Dr Mendi got interested in research for rare diseases by her love for human genetics. She immersed herself in the field in 2018 soon after completing her PhD in cell biology from the University of Heidelberg, Germany and when a close family member was diagnosed with Huntington’s Disease (HD).
It marked her turning point because she realised that the disease was not being addressed in Africa and family members had no place to turn to. Further, many patients suffering from HD are usually misdiagnosed or underdiagnosed. One of the reasons for this is because patients may portray what looks like psychiatric challenges.
She later became the lead at Huntington’s Disease Africa, where she works with like-minded individuals to change the HD narrative- both locally and internationally. Dr Mendi says the goal of HD Africa is to raise awareness, engage policymakers and push HD research forward as they work to ease the burden that comes with the condition.
Her job entails using scientific methodologies such as genomics and biophysics to answer fundamental questions to gain mechanistic insight into the disease. “This includes understanding the inner workings of cells with the view of gaining knowledge on genetics and other mechanisms behind disease,” she says.
"Dr Mendi says the goal of HD Africa is to raise awareness, engage policymakers and push Huntington’s Disease research forward as they work to ease the burden that comes with the condition."