Translational Challenges in Disseminating New Treatments: TRP Alumni, Andrei Iliuta
By: Nida Zafar, 2018
In patients with polycystic kidney disease, it’s an effective therapy to reduce kidney volume. That is one of the conclusions researcher and TRP graduate (Class 2017) Andrei Iliuta came to during his fellowship with Dr. York Pei at Toronto General Hospital, University Health Network, where he studied sclerotherapy.
“That is a good thing because kidney volume is considered to be a marker for polycystic kidney disease,” said Iliuta during a one-on-one interview. “If you reduce it, there’s a chance you’ll slow down disease progression” he added.
He did this project through the use of interviews with stakeholders relevant to his work. This includes nephrologists and interventional radiologists. “I asked them questions about what they thought barriers to the diffusion of this new treatment could be,” he said.
Iliuta credits TRP with aiding him in his continuing projects. He said that is where he was able to learn how to effectively perform the qualitative analysis necessary to perform qualitative research into the barriers to dissemination and adoption of this new treatment.
“I learned a lot about how to sell one’s idea, how to make it interesting and easily understandable to people who are not accustomed to the language we use on a daily basis and how to defend a project successfully to obtain the necessary funding,” Iliuta said.
The TRP also teaches the “different steps one must follow [to] shape an idea, intervention, or drug effectively from the very first studies to actual implementation and commercialization.”
The TRP program emphasizes the Translational Thinking Framework. Through the use of human-centred design, the problem is iteratively explored and analyzed. The TRP students develop qualitative research skills such as interviewing techniques and focus groups. It stresses understanding the challenge from the perspective of the people at the center of the problem and allowing them to be engaged in the problem exploration.
This is key to understanding the problem, who is at the center of it and how to find a solution. Solutions are explored and shaped only after the problem is well understood. In Iliuta’s case, he had a treatment but no clear path to disseminate it and ensure it would be first validated and then adopted.
Through this process, Iliuta explored not only the challenge of dissemination and adoption but he also learned that before a fixed solution can be reached, the researcher may have to go back and improve the solution to accommodate what is learned about the system, the context, and the community where the solution will be adopted. It’s not about the final product but improving it to be better, something TRP emphasizes.
Iliuta came to Canada in 2001 when his family got a work opportunity at Laval University. Before Iliuta moved to Québec, he lived in Romania with his family. He spoke French for most of his life which he learned from living in Belgium between the ages of 5 and 7 and attending multiple French-language schools across Europe.
Iliuta recently finished a poetry project. The published book titled “Le Nouveau Monde” contains classically structured poetry. The book is in French, to pay homage to his French-speaking background.
“The themes range from mythological ideas and images to more personal events in my life,” he said.
His favourite piece of poetry from his book is inspired by the famous Austrian painter Gabriel von Max’s artwork on one of Jesus’ miracles. The artwork is on display at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts.
Iliuta not only has a love for poetry but literature as well.
“I was introduced to books when I was very young by my great grandmother. It just stuck with me and it has become a tremendous passion in my life. I don’t know where I would go if I didn’t have the time and ability to read and write,” he said.
Iliuta is currently a Ph.D. student at the Institute of Medical Science, University of Toronto studying kidney disease and focusing on anabolic interventions. He hopes to become a principal investigator and have an independent practice, while also becoming an accomplished writer.