TR Talks: Healthcare Specialists Charted Into The Uncharted Territories Of Translational Science and Doled Out Invaluable Clinical Insights

Collaborations, failures, and a non-conservative attitude in risk-taking are the key to a successful translation.

Zoya Retiwalla| TRP | February 16, 2020

“Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much.” – Helen Keller. At the core of successful translational research initiatives is collaboration. This core is surrounded and supported by key aspects such a risk-taking, patient-centred approaches, and failure. In our last TR Talk of 2019, our panelists had an engaging and invaluable discussion on their experiences with opportunities and challenges in translating clinical insights.
As is customary at the TR series, we hosted a diverse group of driven researchers, clinicians, health practitioners, and students. Facilitated by the Translational Research Program, the “Translating Clinical Insights” TR Talk featured a panel discussion followed by a Q & A round and ended with an engaging networking evening.
The panelists for the Talk were Christine Allen, Norm Rosenblum, and Etienne Sibille. The panel was led by Muhammad Mamdani and the discussion offered diverse perspectives on the issues faced in translation in the clinical realm. They began the discussion by noting that failure is as important in the translational landscape as success and even though failures can be particularly arduous, these help to set the framework for monumental success.
“Many people have great ideas, but most of them fail. Do you know why that is?” Christine Allen, professor at Leslie Dan Faculty of Pharmacy, started the discussion by posing one of the most pressing questions in the field of translation. She went on to explain that even though great ideas are the key, it is the implementation that finally opens the door.
Christine made a few rookie mistakes at the start of her career. One of those being that she believed she could solve problems and translate science into the clinic on her own. She now knows that translation is a collaborative effort and many minds are required to turn a stone. Designing innovation should always be a group effort, in her opinion.
Another essential niche she tapped upon was risk-taking. “I was conservative when taking risks, I have failures – spectacular failures, but now I drive innovation in spite of the risk. In the end, it’s worth it.” Dr. Allen explained that every failure is an opportunity if one learns from and moves on. Taking risks in translation is the only way forward provided those risks are well-informed and strategized.
“I saw through the lens of peoples’ careers and learned a lot. The big game is the people, you learn from people.” Norm Rosenblum, Scientific Director of the CIHR Institute of Nutrition Metabolism and Diabetes, concurred with Christine in that with translation, observation and collaboration are of utmost importance. Learning from one’s own success and failures is essential but it is equally important to learn from the success and failures of one’s peers.
He believes in asking questions – the right questions, lead to breakthrough research. His undying interest in pediatric research stems from his will to understand our future. “Pediatric research is the most interesting aspect of research because it unlocks our understanding of our future.”
“Different fields in research are siloed,” confirmed Etienne Sibille. As the Deputy Director and Senior Scientist at CAMH, he has come to understand that psychology and neurology have been considered as different fields – this is a gap that his team is bridging. “Our work focuses on redefining psychiatry to merge these fields and bring a new perspective to human disease.”
Speaking about driving innovations that help in bringing novel perspectives, Etienne stressed that patenting and IP are a good way of incentivizing transformation. Additionally, he concurred with Norm regarding learning from the experiences of people around us. “Benefit from other people’s expertise and prior knowledge – there is much to gain.”
This TR Talk was one of a series of sessions hosted by the Translational Research Program in collaboration with the Health Innovation Hub (H2i). These Talks are open to the public and are geared towards interprofessional clinicians, researchers, and trainees to provoke discussion and community building. To learn more about the future TR Talks, please visit our website.