Lovelace Expands Veterinary Expertise with New Hires


Top veterinary talent is at the core of preclinical success. And the more complex the study, the more important that talent becomes.

With this as a driving principle, Lovelace has made several key veterinary hires in recent months — growing its expertise for multifaceted studies and ensuring that animals at Lovelace receive the best care possible.

“Veterinarians play a vital role in all of our programs, and are directly involved in planning and implementation of study protocols,” said Lovelace Chief Scientific Officer Jake McDonald, Ph.D. “We take pride in hiring all-star veterinarians who are passionate about our ultimate goal to advance medicines that save lives.”

Dr. McDonald noted that the newest additions to Lovelace’s veterinary team are not just skilled in veterinary medicine, but are also scientists with experience working directly with clients that span the biotech and pharma industry. The new veterinarians include:

Kumari Smith, DVM
Attending Veterinarian
As attending veterinarian at Lovelace Biomedical, Dr. Smith provides a broad spectrum of medical, surgical and telemetry support for preclinical studies. Prior to joining Lovelace, she served as associate veterinarian at the Yerkes National Primate Research Center in Atlanta, where she supported clinical and research medicine. She also was a resident in primate and laboratory animal medicine at the New England Primate Research Center with Harvard Medical School, and completed an internship in small-animal medicine and surgery at emergency clinic in the Boston area.

Dr. Smith earned her doctor of veterinary medicine (DVM) degree from University of California, Davis, School of Veterinary Medicine, where she gained special recognition from The Society of Phi Zeta, the honor society of veterinary medicine. She also holds B.S. in biology with a minor in neuroscience from University of California, Los Angeles.

Dr. Smith said she became a veterinarian-scientist out of a strong drive to be the voice for research animals and provide them the highest standard of care. She recently became even more devoted to the field of biomedical research after learning her 3-year-old son has Type I diabetes. “Being a part of Lovelace Biomedical allows me to dedicate my care and compassion to the animals in research as we contribute to health advances,” she says.

Joanna Mleczko, DVM, Ph.D.
Research Veterinarian
Dr. Mleczko is a versatile research veterinarian with strong background in comparative physiology, experimentation and translational research. She is experienced in cardiovascular device development, study design and execution in dynamic environments, such as Lovelace. Importantly, she brings a track record of rigorous biomedical research focused on innovative therapies and solutions. Most recently, Dr. Mleczko served as a senior scientist for 3DT Holdings in San Diego, where she was a principle investigator and project manager for a range of therapeutic programs.

Dr. Mleczko completed her post-doctoral research at Cornell University, where she earned her Ph.D. in molecular physiology. She also holds a DVM from Freie Universität Berlin and spent time as a research assistant at the Institute for Anatomy and Histopathology, where she trained students in canine, feline, equine and bovine anatomy labs.

She says she’s motivated to apply her veterinary expertise to innovative experimental approaches in medical research and public health. “The most rewarding part of my job at Lovelace is the chance to advance research through innovative techniques and highest-standard veterinary services,” she said. “I’m honored to play a role in bringing about novel technological applications that will benefit patients in the future.”

Sharla M. Birch, DVM, Ph.D., DACVP
Veterinary Pathologist
Born and raised on a cattle and sheep ranch in eastern Montana, Dr. Birch developed an early love for helping animals. Prior to joining Lovelace in 2018, Dr. Birch served as an associate research scientist at Texas A&M University, developing and testing treatments for Duchenne muscular dystrophy. There, she was instrumental in assisting with the development of a gene therapy treatment protocol, administration of the gene therapy, testing and analyzing outcome measures and summarizing the findings in a report submitted to FDA in the fall of 2017 for an investigational new drug.

Her recent research followed a postdoctoral fellowship focused on AAV gene therapy at Texas A&M, where she earned a Ph.D. in veterinary pathobiology and completed an earlier residency in anatomic pathology. Dr. Birch also holds a master’s degree in veterinary biomedical sciences and a doctor of veterinary medicine from Oklahoma State University. She earned her undergraduate degree from Montana State University, graduating with honors in animal science with an emphasis in pre-veterinary medicine.

“Lovelace has an amazing team that I am honored to be a part of,” she said. “The Lovelace team has a diverse background, a great support network, team leadership, good communication and most importantly we are all able to come together with a common goal to succeed.”

For more information about Lovelace’s capabilities for preclinical research projects, contact us.