New NHLBI Leaders Discuss Organizational Priorities, Collaborations with ATS

The National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute recently welcomed new leaders in its Division of Lung Diseases, Chief Medical Research Officer Sumita Khatri, MD, and Deputy Director Gustavo Matute-Bello, MD. In their new positions, Drs. Khatri and Matute-Bello will further the NHLBI’s global leadership program for research, training, and education to promote the prevention and treatment of heart, lung, and blood disorders to enhance the health of all individuals and promote longer, more fulfilling lives.

Sumita Khatri, MD
Sumita Khatri, MD

Prior to joining the DLD, Dr. Khatri was a professor of medicine at the Cleveland Clinic Lerner College of Medicine and held several professional appointments, including vice chair of the Respiratory Institute at the Cleveland Clinic, director of the Cleveland Clinic Asthma Center, and staff physician in critical care medicine with the Respiratory Institute at Cleveland Clinic. Dr. Khatri has been a practicing physician for nearly 22 years, focusing on asthma patient care and clinical research. She has decades of experience developing and executing clinical trials and has a deep knowledge of scientific and regulatory guidelines for research evaluation. Early in her career, she contributed to several seminal studies that helped determine the role of exhaled nitric oxide in asthma and its potential use as a biomarker of airway inflammation. Recently, she dedicated her research efforts to clinical studies analyzing novel biological therapies for severe asthma.

Dr. Matute-Bello was a professor of medicine at the University of Washington, an investigator at the UW Center for Lung Biology, and a staff physician at the Veterans Administration Puget Sound Healthcare System. His research has focused on the cellular and molecular mechanisms of lung injury and repair, with particular emphasis on the function of the alveolar epithelium. His primary clinical interests are interstitial lung disease and lung transplant. He has authored and co-authored more than 70 publications.

The ATS Conference News recently sat down with Drs. Khatri and Matute-Bello to discuss their priorities at the NHLBI, sessions at the ATS 2023 International Conference organized by the NHLBI, and the important relationship between the two organizations.

What are your priorities in your new role at the NHLBI?

Gustavo Matute-Bello, MD
Gustavo Matute-Bello, MD

Dr. Matute-Bello: My main priority is to serve the research community by helping advance the best science and by promoting cutting-edge research so that we can move closer to achieving lung health and curing lung disease. I am particularly committed to training early-stage investigators, as their future is the future of the scientific endeavor. Additionally, I am excited to help create a world where science truly serves and includes all members of our community.

Dr. Khatri: In my role as the CMRO, I will be able to serve the scientific community and care for the research subjects and patients who are part of our clinical research trials. With input and innovative ideas from scientists in lung, critical care, and sleep research—and experiences from patient advisory panels—I will collate, develop, and share best practices. My goals are to achieve better patient-related outcomes, improve diverse access to clinical research trials, and support research relevant to our community’s needs.

What is on the horizon at the NHLBI?

Dr. Matute-Bello: As the NHLBI approaches its 75th anniversary and the DLD its 55th, we have started a process of revising the division’s scientific priorities. This effort will be nested within the ongoing review and updating of the NHLBI’s overall strategic vision.

Dr. Khatri: An exciting part about updating the DLD vision is to ensure that DLD funds clinical research that is relevant to the community and leverages new ideas from emerging fields. I am also thrilled to join a highly engaged and growing division. We have brought new leaders to ATS 2023, like Dr. Matute-Bello and me, along with 20-plus program officers and staff. We are eager to talk about funding opportunities, grant policies, and NIH career options while helping attendees advance their pulmonary, critical care, and sleep research.

NHLBI will present several Outside Organization sessions at the International Conference. Why is the collaboration between the NHLBI and the ATS important?

Dr. Matute-Bello: One example of an effective partnership with ATS is NHLBI’s participation in the New Faculty Bootcamp during the conference. DLD staff will share information on how attendees can learn to use NHLBI to their advantage. Professional societies like the ATS are the voice of the community and have a unique megaphone to amplify the needs and interests of the research community. Partnerships in general, and particularly with professional societies, create connection and cohesion between DLD and the research community; because of this, we appreciate the division’s longstanding and effective partnership with the ATS.

Dr. Khatri: We want to collaborate with the community as much as possible and break down silos. The ATS is an important collaborator for engaging with stakeholders, sharing our future vision, and hearing from the ground what are the needs of the community. We want researchers to know that DLD is accessible, approachable, and eager to engage directly with our constituents.

When will ATS 2023 International Conference attendees have an opportunity to meet with you during the conference in Washington, DC?

Dr. Matute-Bello: I will be speaking during the Boot Camp, and I will spend time at the NHLBI booth in the Exhibit Hall throughout the conference. I welcome questions, suggestions, or comments from anybody at ATS 2023, especially trainees and early-stage investigators.

Dr. Khatri: I will also spend time at the booth and look forward to meeting attendees during the sessions.

What other details about NHLBI and its involvement at the International Conference would you like to highlight for conference attendees?

Dr. Matute-Bello:  The research presented at the International Conference demonstrates tremendous evidence of the value of the partnership between the NHLBI and the research community. The groundbreaking knowledge gained by the NHLBI’s funded research is exceptional, and we look forward to partnering with the community to translate discoveries into better lung and sleep health for patients and the public.

Dr. Khatri: I am passionate about translating knowledge into improved outcomes. I look forward to meeting attendees and hearing about their clinical programs. As the clinical research enterprise increases in its complexity, it is essential that NHLBI maintains a strong connection with the community to ensure that innovative and transformative research moves forward.

Don’t Miss ATS 2024 Highlights: On Demand

Don’t forget that ATS 2024 Highlights: On Demand are available to all conference registrants! On Demand will give you access to the Opening Ceremony, Plenary session, Keynote Series, Clinical Year in Review, Adult Clinical Core Curriculum, and so much more. The topics will cover ILD, asthma, health equity, and CF, to name just a few. On Demand content will be accessible to all ATS 2024 full conference and On Demand registrants until March 2025.