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Hope is being able to see there is light despite all the darkness. Desmond Tutu

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We are passionate about finding cures so others can live. Please support the Blood Research Institute.

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Our investigators and trainees work tirelessly to advance their work, but spend nearly 50% of their time applying for grants for federal funding – which carry a success rate of less than 10%. Thanks to their high-quality work, 90% of our researchers have obtained federal funding – but this is not enough.

Your gift enables our team to spend more time in the lab, accelerating the pace of their research and bringing these live-saving discoveries into the clinical setting more quickly.


Be a Beacon of Hope for others

Gia Danninger

Gia Danninger and her mom, Jenna

Gia Danninger


​Gia was diagnosed with aplastic anemia at a young age. “Basically, it’s bone marrow failure. There was nothing going on inside of her body. Everything was empty. She wasn’t producing any red blood cells, white blood cells or platelets,” said Gia’s mother. 

Thankfully, after a bone marrow transplant and grueling year of recovery, Gia is ready to resume a normal life. “She’s registered for kindergarten in the fall, and she’s registered to start back with her dance classes. She’s all excited to get back into normal things that she should be doing at five,” said Gia’s mom, Jenna.

Sridhar Rao, MD, PhDGia Danninger received a bone marrow transplant to treat her underlying disease, aplastic anemia. Aplastic anemia is a acquired disorder in which a person’s bone marrow stops working, and in fact essentially disappears. In Gia’s case, highly accurate matching between her and donors across the world allowed Versiti to identify a perfect match, thereby allowing her physicians to offer her a bone marrow transplant shortly after her diagnosis. Research into how to better match donors and recipients has been ongoing at the Versiti Blood Research Institute for 30 years. In addition, as part of the Blood Research Institute’s ongoing focus on cellular therapies, Dr. Sid Rao participated as part of Gia’s transplant team.

Jack Gorski, PhDThe immune response is a complicated process involving direct and indirect communication between many specialized types of cells. Dr. Jack Gorski currently studies how immune responses are affected by aging and how T cell responses differ among healthy children and children with an autoimmune disease. Discoveries made in this area will advance basic understanding of the human response and its relation to autoimmunity, tissue transplantation and infectious disease, helping children like Gia.

Jack Zbiegen

Jack Zbiegen

Jack Zbiegen


When he was 40 years old, Jack went to the doctor with an ear ache. It turned out to be leukemia. Over the course of 15 months, Jack received more than 300 blood transfusions and a life-saving bone marrow transplant.

Versiti Wisconsin has made ground-breaking discoveries to help make more life-saving bone marrow transplants possible, and its investigators work on the front lines to fight leukemia and other cancers.

I am so thankful to have a second chance at life,” says Jack.

Nan Zhu, PhDIn normal blood cell development, hematopoietic stem cells (HSC) have the unique ability to self-renew and differentiate into all blood lineages. In leukemia patients, this process breaks down, as cancer cells take over and crowd out normal blood cells. Dr. Nan Zhu is actively investigating epigenetic factors implicated in acute myeloid leukemia (AML) biology, which could have huge implications for patients like Jack. “There is a pressing need for better therapies for acute myeloid leukemia patients. Through our research, we strive to provide leads to potential novel therapies. For me, every day is a step closer to unlocking the mysteries of leukemia—a step closer to finding new ways to fight this terrible disease,” said Dr. Zhu.

Shanice Bowen

Shanice Bowen

Shanice Bowen


Shanice was told she would not live long because of her sickle cell anemia. However, blood transfusions helped Shanice survive and give back as a valued Versiti team member in Michigan. Shanice was born with sickle cell anemia, a painful and life-threatening blood disease that predominantly afflicts African-American patients. She has needed multiple blood transfusions to ease the excruciating pain and save her life.

Blood transfusions really helped replenish my energy and it definitely increased my blood circulation throughout my body. Being on the receiving end, you can always tell how much of a difference it makes,” said Shanice.

Proving her doctors wrong, Shanice is going to college and has started a career with Versiti’s donor services team, giving the gift of life to others in need.

Thanks to blood donors, I can make a difference in people’s lives,” says Shanice.

Matthew Karafin, MD, MSAn American Association of Blood Banks Rising Star Award winner, Dr. Matt Karafin’s research interests include the use of red cell transfusion to control pain in patients with sickle cell disease, etiology and prevention of red cell alloimmunization and iron overload. Research also includes benefits and risks of red cell storage for patients, like Shanice, red cell transfusions in the elderly, and the etiology and prevention of transfusion reactions.


Make a direct difference for patients who need your help.

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Additional Impact Stories

Jesse Pagel presenting a check to Versiti Blood Center of Wisconsin to support Organ Donation

Jesse Pagels

Jesse was diagnosed with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia in 2003. Unfortunately, the treatment damaged his lungs. In 2013, a match was found and Jesse underwent a life-saving double lung transplant.

View Story
Gia Danninger

Gia Danninger

Gia Danninger is a fighter. When she was 5 years old, she was diagnosed with aplastic anemia, a rare disease that occurs when the body stops producing enough new blood cells.

View Story
Harlow Millies

Harlow Millies

Harlow Millies from Hartland, Wis., was diagnosed with high-risk acute lymphoblastic leukemia in 2017. All of a sudden, a happy and healthy child began fighting for her life.

View Story

Contact Us

Kelley McCaskill

Vice President of Philanthropy
Email

Melinda Lanham

Director of Development
Phone: 414-937-6051 Email
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