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. Our very own Dr. Dominque Lessard is featured in this Q&A.

Headshot of Dominique Lessard

Dominique Lessard, PhD

Chief Science Officer, KIF1A.ORG

Dr. Lessard has been an active member of the KIF1A.ORG community since we began collaborating with her and Berger Lab at the University of Vermont in 2018. Beyond her scientific expertise, Dr. Lessard has a clear passion for empowering KAND families to be active partners in research and discovery. Dominique joined the KIF1A.ORG team in 2020. As Chief Science Officer, Dominique drives KIF1A.ORG’s efforts to build a global, collaborative research network, and leads our research engagement and science communication strategy.

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

I would certainly enjoy the ability to manipulate time. There is always so much to do and not enough time! Mainly, I’d like to slow down time as this would also allow me to revel longer in special moments in life before they pass.

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

My interest in science was peaked at a very young age, however I didn’t always know that I wanted to pursue a career path in science. I started conducting research early on in my undergraduate career, but I bounced around a lot in terms of topic. Infectious disease to reproductive physiology to immunology and finally to molecular physiology and biophysics in grad school where I found KIF1A and was hooked. Motor proteins like KIF1A are fascinating machines inside of our bodies. I love studying and observing movement, be it in the form of athletic performance or understanding movement deep within our cells. Studying KIF1A was the perfect way to connect my love of movement to my love of science.

What do you love most about your job?

Now that I have been working at KIF1A.ORG for a few years, my favorite part of my job is reflecting on all of the progress we have made in such a short time. It’s amazing to see how we have made projects, publications, therapeutic approaches, etc. into a reality that were once dreams! While it’s important to pause and take these moments of reflection, I also love how we strive to work as quickly and efficiently as possible.

What is the most challenging aspect of your job?

Time, in all aspects. I wish I had more time in a day, I wish I could physically move faster, and I wish that the systems we rely on for KIF1A therapeutic discovery could move faster too. Time is not on our side with KAND, and we are working so hard in so many ways at KIF1A.ORG to change that. For me, it’s a balance that I find challenging: I need to balance the understanding that time is precious and allow that to motivate me while not spending too much time dwelling on the frustrations of time because, well, that takes up a lot of time as well!

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

How do I pick just one!? I am very excited about the progress we have made over the past year on our Treatment Accelerator Program in which we are developing a centralized screening platform to test potential therapeutics on pre-clinical KAND models.

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

My coworkers! I’m honored to be part of a team comprised of some of the most amazing humans I’ve ever met. The way we put our heads together and get to work is both gratifying and motivating.

I am most motivated by:

I am motivated by discipline and the persistence/inspiration of others. I view discipline as having a solid base of habits that keep you going through challenges and unknown scenarios. Knowing I have a foundation of skills and behaviors that have historically helped me progress forward makes me more motivated to try more complex and unknown tasks. Being part of the KAND community, I am surrounded by so many inspiring stories of persistence and tenacity! All of these stories are my “why” and motivate me every single day.

When you are not working, what do you like to do?

When not working, I like to spend time with my family. As a new mom, I savor these early days of our new family as we all figure each other out. You will likely find us somewhere out in nature in beautiful Vermont.