Kelley Parato is a born problem-solver. Throughout her career, she's been the type of person who sees challenges to be addressed, rather than problems that can't be solved. How fitting then, that as the Program Director for our Disruptive Technology Solutions for Cell and Gene Therapy Challenge program, she's now been tasked with addressing some of the key issues affecting the accessibility and affordability of cutting-edge cell and gene therapies in Canada.
"My current role is not entirely dissimilar to my previous roles in the private sector," says Parato. "But in the past I didn't have access to the sort of robust toolbox available at the NRC, including the breadth of multidisplinary research that goes on here."
Traditionally, drugs have tended to treat symptoms of disease. With modern cell and gene therapies, scientists and doctors can entirely replace damaged or defective genes or cells, and repair tissues.
"It's a whole other order of magnitude in terms of treatment," Parato explains. "I would almost characterize them as replacement therapies – instead of treating symptoms or managing disease, we can get rid of the underlying problem itself, which can be much more effective. However, it also means that these therapies are exquisitely complex, making them much more difficult to study, to develop and manufacture, and ultimately to get them to the patients who need them."
Kelley completed studies at the University of Ottawa, where she obtained her PhD in Biochemistry, Microbiology and Immunology, before working for many years at BioCanRx. Now, after a little over a year as a valued member of the Human Health Therapeutics Research Centre, she's thrilled to be part of a significant initiative for the benefit of Canadians.
"I'm delighted to have been so warmly welcomed. Every day I learn something new about the exciting work that's done across the organization. There are so many technologies not yet uncovered that we can develop and turn into solutions to address real problems."