Nuclease scientist says it is so fulfilling to come to work and know she’s part of something that can make a difference in the lives of patients and their families.
What do you do? I work at the Seattle office of bluebird bio, a gene therapy company, making MegaTALs in the laboratory. MegaTALs are a type of molecular tool used to edit genes in a cell. We can use them for creating safer and more potent cell-based products to provide one-time treatments that could cure patients who suffer from a broad range of diseases.
How did you get started in that field? A high school teacher taught us about DNA electrophoresis, and I still remember his crude drawing on the board of what it was. It seemed so cutting edge to me. Since then, I’ve always been fascinated by molecular biology. After high school, I took a two-year technical program in biotechnology and got placed at a gene therapy company called Chromos for my program’s internship, where I returned to work upon graduation.
What’s a typical day like? When I get into the lab, I’ll start the first of many reactions to make some fresh MegaTAL. While I’m waiting for these to finish, I’ll also analyze some DNA sequences from my previous experiment to check where and how well my MegaTAL edited the genome. When my new MegaTAL is ready, I’ll mix it with human T cells and then apply an electric current to get it inside.
What’s the best part of the job? I get to work with an intelligent and passionate group of people, with the patient being at the forefront of our focus. We have the potential to treat and potentially cure rare diseases such as cerebral adrenoleukodystrophy, Beta thalassemia, sickle cell disease and multiple myeloma. It is so fulfilling to come to work and know I’m a part of something that can make a difference in the lives of patients and their families.
What surprises people about your work? People are surprised when they find out how long it takes, how much work and how really expensive it is to perform research to find a cure for certain diseases. It takes a lot of people and a lot of hard work, but achieving the end goal of curing disease is obviously more than worth it.