BACKGROUND: Translational surgical research can range from investigating clinically oriented basic pathophysiological research via the correlation of molecular findings with a patient's clinical outcome to conducting treatment response studies. Herein, the specialist's opinion as a 'surgeon scientist' plays a pivotal role, e.g. in planning experimental setups focusing on the clinically most relevant needs. SUMMARY AND KEY MESSAGES: This review provides a survey of genomic and proteomic technologies and gives an up-to-date overview of those studies applying these technologies exemplarily in colorectal cancer-based biomarker research. Although current results are promising, future validation studies within multicenter networks are required to promote the translation of 'omics' from bench to bedside. In this endeavor, departments of surgery and institutes of experimental surgery together should play a fundamental role. The program for 'clinician scientists' recently launched by the German Research Society (DFG) could be one tool to promote interdisciplinary networks and surgeons' impact on translational research.