Cure HHT is thrilled to welcome Cassi Friday, PhD as the newest member of our team! Get to know Cassi, her connection to HHT, and learn more about her role as Director, Research Programs & Grants.
Meet The Staff! Cassi Friday, PhD – Director, Research Program & Grants
Tell us more about your professional background!
I have always been a self-proclaimed scientist and I have worked within the broad category of science for the last 18 years – beginning with my first job in a cave giving tours and studying bats! I continued with field research and moved from bats to fish during undergraduate internships, but during my time working on the river, I was responsible for learning DNA extraction and PCR from the genetic material of fish I was studying. I loved it so much that I traded my waders and nets for a lab coat, and I entered the field of Physiology for grad school! I received my Ph.D. in Physiology from the University of Kentucky College of Medicine where I did a translational project that aimed to understand how the largest genetic risk factor for late-onset Alzheimer’s disease causes changes in metabolism and immune function in the brain. I have been a volunteer with Cure HHT for years doing science and research-related projects and this was a perfect opportunity for me to put my degree to use!
What’s your connection to HHT?
My husband has HHT – until I met him, I had never heard of the disease. We have three crazy children and two of them have HHT as well.
What about this opportunity excites you?
Is an appropriate response, ‘Everything!’? I have always been impressed by the lean, mean Cure HHT machine – the small staff has accomplished an insane amount for the community from outreach to advocacy, to fundraising, to increasing access to care, and so on. I have always felt welcomed and excited to volunteer with the organization. Though this is a new role and position for both Cure HHT and me, I am motivated, energized, and ready to roll. Perhaps I am most excited about finding ways to bring HHT researchers around the world together in collaborations that advance research into treatments in a patient-oriented way (the whole goal of the Cure HHT Research Network). One of my jobs is to find ways to make science happen easier and faster by creating tools and resources (like a tissue bank), helping to make connections with those who can share their knowledge and resources, and to help secure more money to grow this important network. Bottom line – I’m excited about everything.
Ok. So we hand you a crystal ball. In 5 years, what do you hope you’re able to help the foundation achieve?
In 5 years, I want to be well into our HHT Research Roadmap with the help of a well-stocked biobank full of donated tissues from HHT patients. Our researchers can do a lot with cells in a dish, but they really need human tissue from HHT donors (blood donations, saliva, if you get a telangiectasia taken off, an AVM surgically removed, etc.). This is a primary mission of mine – so many of the patient-driven research recommendations rely on this task. Additionally, I want to highlight the science – both basic and clinical research – being done. The HHT community needs to get to know the brilliant minds hustling to find a cure! Plus, the stuff they are doing is really cutting edge and cool – we can nerd out together over the next five years and I promise you’ll be as excited as me!
Tell us more about the Fridays!
Our life is a little wild. My husband is active-duty Army. He is currently serving in the Middle East for a year. I am trying to keep the kids alive (human and fur varieties – humans are Eleanor age 6, Theo age 5, and Graham age almost 3; two big dogs and a cat) and hold down the fort. We have moved 6 times in the last 10 years, so there is a good chance we will be in a city near you one day! We obviously love traveling, experiencing different cultures, and living on air mattresses (two truths and a lie).
What’s your message for the HHT community?
While we wait for better treatments and a CURE, stay strong and hopeful. Take care of yourself and each other and support science! We can’t do this without you – volunteer for research studies, spit in a tube, donate tissues that normally go in the trash – all of this helps us help you faster.