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2020 Annual Report

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This is the 2020 Annual Report for Van Andel Institute.

Van Andel Institute

Van Andel Institute Principal Investigators Van Andel Institute for Research is home to a team of scientists dedicated to improving the health and enhancing the lives of current and future generations through groundbreaking biomedical research. LEADERSHIP Peter A. Jones, Ph.D., D.Sc. (hon) Chief Scientific Officer; Director, Cancer Center Peter A. Jones, Ph.D., D.Sc. (hon), 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. Jones is a past president of the American Association for Cancer Research, a Fellow of the AACR Academy, a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, a member of the National Academy of Sciences and a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. Patrik Brundin, M.D., Ph.D. Deputy Chief Scientific Officer; Director, Parkinson’s Disease Center 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. Scott Jewell, Ph.D. Director, Core Technologies and Services; Director, Pathology and Biorepository Core; Professor, Department of Cell Biology Scott Jewell, Ph.D., leads VAI’s Core Technologies and Services, which provides technology and specialized expertise for research investigators. Services include bioinformatics and biostatistics, cryo-EM, optical imaging, flow cytometry, genomics, pathology and biorepository, vivarium management and transgenics. Jewell is a past president of the International Society for Biological and Environmental Repositories (ISBER). Steven J. Triezenberg, Ph.D. President and Dean, Van Andel Institute Graduate School Steven J. Triezenberg, Ph.D., is the dean of Van Andel Institute Graduate School. His lab, which closed in 2018 after 31 years of productive research, explored the genetic and epigenetic control systems of viruses to understand how infections progress and to reveal new ways to stop them. His discoveries with herpes simplex viruses opened up new possibilities for antiviral drug development and revealed new insights into how human cells control gene expression. DEPARTMENT OF EPIGENETICS J. Andrew Pospisilik, Ph.D. Chair and Professor J. Andrew Pospisilik, Ph.D., seeks to understand how we become whom we become, and how our disease susceptibility is defined from early on in life, even before conception, with the long-term goal of being able to predict lifelong health outlook at birth. 12 | VAN ANDEL INSTITUTE ANNUAL REPORT 2020

RESEARCH Stephen B. Baylin, M.D. Director’s Scholar; Professor Stephen Baylin, M.D., studies the body’s genetic control systems — called epigenetics — searching for vulnerabilities in cancer. Baylin is a pioneer in this field and was among the first to trace epigenetic causes of cancer. His studies have led to new therapies for breast, lung and colorectal cancers, among others. He is co-leader of the Van Andel Institute–Stand Up To Cancer Epigenetics Dream Team, a Director’s Scholar at VAI and co-head of Cancer Biology at Sidney Kimmel Comprehensive Cancer Center at Johns Hopkins University. Peter W. Laird, Ph.D. Professor 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 also 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 multiinstitutional effort to molecularly map cancers. Department of Epigenetics The Department of Epigenetics seeks to understand the plasticity of our genomes and how our genetic output can be stably modified to protect us from or predispose us to complex diseases such as cancer, infection, obesity and Parkinson’s. Faculty investigate the molecular processes that fine-tune how DNA is packaged and how this packaging is stabilized to form disease programs. In this way, they will mine the origins of these complex diseases, mapping them to genetic and environmental inputs now, in our early lives, and even before birth. Gerd Pfeifer, Ph.D. Professor 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 effect 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. VAN ANDEL INSTITUTE ANNUAL REPORT 2020 | 13

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