Our researchers are a fierce driving force behind therapeutic development and future treatment. Let’s find out what makes them so passionate about KIF1A! Each month, one of our invested KIF1A researchers will be in the spotlight. Dr. Simran Kaur is next up for this month’s Q&A.

Dr. Simran Kaur headshot

Simran Kaur, B.E (Biotech.), M.Sc. (Mol. Bio.), M.Phil. (Medicine), Ph.D. (Medicine)

Research Officer, Brain and Mitochondrial Research Group Research Fellow, Department of Paediatrics, The University of Melbourne

Simran is a young early career researcher who has more than 12 years of professional experience in genetics and molecular biology with a committed track record in the field of rare disease in children. Untangling the underlying genetic and molecular causes of the problems in affected children is of particular interest to her. Her research vision is to connect, collaborate and contribute towards the scientific journey for finding the reason and solutions in children facing challenging health problems, thus shortening their diagnostic odyssey and improving their overall quality of life.

If you could have any superpower, what would it be and why?

I think each of us already has a unique superpower with which we are already changing the world around us! But often after the end of a busy day, I go to sleep wondering if I can be present at different places at the same time to listen and help as many people around me as possible. To be with the KIF1A kids, magically correct their problems, giggle and play with them, and hug them tightly before saying bye as they play happily with their family and friends. And of course, to be with my son (Ekam) when he is missing me and thinking of me, especially when he needs help in kinder and I am busy with work in the laboratory.  

When did you know you wanted to be a scientist? Why were you drawn to this field?

Truly speaking, I had always aspired to become either an air-force pilot or an aeronautical engineer. I had tried different courses (electronics, software and mechanical engineering) for a few weeks during the early phase of my bachelor’s degree until I fell in love with biotechnology, and there was no turning back. But I realized the importance of investment of time, skills, and resources in rare disease research only after moving to Australia. I got deeply attached with KIF1A and KAND for the first time during my PhD studies, where I got a chance to follow KIF1A more closely. The key drivers for me to stay in the field are kids affected with KAND who are striving hard to fight with the challenges on a daily basis and their families, who are continuously looking for ways to make their children happy and healthy.

What do you love most about your job?

Over the years, I have gained skills from kind, supportive, passionate and dedicated people in rare disease and KIF1A research. This has enabled me to grow and contribute my few cents towards our KAND community.  I absolutely love collaborating with other researchers to join forces and bring a meaningful change in the life of individuals with KAND in a timely manner. The other aspects of my job that I love is raising awareness about KAND in our community and making sure that KIF1A is included in as many diagnostic gene testing panels as possible.

What is the most challenging aspect of your job?

Research takes time, patience, and a lot of financial investment. Therefore, a multi-disciplinary collaboration is a must have if we want to make progress as quickly as possible. It is incredible to see the efforts of each member of KIF1A.ORG community who are working so hard to support KIF1A research financially. I really hope that more resources are available to researchers through government funding so that we can invest more time in actual research rather than preparing grant applications.

What development are you most excited about in terms of KIF1A research?

Since 1993, more than 300 papers highlighting the role of KIF1A in a cell and its involvement in human disease have been published. Interestingly, 2020 was such a challenging year, but more studies about KIF1A (n = 33) have been published this year alone than any other year. This shows the accelerated trend in KIF1A research due to amazing work by our fellow researchers in the field.

I couldn’t get through a day at work without:

Ah! This is simple 😊. The keys that help me through the day are my morning prayer while driving to work, a cup of good tea, and lots of smiles.

I am most motivated by:

The teachings and sacrifices of my beloved mother. From a very early age, she introduced me to qualities such as compassion, kindness, devotion to work, following dreams, helping others, volunteering, and the importance of education and freedom of thoughts in women’s lives. Moreover, families affected with KAND who are working day and night to look for key answers also motivate me to work with them shoulder to shoulder and solve the puzzles causing complex issues in their loving family member(s).

When you are not studying KIF1A, what do you do?

After work, a major chunk of my time is spent in taking care of Ekam and managing the house (trust me it really gets messy to an extreme level 😉). We both enjoy all his therapies and activities together, but it does take a lot of time and energy! Last but not the least, we absolutely love volunteering whenever time permits.

How has COVID impacted your daily work routine?

Opportunities for financial support for rare disease research are limited. COVID had a significant negative affect on some of the funding applications that we had applied for our KIF1A research. However, on a positive note, our work in the lab was not affected at all, and in fact, progressed really well. I am also hugely indebted to KIF1A.ORG for their confidence and financial support in our work. Without KIF1A.ORG, the high-throughput screening of approved drugs project may have been delayed due to lack of funding support. Flexibility in working hours during COVID further helped me tremendously in balancing work and parental responsibilities, both of which are near to my heart and soul.

To learn about the high-throughput drug screening project led by Dr. Kaur and funded by KIF1A.ORG, read our announcement!