What are your research interests?
My laboratory studies the mechanisms of vertebrate blood cell development. We perform basic research to define the transcription factors and cell cycle regulators that mediate lineage commitment and differentiation. We also pursue translational studies to define the genetics of hematologic malignancies and to develop novel therapeutics for acute leukemia.
What made you decide to pursue that type of research?
In graduate school, my research was focused on defining the biochemistry of pre-mRNA splicing. Although I found the work to be intellectually stimulating and challenging, I wanted to work in a field that was more closely related to human disease. Thus, I chose to perform post-doctoral research with Stuart Orkin at the Children’s Hospital of Boston and Harvard Medical School. As a post-doc, I developed a strong interest in blood development and in particular how mutations in important transcriptional regulators contribute to human leukemia. I continue to be intrigued by the hematopoietic system.
What are some of your current research projects?
1) Studying the role of Survivin in red blood cell enucleation.
2) Investigating the contribution of Survivin to hematologic malignancies.
3) Characterizing novel regulators of human blood cell development
4) Defining the mechanisms of leukemogenesis in children with Down syndrome.
5) Developing new therapies for Acute Myeloid Leukemia.
Why did you choose Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine?
I moved to Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine about a year ago to join an expanding research program within the Division of Hematology. I was enticed by the superb collaborative environment, the strong clinical and research colleagues, and the outstanding leadership of the Robert H. Lurie Comprehensive Cancer Center. My move has facilitated the establishment of a new research projects including a program aimed at defining the genetic basis of acute myeloid leukemia (in collaboration with Dr. Martin Tallman) and at investigating the ability of nanoparticles to deliver antisense agents into primary human blood cells (in collaboration with Dr. Chad Mirkin).
What is the biggest challenge you have experienced so far?
Certainly the biggest challenges to running a dynamic research laboratory are securing funding and recruiting talented researchers. Fortunately, I have been successful in both of these areas. In particular, I have had the pleasure of working with many gifted graduate students, medical fellows and post-doctoral fellows. Therefore, for me, the biggest challenge is staying ahead of the curve: i.e. identifying new technologies and adapting them to my research before everyone else in my field does the same.
What do you see for the future?
I am very excited about the ongoing recruitment efforts in my division and in the cancer center. With the recent successful recruitments of Drs. Alex Minella and Chonghui Cheng, we are well on our way to establishing an outstanding and interactive cancer research group on the fifth floor of the Lurie building. With these and other recruitments, I expect that the research in the division and at the medical school will become even more vibrant and collaborative. One of my goals is to develop a center for research into the molecular basis of hematologic malignancies. We already have a core group of outstanding researchers in this area and are in the process of establishing joint research projects and grant proposals. I’m excited about the future of the medical school and am delighted to be at Northwestern.