An interview with Dr Ndaba Mazibuko: on Covid-19 therapeutic clinical trials, working with patients and running on Hampstead Heath



Dr Ndaba Mazibuko, is a Clinical Research Fellow and a Study Clinician at the Centre for Neuroimaging Sciences and the Repurposing Lead at the Centre for Innovative Therapeutics (C-FIT), Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology & Neuroscience at King’s College London. 

The C-FIT is a partnership between King’s College London’s Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology & Neuroscience and South London and Maudsley and King’s College Hospital NHS Foundation Trusts. It exists to support commercial companies and world-leading academics to collaborate more effectively.

Please can you give us an overview of your role(s)?

I work as a study clinician across a number of clinical trials in the Psychiatry / Neuroscience space. The studies are often unified by Neuroimaging, I’m the resident clinician within the Centre for Neuroimaging Sciences. I provide the clinical oversight for the suitability of patients to take part in these studies and I monitor the safety and wellbeing of these participants while providing an environment that allows for the collection of the most robust and meaningful data possible.

My C-FIT role has a focus on Drug Repurposing. This is the practice of identifying new uses for existing approved drugs that are outside the scope of the original disease indication. This increasingly explored strategy has the advantage of allowing faster and cheaper delivery of medicines to patients. Crucially, it is also a pathway to supporting Healthcare systems such as the NHS which are increasingly overburdened with the cost of new drugs. My C-FIT work includes connecting with other investigators or stakeholders involved in Drug Repurposing to explore the most efficient ways of moving this approach forward.

What are the favourite parts of your role?

I enjoy the interaction with patients, it’s a reminder of why we do what we do, seeing the real world issues that can be or have been enhanced by research is inspiring and a good focus for keeping ideas relevant.

Are there any aspects of your role which would surprise someone to know?

The aspect of my role that might be less obvious is emphasis on communication and interpersonal skills. Designing and implementing research requires a healthy dose of peer and participant engagement. Communicating well with (including listening well to) study patients and participants is an essential approach to conducting research that will achieve the highest public utility and patient benefit.

Can you give a brief overview of your career? What are you most proud of?

Prior to my current position I worked as a Neurology and Acute Stroke Registrar at King's College Hospital. I have several years’ experience as a clinician in varied disciplines within the NHS in addition to clinical experience in Australia (where I trained) and also in Africa.

I’m proud of the fact that, through the support and inspiration of many people along the way, I’ve managed to navigate a journey from a small town in a remote part of Botswana to enjoying a career in a global centre of excellence, a centre with a collaborative, international approach.

I’m also proud to work with a team and an organisation that is passionate about providing the space for patient focused innovative research.

How did you get interested in research?

My interest in research was driven by the opportunity to contribute pro-actively and creatively to attempts to find patient focused solutions to the healthcare problems. Clinical work is often too busy with delivery of much needed service, it doesn’t regularly afford the time to explore ways to refine or enhance practice, research can offer that space.

How has the Covid-19 pandemic impacted your work?

Covid-19 has impacted my work significantly. In 2020 I was an investigator on a Covid-19 therapeutic clinical trial called the LIBERATE Trial – an anti-inflammatory agent which is also an example of the utility of Drug Repurposing.

In addition to this, I was also working on a protocol and implementation plan for a COVID-19 rapid antibody prevalence study. 

I also went in to help out for a few on-call shifts as a medic with the acute medicine teams on the KCH COVID-19 and general medical wards at the height of the second wave in January / February this year. 

What does an average working day look like for you?

At the moment an average day is filled with virtual meetings and study related document writing. Pre-pandemic I spent much of the average day working with patients or healthy volunteers ensuring their suitability and safety for inclusion in the clinical trial process. There is a lot of time spent in conversation with collaborators and participants.

What are you working on at the moment?

I am currently working with a team to provide clinical assessment and monitoring on an interesting neuroimaging study investigating the mechanisms of a possible treatment for Parkinson's Disease Psychosis.

I'm also working with a group on a study that is about to start recruiting patients who have a treatment resistant depression. This exciting new study will explore the effects on ketamine on brain physiology and how that relates to the clinical symptom response that these patients might experience after receiving this drug.

Quickfire questions

Favourite TV series? 

'The Wire'. Or something more recent that stands out is the ‘Chernobyl’ series.

What is your go-to karaoke song?

Technically this is a go-to dance track - Whitney Houston’s 'I wanna Dance with Somebody' but I will go with this as there’s usually “singing” involved.

Who is your science hero?

I’m not sure I have a particular science hero, but Isaac Newton is an example of a scientist I find interesting. The breadth (and multidisciplinary nature) of his work is fascinating. And the courage to challenge even the most accepted or established ideas.

Best discovery of lock down 

I live close to Hampstead Heath, so was somewhat familiar with it already but I feel like I’ve got to discover and enjoy much more of it in the last few months. That, and the perhaps the not so surprising “discovery” of banana bread making.

How would you spend your perfect Saturday?

A run around (some of) the Heath, followed by a delicious brunch, perhaps a play or a film screening with Q&A and post film debrief drinks with friends.

Tags: Neuroimaging - Covid-19 - BRC Interview Series - Patient and Carer Involvement and Engagement -

By NIHR Maudsley BRC at 14 Oct 2020, 13:00 PM

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