trek and Bontrager’s new helmet technology WaveCel – How it works video from BTT Lobo on YouTube.

Preclinical & Clinical Research

Preclinical research refers to modeling and testing that uses cell or animal models as well as computer-assisted simulations and models. To develop WaveCel, we used multiple physical and digital modeling processes. The most fun to watch is definitely our egg model. Check out the Wavecel ‘Egg Effect’ video on YouTube.

The goal of much clinical research is to obtain data to support regulatory approval for new interventions, practices, or products. While there is no main regulatory body for cycling helmets in the US, the Consumer Product Safety Commission is a congress-backed standard that has covered all helmets produced in the US since 1999, and today, it’s the most-used standard in the world.

The CPSC standard uses a lab test drop of 2.0 meters on a flat anvil and 1.2 meters on a hemispheric and a curbstone anvil. Hot, cold, and wet helmets must pass, with the headform sensor registering less than 300g.”

–Bicycle Helmet Safety Institute,

WaveCel helmets currently at market easily pass this standard, and further, they have achieved five-star “Best Available” ratings from Virginia Tech’s Helmet Ratings lab.

Virginia Tech’s bicycle helmet impact tests evaluate a helmet’s ability to reduce linear acceleration and rotational velocity of the head resulting from a range of impacts a cyclist might experience. Helmets with more stars provide a reduction in concussion risk for these impacts compared to helmets with less stars.


The implementation stage of translation involves adopting new technologies or practices that have been demonstrated to be useful in a research environment into routine availability for the public. Several pathways exist for different types of innovation to reach the public, including clinical practice for medical devices or interventions, as well as marketplace availability for technologies like WaveCel that can be made directly available to consumers.

Public Health/Outcomes

At the public health stage or research, researchers study outcomes at the population level to determine the effects of diseases and injuries, as well as efforts to treat or prevent them. Findings at this level help assess current “at market” technologies and products, and help refine technologies and develop new products.

View some of WaveCel researcher’s most recent publications on our White Papers page.

Who Funds & Manages the Process?

University-based researchers often partner with industry organizations like the NFL to fund and manage athlete-focused research.
For example, Duke University’s Clinical and Translational Science Institute partners with the NFL and Football Research, Inc to fund the translation of helmet safety concepts to actual products through annual challenges called HeadHealthTech.

Programs like this one are designed for institutions, individuals, and corporations interested in advancing athlete safety. The goal is to inspire developments in engineering, biomechanics, advanced sensors, and material science. Partnerships like this help research teams get from one research phase to the next, as well as connect with mentors and venture capitalists to fund final product development.

Some research that is likely to lead to a competitive product is funded by investors who get a return on their investment when the research is complete and the new technology goes to market.

WaveCel technology was originally developed by researchers Michael Bottlang, PhD, the director of the Biomechanics Laboratory at Legacy Research Center, and Steven Madey, MD, an orthopaedic surgeon based at Legacy Health, and the team went to market by first partnering with Bontrager/Trek to develop helmets using WaveCel linings specifically for Bontrager’s customers: cyclists.

Later, snowboarding helmets were developed through a partnership with anon., and today, WaveCel LLC is able to self-fund further helmets for new markets to be announced very soon.

How You Can Get Involved: The Importance of Participating as a Volunteer in Research Studies

While WaveCel technology is already at market, medical and safety advances are always underway from researchers around the world, and they can’t move forward to improve safety and care without the help of volunteers.

Clinical trials have received a lot more attention than normal over the past couple of years, and this has a great benefit: many researchers need the participation of volunteers to help them ensure the safety of scientific advances to improve healthcare and lives.

Some research projects need volunteers to try cutting-edge treatments to otherwise difficult diseases, and sometimes they need healthy volunteers to simply observe or record daily life. Volunteering in a clinical study is a personal choice, and it’s not right for everyone.

If you’re interested in finding a clinical trial that relates to your life, search the Clinical Trials website or the Research Match website.

And as always, read more about WaveCel testing and research by downloading the Evaluation of a Novel Bicycle Helmet Concept in Oblique Impact Testing (PDF).