- Global Pharma News & Resources

HMRI Celebrates Women’s History Month: ‘Women have been at the forefront of our most groundbreaking research for decades’

Leading biomedical research organization shines light on female scientists of its past, present, future

PASADENA, Calif.--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Huntington Medical Research Institutes (HMRI), a leading biomedical research organization in Southern California with a 70-year track record of impact, is observing Women’s History Month this March by celebrating leading women in science and honoring their roles in the achievements of the past, present and future.

“At HMRI, we are focused on improving public health by creating a deeper understanding of the mechanics of the brain and the heart. Women are and have been at the forefront of our most groundbreaking research for decades. We applaud women in science who not only advance research, but also take the time to support and encourage the future female scientists of tomorrow,” Dr. Julia Bradsher, president and CEO of HMRI, said. “HMRI embraces women’s leadership in science, past, present and future, and we encourage the rest of the scientific community to do the same. While we’ve made great strides as a society, we will continue to advance a culture where women can do their best work.”

Throughout its history, HMRI stood apart in the biomedical community as an organization that always valued female scientists, with a significant number of female researchers at the helm of many revolutionary HMRI studies.


Dr. Marylou Ingram, one of the most influential women scientists at HMRI, was a senior research scientist when she arrived in 1982. She led the development of a microgravity tissue culture method funded by NASA using a NASA bioreactor, and she pioneered methods of growing 3D tumors from cancer cells, which can be used to screen new cancer treatments and help regenerate replacement tissues. Through a bequest, Ingram endowed the Marylou Ingram Chair in Medical Science Research, ensuring future HMRI researchers would have the resources to be as groundbreaking as she was.


Dr. Julia Bradsher is a successful scientist, strategic leader and the dynamic CEO of HMRI, directing the institute in its focused growth strategy. Under her leadership, the institute continues its track record of discoveries that benefit human health, more recently focused on the brain and heart. Her leadership has fostered another critical mission: supporting female employees in the sciences while inspiring the next generation of scientists through educational programs for students from high school through graduate school. Hailing from a small town in Arkansas, Bradsher’s interest in science peaked in high school, where she had a mentor who helped shape her successful career. This experience cemented her commitment -- both to creating a workplace where female scientists can thrive and to mentoring aspiring young girls in the sciences. In her previous roles as a scientist at major American universities and institutes, she understood the importance and impact of female leadership. “It has been demonstrated that when women lead organizations, they are transformed in their culture, business practices, engagement and the bottom line. It is my great honor to be leading HMRI as we transform our future.” Bradsher continued, adding that “Any woman -- and especially women in the sciences -- understand the uphill battle that it is to progress and excel in your career. I know the transformational impact of mentors on me and my career. So if you’ve been helped, I urge you to pay it forward. I consider it my most important avocation to guide young women interested in the sciences.”

Dr. Susan Kane is HMRI’s first woman board chair — a trail she blazed before as first female research department board chair at City of Hope National Medical Center. A retired biomedical research scientist, Kane was inspired early in life by a biology teacher, who led her down the path to earning bachelor’s and doctorate degrees in the subject. She joined HMRI to help advance its commitment to being a world-class, independent research institute that recognizes the value of diverse perspectives. Dedicated to inspiring young girls to pursue careers in science, Kane annually organizes a day of hands-on activities to show middle school girls in Pasadena they have what it takes to be the next great researchers. “When I had my own lab, I made it a point to have female students. The experience of working with a woman is important. I have tried to do science differently by being purposeful about how I ran my lab and the way I worked with my colleagues. These opportunities make a difference so we need to make sure they are available for all girls who are interested in science.”

Dr. Anju Vasudevan is making waves in the scientific community with her recent significant discovery that could help advance cell therapy treatments for psychiatric and neurological disorders ranging from epilepsy to schizophrenia. As chair and scientific director of the HMRI Department of Neurosciences and neurovascular research program, her research program investigates the role of early brain development and developing long-term outcomes such as anxiety, depression and schizophrenia. She believes women bring kindness into the field of medical research, which sets up students and newcomers for success. “Science is a competitive space. Back in the day, when I was working in labs with the majority of the researchers being male, we couldn’t even mention maternity leave or kids. Nobody even took vacations. The environment was just so cut-throat. Thus, when I had my own lab, the first thing I changed was making it a kind place where my researchers were free to take time for their other priorities so that they can bring their best version of themselves to work.”

Dr. Nicole Purcell gets excited about training and nurturing the scientists and doctors of tomorrow — especially young women. A trained cardiac physiologist and scientific director for the educational programs at HMRI, Purcell has helped hundreds of high school students discover and embrace their love for science. She said she rarely saw female faculty in school science departments when she was growing up. The number of women in science careers is on the rise, but gaps remain. She urges girls to find mentors. “Coming from a family without a science background, having people who back you up and support you is the most important thing. I needed that mentorship to help me get to where I am today,” Purcell said. “If I can help someone understand there aren’t limitations, then that’s my job. I want to let students know that I came from a middle-class, low-income family, but I made it work, and so can they.”


For seven decades, HMRI has generated leading innovations that transform the way people around the world protect and improve their health and well-being, such as: the development of a cerebrospinal fluid shunt valve system developed for hydrocephalus; retractable seatbelts invented in the 1950s through the study of head trauma prevention; early research into prostate cancer cells, demonstrating the diagnostic value of MRI in medical practice; and perfecting magnetic resonance spectroscopy for diagnosing brain and heart conditions.

Today, HMRI researchers are exploring new therapies and diagnostic methods that may forever change the way we care for our hearts and brains.

Tomorrow’s great discoveries will be made by the girls and boys in today’s classrooms. To encourage the next generation of scientists and help make biomedical research and health sciences education accessible to everyone, HMRI offers several educational programs, including a high school STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) program, a Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship (SURF) program, and postdoctoral fellowships providing opportunities to perform cutting-edge research alongside HMRI’s accomplished physician-scientists. Learn more at

About HMRI

Huntington Medical Research Institutes (HMRI) is an independent, nonprofit organization located in Pasadena, California. Since its beginnings in 1952, HMRI research has led to the development of diagnostics, medical devices and therapies that improve the lives of millions of patients worldwide. HMRI conducts life-changing studies of the heart, the brain and the vascular intersection between the two. The institute’s scientists seek solutions to daunting cardiovascular and neurological challenges, like heart disease, Alzheimer’s disease, migraine and mental illness. For more information, visit


Priya Shah
mPR, Inc. on behalf of HMRI

Editor Details

  • Company:
    • Businesswire
Last Updated: 20-Mar-2023