Versiti Blood Research Institute Articles
New Research Will Further Understanding of Rare Blood Cancer
A leading expert in myeloproliferative neplasms, Chief Scientific Officer Michael W. Deininger, MD, PhD, brings new expertise and leadership vision to Versiti Blood Research Institute.
A national leader in blood health innovation, Versiti Blood Research Institute (VBRI) is happy to welcome Michael W. Deininger, MD, PhD, as its new executive vice president and chief scientific officer. With extensive experience treating patients with blood cancers, including chronic myeloid leukemia (CML) and myeloproliferative neoplasms (MPNs), a group of blood cancers related to leukemia, Dr. Deininger’s expertise will help amplify VBRI’s expertise in the field of cellular therapy.
Innovative blood cancer research
In addition to overseeing VBRI, Dr. Deininger will continue to conduct innovative research into blood cancers. “My research is dedicated to understanding the inner works of leukemia, specifically myeloproliferative neoplasms,” he said.
According to the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society, an estimated 99,869 people in the United States are living with or in remission from MPNs, which are diseases in which the bone marrow makes too many red blood cells, platelets or white blood cells. These diseases often get worse over time, as the number of extra cells build up in the body. Though treatments do exist, many patients develop resistance to them, ultimately succumbing to their cancer. Dr. Deininger hopes to better understand these diseases and develop more effective and less toxic therapies.
“My lab is interested in the genetics and the signaling in leukemia cells. We hope to use the knowledge about these differences to develop strategies specific to leukemia cells that don’t touch healthy cells,” Dr. Deininger said. “It’s about understanding precisely what’s wrong in the blood cancer cell and using this knowledge to specifically fix the problem. We use a broad variety of technologies to map the inner works of single leukemia cells and how they interact with healthy host cells. Blood cancer is almost always systemic, and if we want to cure it, we need to appreciate that leukemia cells and healthy cells are part of the same ecosystem.”
Vision for VBRI
Dr. Deininger was attracted to VBRI’s focus on hematology and blood disorders and hopes to further VBRI’s reputation as a leader in blood health innovation. “We’re innovating, recalibrating and changing the focus from what we’ve done in the past to where hematology is now,” he said.
“My vision is to create a space of excellence that covers the entire spectrum of hematology research,” he continued. “This is a place where you have exposure to the entire field of hematology within a small geographic space. I’d like to leverage that to make discoveries that would be difficult to make elsewhere.”
Dr. Deininger credits VBRI’s open, collaborative environment with making groundbreaking discoveries possible. “We are striving to build an open, dialectic, well-resourced and dynamic environment that stimulates people’s creative potential to make a difference in the science of hematology and impact how we think about, treat and diagnose blood disorders,” he said. “The mission is to promote research education and clinical care across the spectrum of hematology, with real impact on patients’ lives.”
In addition to leveraging VBRI investigators’ established expertise in certain areas of hematology, Dr. Deininger hopes to increase depth and critical mass in other areas, including stem cell biology, hematopoiesis (the science of how blood cells are generated) and immunology. “It’s important to grow the pool of faculty so that we can build out critical mass in certain areas and have a major impact,” he said.
He also hopes to increase VBRI’s local, national and worldwide recognition. “This is a great story; it’s a story of humble beginnings—of being successful and having a big impact not just in Milwaukee and Wisconsin, but beyond that,” he said. “Wisconsinites and Milwaukeeans should be very proud of that—it’s the community that created this.”
By showcasing VBRI as a space of excellence and increasing its notoriety, Dr. Deininger hopes to attract more world-class talent who will help further innovative research, develop new treatments and improve patient outcomes. “You cannot be successful unless you are a team,” he said. “This is a collaborative place, and we mean it when we say we’re committed to fairness and equity. This is in our culture.”
About the expert: Michael W. Deininger, MD, PhD, is the Mike and Cathy White Endowed Chair, executive vice president, chief scientific officer and senior investigator at Versiti Blood Research Institute. He serves as a professor in the Department of Medicine and associate dean of research at the Medical College of Wisconsin.