In this article, the authors review the unique role that patient-driven organizations, such as patient advocacy groups and voluntary health organizations (PAG/VHOs), play in translational and clinical research. The importance of fostering collaborations between these organizations and U.S. academic health centers (AHCs) is also discussed. Although both the PAG/VHO community and AHCs are heterogeneous, and although not all organizations are well governed or provide independent, well-researched views, there are many outstanding, well-managed, independent PAG/VHOs in the United States whose missions overlap with those of AHCs. The characteristics of effective PAG/VHOs that would serve as excellent partners for AHCs are discussed, and examples are provided regarding their many contributions, which have included advancing research on rare diseases, recruiting patients for clinical trials, and establishing patient registries and biospecimen banks. The authors present feedback obtained from informal discussions with PAG/VHO staff, as well as a survey of a small sample of organizations, that has identified bureaucratic processes, negotiating intellectual property rights, and institutional review board (IRB) delays as the most problematic areas of interactions with AHCs. Actions are suggested for building effective partnerships between the two sectors and the activities that AHCs should undertake to facilitate their interactions with PAG/VHOs including streamlining contract review and IRB processes and finding ways to better align the incentives motivating academic clinical and translational investigators with the goals of PAG/VHOs. This article is one product of the Clinical Research Forum's Partnering with Patient Advocacy Groups Initiative.