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Tristan Iseli – regrowing limbs to brain research

Tristan Iseli is a busy man – he packs a huge amount into his day and lives by his motto of “work hard play hard.” He explains, “I work both ends of the day and 8 hours in the middle. I have competing interests and try to fit in as much as I can.”

At Neuroscience Trials Australia, Tristan is a Project Manager. His normal day starts by fielding emails from both sponsors, clients and trial sites, while checking all the moving parts that are fundamental to the progression of a clinical trial are in their right place. Tristan also says he spends a lot of time problem solving to help achieve research aims, both big and small.

Tristan likens project management to “an extreme juggling act, trying to keep lots of balls in the air concurrently – the balls being little tasks to ensure everything is running smoothly, keeping all parties involved satisfied and ensuring the end results are first-rate!” The most important skill needed to master this juggling act as a Project Manager is diplomacy. “There are so many personalities with competing interests, it’s our job to bring everyone together for the greater good.”

It is this desire to help others and work towards the greater good, combined with a fascination with how the human body works that led Tristan to science. Tristan remembers that he chose science after discovering the fact that spiders have the ability to grow back their legs and that humans had a non-functional copy of the gene. He says, “I decided to become a scientist to work out how to turn on the non-functional limb regrowing gene and help amputees.” But the universe had other plans. “Of course, science careers aren’t that straight forward and because of my love for all things sport, I ended up researching obesity, completing a PhD through University of Melbourne at St Vincent’s Institute. I then completed two postdocs in Sydney, where I ultimately led a research team investigating metabolic diseases, including cancer.”

However, soon after, Tristan made the transition from academia into clinical trials. “Basic research was a little too slow-paced for me, and I really wanted to be part of bringing scientific discoveries to the people who needed them most.” Following a few years at a Phase 1 site working mostly in healthy volunteer trials, Tristan joined Neuroscience Trials Australia. Having worked with them before, he knew Neurotrials had a great clinical trials team and he was excited about the challenge associated with working in brain research.

Tristan’s favourite thing at Neurotrials so far has been “definitely starting up the concussion trial that is currently running.” This concussion trial is the first trial of its kind in the world, so there have been so many obstacles to overcome. “It’s been a real challenge, but we are getting there with recruitment open in Victoria and soon in New South Wales and Queensland. It’s an exciting time!”

When Tristan is not at work – he is a husband and father of two young boys, which keeps him busy. He is also very physically active and has an exhaustive list of sporting interests, which includes: soccer, tennis, snowboarding, mountain biking, trail running, kayaking and adventure racing. He also regularly finds himself volunteering for all sorts of committees. He says he loves bringing people together for a common goal and tries to get everyone else involved too, whether that be through coffee runs, team lunches, barbecues or weekend sporting trips away.

Did you know that Tristan started a small geek T-shirts company during his PhD with some friends? He was also a semi-professional soccer player for 11 years in the Victorian State Leagues.