Not even a busy law practice could tear him away from serious science

Seán Klinkradt, BJuris, LLB, MSc, MIP, BPhil, PhD, who began teaching Molecular Biology and Medical Genetics in 2018, in addition to acting as an Academic Advisor, happened to work in the lab next to OUM’s Daria Camera, PhD, Director of Research, early in his doctoral studies. The two eventually shared a lab. Fast forward a couple of years and one day over coffee, he said to her “I’d like to get back into teaching. I miss it.” He had previously lectured at the Holmesglen Institute and Endeavour College in Melbourne, Australia, as well as at the University of Port Elizabeth, his alma mater, in South Africa.

Taking his own advice

He knew that Dr. Camera had gotten involved with a medical school that delivers a lot of its pre-clinical basic science curriculum online and was finding it quite fulfilling. He knew about her work with OUM because he had been the one who brought it to her attention, after hearing about it from one of the students he tutored. He decided to contact OUM himself.

“Dr. Klinkradt is one of the most hard-working individuals I’ve ever known. I watched him tackle a research problem for six months, with enthusiasm, when most would have been defeated. I know I would have,” says Dr. Camera. “Not only was he one of the best PhD students I had ever worked with, and very much the mentor to junior students in the lab, he was very funny. One thing I really miss about my research days, was arriving at the lab and seeing Seán, which meant it was going to be a good, productive day – and fun.”

South Africa to Sydney

In addition to his OUM duties, Dr. Klinkradt concurrently has a very busy international patent law practice. Growing up in South Africa, he earned a BSc in Biochemistry and Zoology and an Honors degree and MSc in Biochemistry, in addition to earning his BJuris and post graduate LLB (the equivalent to a JD).  Dr. Klinkradt’s interest in ancient cultures also led him to complete a BPhil degree in Ancient Mediterranean and Ancient Near Eastern Cultures.

He has worked in intellectual property law for many years, including representing university-based biotechnology and biomedicine facilities. His reputation attracted the attention of international law firms. One gave him the choice of working in Sydney or London. He chose Sydney.

Dr. Klinkradt and Winston

Dr. Klinkradt is licensed to practice in both Australia and New Zealand and is also an attorney of the High Court of South Africa. While living in Sydney, Dr. Klinkradt completed a Master of Industrial Property at the University of Technology in Sydney. He was subsequently recruited to a firm in Melbourne, where he lives today.  Recently Dr. Klinkradt joined a boutique law firm that specializes in intellectual property law, where his primary focus relates to biotech and biomed patent applications.

Early dream of vet school 

“I originally wanted to be a vet,” says Dr. Klinkradt, “specifically an equine vet. I had grown up on two family farms and horse-riding was my sport all through school. My brother ran a stable of about 40 horses and my mother was very much an animal person, well-known to a number of rescue programs. In addition to horses, we hand-raised lots of animals including goats – until they devoured my mother’s bonsai forest. She even raised a baboon who lived in the house with my parents for many years.”

Dr. Klinkradt started his studies at the only university in South Africa that offers veterinary studies. The university was, at that time, an Afrikaans medium university studying in a language in which he was then not fluent. Instead, he moved to the University of Port Elizabeth which was close to the family farm and the horses.

Carrying on mother’s calling

He inherited his mother’s animal rescue tendencies, he says. While he and his partner, Mark, initially only had two cats, they now have two horses, 12 outside rescue cats (shared with the neighbors), a regular raven, and Alan, their Labrador. Dr. Klinkradt is especially proud of his thoroughbred horse, Winston, which has retired from racing. Essentially, if an animal shows up at the door, it isn’t likely turned away.

“I think the local stray animal league has workshops where they spread the word that we have good food here,” says Dr. Klinkradt.

When the opportunity presented itself, he began PhD studies. He first worked on the nuclear receptor Nur77 and metabolic syndrome before transferring into neuroscience in the Anatomical Neurochemistry Laboratory of Professor David Pow, a renowned neuroscientist. During his doctoral studies, Dr. Klinkradt (and his PhD supervisors) discovered a new glutamate transporter in the brain of mice.  Dr. Klinkradt’s PhD research focused on the role that this transporter, known as GLT-1d, plays in developing, adult, and pathological mouse brains. The pathological conditions were stroke and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (also known as ALS or motor neuron disease). This year, he also began working on his second PhD at the University of South Africa Faculty of Law, studying Neurolaw and legal accountability in light of neuroscience developments within the research community.

Vital student support

“Our students have many balls in the air with families, jobs, and studies, so it’s a great thing that OUM offers so much support. They need more, and they really appreciate it,” says Dr. Klinkradt. “I think many universities have drifted away from what was once a normal teaching model to one that ticks boxes and leaves students to their own devices. I don’t agree with that.” He adds that he shares a teaching philosophy with Dr. Camera, one that is more engaging and nurturing.

As a sign of the times, Dr. Klinkradt conducts all his work from his home in Melbourne and sometimes chats with students and clients while out in the paddock when he is with the horses. His boss is in New Zealand and his assistant is in Brisbane. They each have a dedicated link-up in his office and they typically Skype throughout the day.

“I love teaching and I’m fortunate that my law practice and OUM work can all be done remotely,” he says. How fortunate for OUM, as well.

( July 2021)