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2022 Spring/Summer Highlights of Hope

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  • Highlights of hope
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This is the 2022 Spring/Summer edition of Van Andel Institute's Highlights of Hope donor publication.

RESEARCH New program

RESEARCH New program launched to develop future leaders in cancer research The scientific leaders of tomorrow are the trainees of today — and Van Andel Institute is committed to helping them achieve success and improve human health, now and in the future. As part of our dedication to this goal, we launched VAI’s Cancer Epigenetics Training Program for exceptional postdoctoral fellows. These trainee scientists have completed their Ph.D.s but are pursuing additional training before starting their own independent laboratories. Cancer epigenetics is a growing field with untold potential to impact human health. Epigenetic abnormalities are universally found across cancers and serve as major drivers for transforming healthy cells into sick ones, making epigenetic alterations promising new targets for the development of life-changing cancer treatments. The Cancer Epigenetics Training Program combines extensive professional development with comprehensive, interdisciplinary research training by VAI’s internationally recognized cadre of experts. Postdoctoral trainees in the program also have access to the Institute’s state-of-the-art shared scientific resources and technologies as well as opportunities to participate in established translational research programs and partnerships led by VAI investigators. “In the past few years, VAI has become a global destination for groundbreaking, collaborative cancer epigenetics research,” said VAI Chief Scientific Officer Dr. Peter A. Jones. “Postdoctoral trainees will emerge from our Cancer Epigenetics Training Program with extensive, rigorous training and a solid foundation from which to launch their independent research careers.” The program is supported by a five-year, .7 million grant from the National Cancer Institute of the National Institutes of Health. Jones and VAI Associate Professor Dr. Scott Rothbart will lead the program in collaboration with Dr. Erica Gobrogge, program director of VAI’s Office of Postdoctoral Affairs. The program also benefits from the guidance of its advisory committee, which includes renowned scientists from across the U.S. By supporting exceptional trainees today, VAI is helping to ensure a brighter, healthier future fueled by innovation and discovery. The Cancer Epigenetics Training program is supported by a National Cancer Institute T32 training grant (no. T32CA251066). The content is solely the responsibility of VAI and does not necessarily represent the official views of the National Institutes of Health. “In the past few years, VAI has become a global destination for groundbreaking, collaborative cancer epigenetics research.” — Peter A. Jones, Ph.D., D.Sc. (hon) 4 | VAN ANDEL INSTITUTE HIGHLIGHTS OF HOPE

Rallying to the grand challenge of Parkinson’s disease How do a person’s genetics impact their risk for Parkinson’s disease? That’s the question more than 500 people from around the world explored during Van Andel Institute’s annual Grand Challenges in Parkinson’s Disease scientific symposium and parallel Rallying to the Challenge meeting for people with Parkinson’s and care partners, co-hosted with the U.K.’s Cure Parkinson’s. Held virtually in October 2021, these events tackled how two specific genes — LRRK2 and GBA1 — contribute to Parkinson’s disease risk and how they may be leveraged to develop new and urgently needed treatments. Attendees heard scientific presentations from leading researchers and participated in panel discussions with advocates and people with Parkinson’s. As part of Grand Challenges in Parkinson’s Disease and Rallying to the Challenge, we recognized two scientists for their exceptional contributions to the Parkinson’s field and community. VAI presented the 2021 Jay Van Andel Award for Outstanding Achievement in Parkinson’s Disease Research to Dr. Ted Dawson, of Johns Hopkins University for his groundbreaking research into the molecular and genetic mechanisms underlying Parkinson’s disease — many of which have informed the development of potential new medications. Cure Parkinson’s and VAI presented Dr. Camille Carroll, of University of Plymouth with the 2021 Tom Isaacs Award, which honors individuals who have had a significant impact on the lives of people with Parkinson’s and/or involved them in a participatory way in research. This award recognizes Carroll’s commitment to engage people with Parkinson’s in research and to foster collaboration between scientists, physicians and the Parkinson’s community. Save the date! The next Grand Challenges in Parkinson’s Disease and Rallying to the Challenge will be held Sept. 28–29, 2022. Visit grandchallengesinpd.org to learn more. VAN ANDEL INSTITUTE HIGHLIGHTS OF HOPE | 5

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