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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 Scott Rothbart, Ph.D. Associate Professor Scott Rothbart, Ph.D., studies the ways in which cells pack and unpack DNA. This elegant process twists and coils roughly 2 meters of unwound DNA into a space less than one-tenth 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. Hui Shen, Ph.D. Associate Professor Hui Shen, Ph.D., develops new approaches to cancer prevention, detection and treatment by studying the interaction between genes and their control systems, called epigenetics. Her research focuses on women’s cancers, particularly ovarian cancer, and also has shed new light on the underlying mechanisms of other many cancer types, including breast, kidney and prostate cancers. Xiaobing Shi, Ph.D. Professor Xiaobing Shi, Ph.D., investigates the mechanisms that regulate DNA and gene expression in an effort to better understand how they impact cancer development. His research has led to the discovery of several new “readers” of epigenetic marks that may serve as targets for cancer treatment. Piroska Szabó, Ph.D. Associate Professor Piroska Szabó, Ph.D., studies the flow of epigenetic information from parents to their offspring, with a focus on how epigenetic markers are remodeled during egg and sperm production, and how these markers are rewritten after fertilization. These processes have profound implications on fertility and embryo development. Disturbances in epigenetic remodeling are thought to contribute to disease conditions lasting well into adulthood. Timothy J. Triche, Jr., Ph.D. Assistant Professor As a statistician and computational biologist with an interest in clonal evolution and cancers of the blood, the work of Tim Triche, Jr., Ph.D. focuses on wedding data-intensive molecular phenotyping to adaptive clinical trial designs, in an effort to accelerate the pace of drug targeting and development in rare or refractory diseases. Hong Wen, Ph.D. Associate Professor Hong Wen, Ph.D., investigates the molecular underpinnings of pediatric cancers, with a focus on how epigenetic dysregulation impacts genes expression and drives malignancy. Her work holds great promise for developing new, improved therapies for these devastating diseases. DEPARTMENT OF NEURODEGENERATIVE SCIENCE Darren Moore, Ph.D. Chair and Professor Darren Moore, Ph.D., seeks new diagnostic and treatment approaches for Parkinson’s by investigating the inherited form of the disease, which comprises 5% to 10% of cases. He aims to translate the understanding of these genetic mutations into better treatments and new diagnostic tools for Parkinson’s, both inherited and non-inherited. Discoveries from Moore’s lab routinely elucidate the faulty molecular interactions that transform healthy, functioning neurons into diseased ones. 14 | VAN ANDEL INSTITUTE ANNUAL REPORT 2020

RESEARCH José Brás, Ph.D. Associate Professor José Brás, Ph.D., investigates how variations in our genes impact the onset and progression of neurodegenerative diseases such as Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s and dementia with Lewy bodies. Using cutting-edge technologies and bioinformatic approaches, he has identified new genetic mutations that impact disease risk. Lena Brundin, M.D., Ph.D. Professor As a psychiatrist and a scientist, Lena Brundin, M.D., Ph.D., seeks ways to diagnose and treat depression and suicidality by studying inflammation of the nervous system. Her findings may lead to earlier interventions for depressive patients and to development of a new class of antidepressants that targets the immune system. She also investigates how inflammatory mechanisms can damage nerve cells in Parkinson’s disease. Hong-yuan Chu, Ph.D. Assistant Professor Hong-yuan Chu, Ph.D., investigates how and why dopamineproducing cells die off in Parkinson’s, a process that underlies many of the disease’s hallmark symptoms. He plans to leverage this new knowledge to develop new, more precise ways to slow or stop disease progression. Gerhard Coetzee, Ph.D. Professor Gerhard Coetzee, Ph.D., searches the human genome for minuscule changes that contribute to the onset, progression and drug resistance of many diseases, including cancer and Parkinson’s. His team deploys genome sequencing technologies and high-powered computational arrays to tease out patterns and interactions of markers and treatment targets from among the human genome’s more than three billion DNA base pairs. Department of Neurodegenerative Science The Department of Neurodegenerative Science focuses on elucidating disease mechanisms and identifying novel diseasemodifying therapeutic approaches for major neurodegenerative diseases, with a special focus on Parkinson’s disease. Additional areas of interest include dementias (Alzheimer’s disease, dementia with Lewy bodies) and psychiatric disorders (depression, anxiety). Department faculty have research interests and expertise in the molecular underpinnings of neurodegenerative disease through an understanding of genetic risk, epigenetics, cell biology, biomarkers, neuropathology, neuroinflammation, neural circuits and patient-derived biospecimens. Their mission is to leverage new knowledge for the development of treatments for Parkinson’s and related disorders. VAN ANDEL INSTITUTE ANNUAL REPORT 2020 | 15

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