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2008 Scientific Report

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Van Andel Research

Van Andel Research Institute | Scientific Report George F. Vande Woude Director’s Introduction A few short years ago, the Van Andel Research Institute was an idea that many said wouldn’t work—an independent research institute located in west Michigan with no tie to a major university. Today it is a thriving organization with an excellent reputation, one that is poised to more than double its size and its contributions to science and human health. Perhaps this is most evident in our ability to compete for external grants; success in the tight competition for grant funding is an important measure of our research quality. The National Institutes of Health (NIH) is a major source of research funding in our disciplines, so I am particularly pleased with the awards our VARI scientists received in the past year. Steve Treizenberg has received a three-year R01 award from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) for his project, “Chromatin and Coactivators in HSV-1 Gene Regulation”. Bart Williams also received an R01 award, for five years, for a project titled “Mouse Models to Characterize the Role of Lrp6 in Metabolic Syndrome”. Finally, Eric Xu received a four-year R01 for his project titled “Structural and Functional Studies of the Nuclear Receptor PPARg”, and it is important to note that Eric now has three active R01 grants. Our congratulations go out to Steve, Bart, Eric, and their labs for the rigorous work that went into making their applications successful. The Department of Defense also funds cancer research on a competitive application basis. Early in 2007, VARI had three awards out of 87 projects recommended for funding by the Breast Cancer Research Program, and this was from more than 1,200 proposals that were reviewed. The projects awarded were Kate Eisenmann’s “A Role for Formin-Mediated Cytoskeletal Regulation in the Mesenchymal-Amoeboid Transition in Breast Cancer Development” (Alberts lab); Carrie Graveel’s “Met Signaling Promotes Mammary Stem Cell Proliferation” (Vande Woude lab); and Jim Resau’s “Intravital Imaging of Developing Breast Cancer Lesion of Defined Genomic Profile in a Mouse” (Resau lab). This was clearly an excellent performance. Showing that this was not an aberration, later in 2007, another three awards were made from the DOD Prostate and Ovarian Cancer program. The successful proposals were from Kate Eisenmann (again!), for “Diaphanous-related Formins in Ovarian Cancer Metastasis” (Alberts lab); Laura Lamb, for “Survival Signaling in Prostate Cancer: Role of Androgen Receptor and Integrins in Regulating Survival” (Miranti lab); and Cindy Miranti for “Mechanisms of KAI1/CD82-induced Prostate Cancer Metastasis” (Miranti lab). 2

VARI | 2008 We have also been successful in competing for funding from nonfederal sources. Funding was received from the state of Michigan to support the Good Manufacturing Practices Facility project under the direction of Rick Hay. Craig Webb received an award for “Establishment of an Innovative Clinical Research Alliance” from the Michigan Strategic Economic Investment & Commercialization Board. Bin Teh has received awards from the National Foundation for Cancer Research and from the VHL Family Alliance Fund for Cancer Research; Art Alberts received project funding from the J.P. McCarthy Fund; and Jennifer Bromberg-White received a fellowship from the Knight’s Templar Foundation. Congratulations to all for a spectacular showing of top-quality proposals! On another note, congratulations go out to Brian Haab, who was promoted to Senior Scientific Investigator in August 2007. Brian’s Laboratory of Cancer Immunodiagnostics is working on developing new techniques and new diagnostic markers for pancreatic cancer, one of the cancers most difficult to treat successfully. Brian has also been elected to a three-year term on the Board of Directors of the U.S. Human Proteome Organization, which supports and promotes the use of proteomics and provides information about the proteomes of various species. We are pleased to announce the formation of VARI International, headed by Bin Tean Teh. VARI International was formed to organize and formalize the Institute’s international opportunities. Currently, two laboratories with foreign host institutes are in operation: NCCS–VARI Translational Research Laboratory (headed by Bin Tean Teh) at the National Cancer Centre of Singapore, and NMU–VARI Antibody Technology Laboratory (headed by Brian Cao) at Nanjing Medical University. NCCS–VARI is focusing on cancers that are prevalent in Asian countries and on translational cancer research. Since its establishment at the end of 2006, NCCS–VARI has expanded to include five clinical fellows, three postdoctoral fellows, four research technicians, and one bioinformatics scientist. We have competed successfully for several research fellowships from local funding agencies, two scientific papers have been published, and a regional mini-symposium has been organized. NMU–VARI is developing a variety of murine and human monoclonal antibodies and antibody fragments for potential clinical diagnostic and therapeutic applications. Since the establishment of NMU-VARI in 2005, six Ph.D. students and four master’s degree students have been trained, three manuscripts have been published, and four grant applications have been submitted. Of those grant application submissions, two have been funded (one from U.S. funding, the other from China). Cooperative/collaborative arrangements at sites in Australia, Sweden, and France are currently being explored. Establishing such laboratories and determining research projects will take into consideration their ability to synergize and complement VARI’s mission. The Program of Translational Medicine under the direction of Craig Webb has established the essential infrastructure and partnerships that allow VARI to collaborate with other institutions for cutting-edge biomarker-driven clinical research. The Center for Molecular Medicine, in partnership with Spectrum Health Hospitals, was established to perform molecular-based diagnostic testing. A community research network of institutions (ClinXus) has also been formed that provides access to biomarker technologies (molecular and imaging), physician expertise, and patient populations for investigators interested in clinical research. The Program of Translational Medicine has also led to the development of a specific personalized medicine protocol in which genomic technologies are used with the XenoBase bioinformatics tools to identify optimal drug combinations that target the genotype of tumors from late-stage cancer patients. An expanded trial of 200 patients will open for enrollment in 2008. 3

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