Extract from Dr. Thulile Nlapo’s Travel Journal to a Translational Science Trip to Australia

Author: Thulile Nlapo - 2019-10-01

Spring had sprung in Australia on Sunday the 1st of September! The first day of spring was a delight. The chilly morning started at the Featherdale Wildlife Park where we saw some indigenous Australian animals and we got a chance to feed the kangaroos. A large majority of us saw for the first time, koala bears, and boy can they sleep! In the afternoon we made travelled to the Blue Mountains. It was spectacular and absolutely breath-taking.

On Monday morning the lectures resumed and the first one was given by Prof. Wallach who spoke about the business model for start-ups. After lunch we went into the workshop session and continued to work our projects. On Tuesday Olga Arbach, delivered a lecture about preclinical validation studies, then participants split into their groups to prepare for their 5-minute pitches. The final lecture was delivered Prof. Kevin Grimes on Wednesday morning, who spoke about drug development, licensing, clinical trials, regulatory authorities and establishing start-ups.

On Thursday evening we went to the New South Wales Parliament House for the SPARK Global Celebratory Evening Event. On Friday the 6th of September we did our final pitches to a panel of experts and all teams delivered phenomenal pitches. The quality of each presentation was so excellent that none of the products/projects seemed like virtual projects. The pitches were innovative, well researched, developed, described and communicated to the audience.

'This was one of the most challenging experiences I have ever gone through mostly because I had to quickly assume a leadership role (president) for a team that was not working harmoniously. My team focused on developing a new adjunct treatment for tuberculosis (TB). Our aim was to try and reduce treatment duration for TB non-compliant patients from the current 6-month regimen to a 3-month regimen.'

My team was very diverse and included Wes, a medical doctor and cancer researcher from Canada, Marte a cancer researcher from Norway and Ace a computer scientist and cancer researcher from Taiwan. Our group dynamic was challenging as we had to learn to communicate with each other under stressful conditions. Most times, we couldn’t understand each other because of our different world views and sometimes language was a barrier as not all of us spoke English as a first language.

I learned about the power of collaboration and the importance of communication. This generation of scientist needs to embrace diversity and understand that diversity is critical for finding and developing solutions for world-wide problems. I also learned that one needs to be knowledgeable about the world around them, we cannot live in vacuums. My team struggled quite a bit with teamwork/effort, some days were great, others were horrible, however with patience and persistence, our final 15min pitch received great comments from the judges, which was quite surprising.

I have made great friends from all over the world and I can happily say that I am a better person for having had this experience in the Spark Sydney and Spark Global for making it possible for me to attend this fantastic training course and for contributing to my career development.

Links:

KRISP Blogs: Extract from Dr. Thulile Nlapo’s Travel Journal to a Translational Science Trip to Australia