Mark Pollock lost his sight in 1998 and became paralysed in 2010 after falling from a window at a friend's home
Photo: Mark Pollock Trust
Groundbreaking discoveries to help cure paralysis are being made globally but they are hampered by lack of support and commercial know-how, a trust chief has said.
“Some of the scientific breakthroughs are there but they go into spin-out companies then they enter the valley of death,” Mark Pollock of the Mark Pollock Trust told Delano during a visit to Luxembourg on Thursday.
He explained the problem was scientists were expected to make “incredible breakthroughs” and then successfully lead start-ups when “you would never ask a VC or investment banker to explain the intricacies of the body’s central nervous system.”
The Mark Pollock Trust was founded by friends after the Commonwealth Games medallist, adventure athlete and inspirational speaker from Northern Ireland, Mark Pollock, became paralysed in a domestic accident in 2010. At the outset it was intended to pay for the initial costs related to his injury and to guard against ongoing health consequences.
But, it took a new-found turn as Pollock, who overcame losing his sight in 1998 to compete in endurance races in places like the south pole and Gobi desert, accepted his circumstances and looked to the future with hope. Through his own desire to find a cure, he realised there was a wealth of research being done in paralysis treatment but much of it being lost in the “valley of death.”
His solution was to help relieve scientists of the administration, teaching and fundraising for example, and connect them with the people who can help so scientists can focus more on the research.
“There’s real value in funding people to create collaborations. Because I know there’s a hub in the States with tens of millions and I also know there’s a scientist in the States who needs tens of millions,” Pollock explained.
A graduate of business and economics with a masters in marketing, Pollock said he had always wanted to be an investment banker growing up. Although he says now that he would have hated it, the business student in him enjoys giving motivational speeches inside companies. The speeches are one of two main revenue streams for the trust, which aims to raise €1 billion to cure paralysis. The second being the Run in the Dark, a night-time fundraising race of 5 or 10 kilometres.
Established in Dublin, today there are four official Run in the Dark events and over 30 pop-up events including one in Luxembourg. “We looked around the world to see where there’s a hub of Irish people,” Pollock said, adding: “You’d think San Francisco or Boston, maybe not Luxembourg. But, it’s emerged as a growing event we didn’t expect.”
Having hosted the fun run for the past six years, Pollock said he hopes soon to upgrade it from pop-up to official regular fixture.