Kavitha is the Preclinical Imaging Facilities Manager for the School of Biomedical Engineering and Imaging Sciences.
I found out about King’s Staff International Exchange Programme at a Professional Services Staff Mentoring Scheme lunch mixer in 2016, whilst chatting to a fellow attendee. I had always hoped to be able to visit the company InviCRO LLM (Boston, USA) which developed one of the software packages we use within our School for preclinical image analysis. I had come to know various members of the InviCRO team over the past 8 years following their inception and through our evolving relationship as we used their software ‘Vivoquant’. I had also been interested in the research conducted at the University of Pittsburgh as their interests, choices of radio-isotopes and disease targets for imaging closely aligned with our own.
At the end of May 2017, one month after submission of my application, I found out that I was one of the fortunate to be selected by King’s Worldwide. At this point I had already made contact with both UMPC Pittsburgh and InviCRO and had identified hosts who were willing to welcome me to their respective institutions. I decided to travel to the US in September 2017 and promptly booked on an Icelandic airline called ‘Wow airlines’! In spite of its exuberant name, purple airplanes and purple-dressed cabin crew, the flight were straight-forward from London to Pittsburgh via Reykjavik…sadly Iceland was having a heatwave (8 °C) and so there was no snow to be seen from the aircraft!
Pittsburgh was a lovely green city filled with tall conifers, green spaces and enjoying unseasonable temperatures of 27 °C. During my two days there, I visited UMPC Presbyterian hospital and had a tour of their PET centre, Siemans cyclotron, radiochemistry labs, and multiple scanners. I had the pleasure of meeting various personnel ranging from Dr Scott Mason, Dr Jonathan Carney, and Dr Brian Lopresti, who were able to describe to me the differences in regulatory structures in the USA for preclinical and radiation work and the workflow from PET isotope production to patient administration. During my visit a new Mediso PET/CT scanner was being acceptance tested and I got to see how this scanner design differed from ours at King’s which was exciting. I also got to meet Prof Carolyn Anderson, Dr Barry Edwards and their teams at UPMC Hillman Cancer Centre and toured their facilities and shared our common practices and differences. They had an interest in acquiring the Vivoquant software which we use at King’s and I was able to very quickly demonstrate to them some of its functionalities using their trial version. Happily I was going to visit InviCRO in Boston and so was able to ensure they got introduced to the correct people at Invicro who could help them evaluate the software.
Moving on from sunny Pittsburgh to Boston was a little difficult. Stormy weather delayed us taking off from Pittsburgh as there was poor visibility for landing in Boston and we arrived well past midnight. The following day, I was due to attend the Invicro User meeting and by some lucky coincidence I had booked to stay directly opposite the meeting venue! I was warmly welcomed by various members of the Invicro team and got to put faces to the names of colleagues with whom I’d had emailed and spoken to via telecon over the years. My presentation was well received and whilst it was a little daunting to have my presentation broadcast live to other Vivoquant users around the world, it was great to be able to reach out to fellow scientists via technology. I met with other speakers and attendees from around the US and straight away exchanged thoughts, ideas and contact details. I had dinner my hosts Ciara Finucane, Whitney Woodson and visitors from Invicro London (previously Immanova – acquisition officially announced a few days prior to my visit). I had a pleasant evening with amiable company and an invitation to visit Invicro London upon my return to the UK. On my final day in Boston, I spent time at Invicro headquarters and visited their labs, saw their novel instruments, chatted with particular specialists regarding the software, certain hardware equipment which we at King’s might be interested in using and the possibility of Invicro hosting a user meeting in the UK, now that they had a strong presence in London. All in all, I was well taken care of by all my hosts and felt I had something to offer whilst learning about the different scientific challenges, laboratory setups, research environments and workflows in the US.
I would recommend the King’s Staff International Exchange Programme to all my colleagues here at King’s as this has been a fruitful and rewarding experience. I have returned to the School of Biomedical Engineering and Imaging Sciences feeling very fortunate that I work in such a vibrant and exciting environment and feel renewed in my enthusiasm of our multidisciplinary, problem-solving and forward thinking ethos!