The New York Blood Center (NYBC) is one of the largest independent, community-based, nonprofit blood centers in the United States For more information please visit their website.

Country: United States

Population Served: 75,000,000

Donors: 1,000,000

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Connie Westhoff
Principal Investigator and Deputy Chair

Connie is the executive scientific director at the National Center for Blood Group Genomics, heads the Laboratory of Blood Group Genomics at the New York Blood Center, and is a Member of the Lindsley F. Kimball Research Institute. She is the deputy chair of the Blood transfusion Genomics Consortium and co-lead for work package 7 on resolution testing.

The primary focus of the laboratory, which is being led by Connie, is to improve transfusion practice through the use of genomics to bring personalized medicine to the field with a focus on patients with Sickle Cell Disease (SCD). The discovery that patients with SCD have increased RH genetic diversity has led to our current studies to address alloimmunization by implementing genetic matching. A second focus is on the production of cultured RBCs (cRBCs) from stem and iPS cells, which hold the promise of revolutionizing the existing RBC supply system, however the number of cells and the cost of production remain major road blocks. Our goal is to generate clinically useful rare reagent cRBCs to improve and expedite patient workups. This lays the foundation for the future by providing clinically useful products that require relatively small amounts achievable with today’s technology.

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Sunitha Vege
Alternate to PI

Sunitha Vege, MS is the Technical Director of the Genomics Laboratory at the New York Blood Center. She received her Master’s in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology.

She has been working in the blood group genomics field for over 15 years with particular interest in the RH system and its genetic diversity. She has presented at state and national meetings and has co-authored numerous publications in the area.

Sunitha will oversee sample collection and supervise resolution of discordant results.

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Gorka Ochoa

Gorka Obtained his M.D. at the University of the Basque Country in Bilbao, Spain, and his Ph.D. in Microbiology & Immunology from the University of Southern California. Completed his post-doctoral training at the NIAID in Rockville, MD and at the Gladstone Institute of Immunology in San Francisco. Worked as a Research Associate at the Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, as Research Manager at Progenika Biopharma in Bilbao, Spain, as Technical Supervisor at Progenika in Medford, MA and as Lab Director at Grifols in San Marcos, TX.

Currently, he is Director of Bioinformatics & Assay Development at New York Blood Center in Long Island City, NY.