A conversation with Francisco Moniche, stroke neurologists and researcher at Hospital Universitario Virgen del Rocío and one of the presenters at the Young Stroke Physicians and Researchers (YSPR) session at ESOC 2019, in Milan, Italy. Francisco Moniche presented a a randomized multicenter cell therapy for acute ischemic stroke patients.

Interviewed by Johannes Kaesmacher, MD, Neuroradiologist, University Hospital Bern, Inselspital, University of Bern.

Dear Francisco, many thanks for agreeing to do this interview. Would you mind telling us a bit how you got involved in stroke research?

Since I was studying Medicine, I feel passionate about stroke and its consequences. The arrival of recanalization therapies has been a revolution in stroke but there are many things to be done to improve this dramatic disease, from prevention to further improve acute management and rehabilitation and recover neurological deficits. Last years all the focus has been put on the acute management, but there is a need to improve also our knowledge on stroke recovery and discover new therapies. I have the opportunity to work in an excellent tertiary hospital with high volume of stroke patients and where research is stimulated, that allowed me to get involved in this field.

Why did you choose this topic?

Stem cell therapy is a fascinating field, rapidly growing and getting increasing interest in the stroke research community. One of my mentors, Dr. Gil-Peralta inspired me to start doing research in cell therapy in stroke and in my hospital, there is an important basic research center (Institute of Biomedicine of Seville IBIS) with several investigators focus on stem cell therapy. Also, I have the luck to work with Dr. Joan Montaner that have a huge experience in stroke research that boosts my research. This context allowed me to get involved in this topic and discover the new opportunities of this field.

Translation from basic science results to bedside treatment remains a huge challenge, especially regarding the treatment of acute ischemic stroke. In your opinion, what are the main reasons for the failure to translate positive basic and animal science findings to successful randomized-controlled clinical trials?

There are several reasons for the failure to translate basic science results to bedside. One of them are due to lack of multicenter randomized blinded controlled trials in animal models of stroke that could affect the quality of final results of basic research. Also, the big jump needed to translate mice or rats research to the complex human brain is always challenging and difficult. Another important issue regarding stroke research are the comorbidities, that are so frequent in human but not in animal models.

What have been the most difficult challenges regarding your research career so far?

One of the most difficult challenges is the lack of time for research in a very busy life. Another important challenge is to set up a project such as an academic trial that I’m currently doing and get other researches involved in it. Academic trials are complex to get started and also have an unfair competition with industry-promoted trials.

How do you balance work life and free time/home life?

That’s a difficult point, as I have already kids and as a stroke neurologist, research has to be done mostly during the “free time”. There are always things to be done in research and the balance with family is complex. However, it is important to clearly separate the time with the family and the time for working and doing research. Enjoy the family makes me happier and recharge my batteries to push harder when it’s time to work.

How did you experience the session and how will it influence your research project?

It was very interesting and inspiring. Mentors has an important role in everyone’s career and it is important to realize that even the best European neurologist and researches did have difficulties along their career but put a strong effort in their dreams to achieve success.

We want to thank all presenters and the mentors for a great session!