Blood researcher, branch chief, Division of Blood Diseases and Resources, National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute
Her Story: Traci Mondoro, Ph.D., serves as the chief of the Translational Blood Science and Resources Branch at the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute’s Division of Blood Diseases and Resources. Her team of five manages the division’s training and career development grants. But the Cure Sickle Cell Initiative, an NHLBI-led collaborative research effort to accelerate the development of genetic therapies to cure sickle cell disease, is one of the larger programs in her portfolio—and one of which she is particularly proud of.
Her motivator: Mondoro said she finds inspiration in the people she’s met who live with sickle cell disease, as well as the enthusiastic early career investigators she gets to watch grow in their research careers. A self-described “people person,” Mondoro said she also enjoys meeting other new colleagues across the Institute and “watching them find their way, their place, and their passion.”
Her biggest challenge: Being patient in a world where solutions don’t come easy or fast, Mondoro said, is difficult. “Even if there were a perfect cure for sickle cell disease tomorrow, we would still have many questions to answer before it would get to a patient,” Mondoro said. “It’s an uphill battle,” because of the sheer complexity of this kind of research effort.
Her future work: Although the Cure Sickle Cell Initiative is still in its infancy, Mondoro and her team already have identified resources that are in short supply but that are critical for translational research—for example, blood-forming stem cells from patients for use in gene therapy studies. Mondoro is now helping to develop national resources to promote the manufacturing of these kinds of cell products. All these efforts, Mondoro said, are moving the field closer to an accessible cure.