05 June 2020

The APPROACH researchers: Interview series “Behind-the-scenes”, part 3

In order to showcase the variety of work we do in APPROACH, the following news items are dedicated to several of our researchers. They share the work they do for the project, what excites and challenges them the most, especially at times of the present COVID-19 pandemic, and how they see the impact of our project for the wider field of Osteoarthritis research.

Joana Cristina Silva Magalhaes working from her home

What is the focus of your work within the APPROACH project?
My work within the APPROACH project consists on coordinating our site (SERGAS-INIBIC) activities. This means I have been involved, on the one hand, in the clinical data harmonization process necessary for establishing the criteria for phenotype selection from existing cohorts, and, on the other hand, ensuring the clinical trial in our site runs smoothly according to standardized protocols.

What do you enjoy the most about your work on the project?
I deeply appreciate the multidisciplinary, multicultural and public-industry partnership aspects of this project and I enjoy being connected to the different people involved. Moreover, I would say that one of the most distinctive and enriching part of APPROACH, from other projects I’ve worked, is the involvement of the patients, which I truly believe will set new avenues.

What is challenging about your work?
The positive aspects of my work in this project are also the challenging ones, as being involved in the different work packages means working with data scientists, basic science researchers, clinical researchers, communications manager, etc., and I need to understand each one’s particularities and take it to a “common ground”.

What do you think is the importance of the project for the wider field of Osteoarthritis (OA) research?
The project’s main goal is to tackle one of the key limitations for current OA diagnosis and treatment. With its innovative approach, based on machine learning, it will help identifying OA phenotypes in order to deliver more specific and hopefully more successful treatments for each patient.

How has the COVID-19 crisis impacted your work?
Since the state of emergency was declared in Spain I’ve been working from home. Regarding our group activity within APPROACH, as well as for the other sites involved, the COVID-19 crisis led to postponing patients’ visits that will restart according to local authorities’ regulations. In more general terms, I’m worried about how this crisis will impact scientific research in the mid-long run as well as how it is already exacerbating inequalities in science (and in society).

How have you adapted to the new circumstances created by the pandemic?
I think I’ve adapted fairly well as I already spent a lot of time with computer-based work. Although, as I believe for most people, it was hard to fully concentrate in the beginning (and also, not being able to go outside).

How do you mitigate the (negative) impact of the crisis on your work?
Well, I believe by trying to stay focused on the goals that I had already planned and also staying connected to people by email or having virtual meetings helps to maintain a certain “normality”, after all, science is a collective activity.