Meet Van Andel Research Institute’s Principal Investigators Van Andel Research Institute (VARI) is composed of three centers and 32 principal investigators, each with their own area of expertise and research projects. VARI Leadership Peter Jones Chief Scientific Officer; Director, Center for Epigenetics Peter Jones, Ph.D., D.Sc., is a pioneer in epigenetics, a growing field that explores how genes are regulated and provides new avenues for developing therapies for cancer and other diseases. His discoveries have helped usher in an entirely new class of drugs that have been approved to treat blood cancer and are being investigated in other tumor types. Dr. Jones is a member of the National Academy of Sciences and the American Academy of Arts & Sciences. He and his colleague Dr. Stephen Baylin co-lead the Van Andel Research Institute–Stand Up To Cancer Epigenetics Dream Team. Dr. Jones is the Institute's chief scientific officer and director of its Center for Epigenetics. 10 | VAN ANDEL INSTITUTE ANNUAL REPORT 2017 Patrik Brundin Associate Director of Research; Director, Center for Neurodegenerative Science Patrik Brundin, M.D., Ph.D., investigates molecular mechanisms in Parkinson’s disease, and his goals are to develop new therapies aimed at slowing or stopping disease progression or repairing damage. He is one of the top-cited researchers in the field of neurodegenerative disease and leads international efforts to repurpose drugs to treat Parkinson’s. Brundin is director of the Center for Neurodegenerative Science and associate director of research for VARI. Bart Williams Director, Center for Cancer and Cell Biology Bart Williams, Ph.D., studies the building blocks of bone growth on behalf of the millions suffering from diseases such as osteoporosis. He seeks new ways of altering cell signaling pathways to encourage healthy bone development and deter the spread of cancer to the skeleton. Williams is director of the Center for Cancer and Cell Biology. Steven J. Triezenberg Dean, Van Andel Institute Graduate School; Professor, Center for Epigenetics Steven J. Triezenberg, Ph.D., explores the genetic and epigenetic control systems of viruses to understand how infections progress and to reveal new ways to stop those infections. His discoveries with herpes simplex viruses have opened up new possibilities for antiviral drug development and have revealed new insights into how human cells control gene expression. In addition to running a lab at VARI, Dr. Triezenberg is the founding dean of Van Andel Institute Graduate School. Scott Jewell Director, Core Technologies and Services Scott Jewell, Ph.D., leads Van Andel Research Institute’s Core Technologies and Services, which provides technology and specialized expertise for research investigators. Cores and services include bioinformatics and biostatistics, cryo- EM, confocal microscopy and quantitative imaging, flow cytometry, genomics, pathology and biorepository, smallanimal imaging, vivarium management and transgenics. Jewell is a past president of the International Society for Biological and Environmental Repositories (ISBER).
RESEARCH Center for Epigenetics Research areas: Epigenetics, cancer, heart disease, neuroepigenetics and structural biology Stephen Baylin Stephen Baylin, M.D., studies the body’s genetic control systems — called epigenetics — searching for vulnerabilities in cancer. Baylin is a leader in this field, ranking among the first to trace epigenetic causes of cancer. His studies have led to new therapies for common cancers, like breast, lung, colorectal and many others. He is co-leader of the VARI–SU2C Epigenetics Dream Team with Dr. Peter Jones, co-director of Johns Hopkins’ Cancer Biology Division and associate director for research at Sidney Kimmel Comprehensive Cancer Center. Stefan Jovinge Stefan Jovinge, M.D., Ph.D., develops ways to help the heart heal itself and has led dozens of clinical trials in regenerative medicine. As a critical care cardiologist and scientist, he uses a bench-to-bedside approach in an effort to give patients with serious heart conditions longer, healthier lives. The clinical platform for his research is the Cardiothoracic Intensive Care Unit at Spectrum Health Hospital's Fred and Lena Meijer Heart Center, and the basic science effort in regenerative medicine is performed at VARI. He serves as director of the DeVos Cardiovascular Research Program. Peter W. Laird Peter W. Laird, Ph.D., seeks a detailed understanding of the molecular foundations of cancer with a particular focus on identifying crucial epigenetic alterations that convert otherwise healthy cells into cancer cells. He is widely regarded as an international leader in this effort and has helped design some of the world’s state-of-the-art tools to aid in epigenetics research. Laird is a principal investigator for the National Cancer Institute’s Genome Data Analysis Network and played a leadership role in The Cancer Genome Atlas, a multi-institutional effort to molecularly map cancers. He is a professor in the Center for Epigenetics. Huilin Li Huilin Li, Ph.D., uses cryo-electron microscopy (cryo-EM) to reveal the most basic building blocks of DNA replication and other systems vital for life. He has been at the vanguard of cryo-EM for more than 20 years, and his research has implications for some of the world’s most critical public health concerns, including tuberculosis, cancer, mental illness and many more. He is a professor in the Center for Epigenetics. Gerd Pfeifer Gerd Pfeifer, Ph.D., studies how the body switches genes on and off, a biological process called methylation that, when faulty, can lead to cancer or other diseases. His studies range from the effects of tobacco smoke on genetic and epigenetic systems to the discovery of a mechanism that may help protect the brain from neurodegeneration. Pfeifer’s studies have implications across a range of diseases, including cancer, Parkinson’s, diabetes and many others. Pfeifer is a professor in the Center for Epigenetics. Scott Rothbart Scott Rothbart, Ph.D., studies the ways in which cells pack and unpack DNA. This complex process twists and coils roughly 2 meters of unwound DNA into a space less than 1/10 th the width of a human hair. Although this process is impressive, it is also subject to errors that can cause cancer and other disorders. Rothbart seeks new targets for drug development in this process. He is an assistant professor in the Center for Epigenetics. VAN ANDEL INSTITUTE ANNUAL REPORT 2017 | 11