When Mark went blind in 1998, he didn’t think he would work, study or play sport again. But his desire to compete led him to adventure racing. He raced across deserts, mountains, oceans and the polar ice caps, eventually becoming the first blind person to race to the South Pole. As he says: "Pursuing success and risking failure was simply how I felt normal.”
This year, 20 years after losing his sight and 10 years after reaching the South Pole, Mark says he is “on the greatest adventure” of his life. Following a tragic accident that left him paralysed, he is exploring the intersection where humans and technology collide on a new expedition to cure paralysis in our lifetime.
Mark says: “Right now, we are at an exciting inflection point with the research to cure paralysis. Breakthrough therapies have been discovered, and some will be made available to paralysed people within the next 10 years if we support our collaborators to navigate a pathway from scientific breakthrough to regulatory approval and commercialisation.”
After connecting with TED curator Chris Anderson through a UBS event, Mark and his fiancée, human rights lawyer Simone George, spoke at the annual TED conference in Vancouver. Their talk titled ‘A love letter to realism in a time of grief’ drew a massive standing ovation and Amy Cuddy, whose TED talk about the “power pose” earned her worldwide recognition and has over 47 million views, described the talk as “the most powerful, moving talk I have ever seen at TED”.
Using that platform to scale the impact of their work throughout 2018, Mark and the team continued to work closely with their collaborators at Ekso Bionics, UCLA and Houston Methodist Research Institute to develop a robust research strategy for the next five years. And, in conjunction with the UBS branding team, they developed a five year Impact Plan.
Over the past 12 months, new collaborators at Dublin City University and the Feinstein Institute in New York have joined Mark’s network. And, alongside colleagues at the World Economic Forum, Incandescent and UBS, Mark and his team continue to work towards supporting exceptional neuro-tech start-ups with the potential to impact millions of paralysed people's lives in the next decade.