Dr. Jagdeep Walia is a clinical geneticist and the Director of Research in the Department of Pediatrics. The focus of his clinical work is seeing individuals and families with different genetic conditions starting from before birth to after death. His research focus is on developing gene therapies for these genetic conditions, largely incurable ones.
“I have a research lab which focuses on developing novel therapeutic treatments with an intention to bring it to clinics quickly,” Dr. Walia explains. “One of our products is in Phase 1/2 of a clinical trial right now and we are hoping that more products will come in the next five to ten years.” This trial is a first-in-human trial for infantile GM2 gangliosidosis, a set of brain-damaging conditions. Dr. Walia describes: “Children with these conditions mostly die by the age of four. There is a deficiency of an enzyme which is the root cause and with gene therapy, we are hoping to replace the missing enzyme to enough levels that the condition can remain asymptomatic. We have a big team working towards that goal. Our initial results have been very encouraging showing that human participants are showing increases in their enzyme levels.”
Dr. Walia’s lab specifically focuses on developing treatments for many incurable neurodegenerative conditions. “We have projects focused on cancer, atherosclerosis and eye conditions. We are very hopeful that we will find meaningful treatments for most of them,” he says. “For other faculty projects in the department, we are working on COVID-related projects, quality improvement projects, exergaming, artificial intelligence, and many more which are very exciting.”
For Dr. Walia, it is research that laid foundations of the current medical practices and it paves a path towards novel treatments and improving existing treatments. “In Pediatrics and overall in medicine, research brings refinement, replacement and innovation to patient care for the overall good. Without research, there would be no advancement.”
Dr. Walia says overall, the aim of his work is to bring hope in the lives of patients and families suffering from rare disorders. “The plan is to make Kingston a hub for a world-class gene therapy centre and we are working towards it. Many new trials will get initiated here in Kingston, which will bring not only science, but also funding, employment and talent in the coming years,” he explains. “The future of Pediatrics is always secure and bright as it is in the able hands of our wonderful pediatricians and research scientists. Children are our future, and we are all working hard to make our future better.”