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A discovery-pipeline for Leukemia

Acute leukemias develop rapidly and without treatment they lead to death within a few months. Their causes are largely unresolved. Florian Grebien of the Ludwig Boltzmann Institute for Cancer Research would like to change this, also with the help of a recently received ERC START grant.

Florian Grebien will devote his time and effort to Acute Myeloid leukemia (AML), one of the more aggressive forms of blood cancer. The mutations, which appear in AML are largely known due to the large progress sequencing technologies have recently made. However, there are wide gaps in our knowledge in the molecular mechanisms underlying the disease. The European Research Council (ERC) has now decided to support Florian Grebien's research at the LBI-CR with 1.5 M €. He is

the first researcher of the Ludwig Boltzmann Gesellschaft to receive this prestigious and highly competititve funding.

Put simply, AML is a misdirected development of blood cells. The disease develops from lesions in the bone marrow where stem cells are altered by mutations. Influenced by the wider genetic environment the development of particular types of blood cells is altered or blocked, depending on the type of AML. "It is relatively easy to take blood from 1000 patients and to sequence the genome. This produces extensive genetic catalogs that link certain mutations with certain diseases," says Grebien: "But the point is, these enormous amounts of data require biological validation to understand the underlying oncogenic mechanisms - and this constitutes a bottleneck in modern biomedical research at the moment." Therefore Grebien has developed a discovery pipeline to identify biologically meaningful knowledge about the function of these mutations. This approach constitutes the core of his proposal to the ERC, which will provide him with the necessary funds to perform this research at the LBI-CR in an optimal environment.

The above text is a translated excerpt of an interview Florian Grebien gave to Lena Yadlapalli, which was published in DerStandard on February 18, 2015