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2013 Annual Report

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“Because of our size,

“Because of our size, and the way we do things, we can ensure that all donors have a direct impact on the work we do here.” –Dr. Jeff MacKeigan 9 GIVE TODAY AT VAI.ORG/GIVE Dr. Jeff MacKeigan

Center for Cancer and Cell Biology An Unlikely Team Dolly Konwinski and Dr. Jeff MacKeigan are an unlikely team. Dolly is retired and in her early 80s, and MacKeigan is Associate Professor and Head of the Laboratory of Systems Biology at Van Andel Institute, but together they are a powerful force in the fight against cancer. 100 % 100% of any philanthropic contribution In grade school, Dolly played sandlot baseball pick-up games with the boys in her West Side Chicago neighborhood, and at to Van Andel Institute goes directly to the age of 15, Dolly research, discovery and hope. went on to play for the post-war Women’s League in the 1940s and 1950s. Being one of the first women in professional sports was difficult, but the experience strengthened her character and resolve. This resolve was tested years later when her husband Bob was diagnosed with cancer. After her husband’s battle with cancer, surgery and recovery, Dolly became increasingly aware of the prevalence of cancer. One day while watching her beloved Detroit Tigers, Dolly noticed something that would set her on an unforeseen path. “I sat down at the beginning of a game and one player has a pink bat, and another guy in the on-deck circle has a pink bat… and I thought I’d get some pink baseball bats and get champion athletes to sign them, then I’d sell them and give the money to cancer research,” said Konwinski. Dolly decided to leverage her recognition as a ballplayer to collect more than 40 professional athletes’ signatures on four bright pink bats. Sports luminaries such as Jack Nicklaus, Gale Sayers and Pete Rose all signed Dolly’s bats. Dolly reached out to Dr. Jeff MacKeigan, Associate Professor and Head, Laboratory of Systems Biology, and told him of her plans. MacKeigan invited Dolly to the Institute for a tour and was struck by her passionate support of the work he was doing. “She had that personality where she wanted to see directly where her funds were going,” MacKeigan said. “She got to visit the laboratory and wanted to help us buy a piece of equipment or support an experiment… she emphatically wanted to help.” After Dolly’s visit with MacKeigan, she committed to donate all of the funds from her pink bats to the Institute in support of cancer research. In Dolly’s words, her efforts were a “labor of love.” Small Donations, Big Impact It has been said that there is no such thing as a small donation, and that is especially true at Van Andel Institute. Because of the generous endowment left by founders Jay and Betty Van Andel, 100% of every donation goes directly into the labs. At the Institute, there is a direct, personal connection between donors and Institute researchers. Gifts of any size have a significant role to play in forwarding Van Andel Institute’s mission. MacKeigan and his team began the TSC (tuberous sclerosis complex) Pathway of Hope initiative in 2013 that hopes to develop improved treatments for the rare tumor disorder. This initiative was funded by private donors as well as the Michigan Strategic Fund through the Michigan Economic Development Corporation. “All funds, no matter how large or small, are going to an important experiment or piece of equipment that helps push our research forward,” MacKeigan said. “Because of our size, and the way we do things, we can ensure that all donors have a direct impact on the work we do here.” Your gift makes a difference in the work of Van Andel Institute scientists. Support Van Andel Research Institute by giving today at vai.org/give. key discoveries Breast Cancer Van Andel Institute scientists have shown the interaction between MET and HER2 (ERBB2+) receptors (two important genes related to cancer) is linked to tumors resistant to targeted therapies. The discovery and understanding of this relationship not only shed light on some of the mechanisms behind breast cancer but also may aid in the development of novel treatments. Anxiety, Depression and Migraines Van Andel Institute scientists, along with colleagues in China, discovered the structural blueprint that will aid in the design of more selective activators of serotonin receptors. Serotonin is a neurotransmitter, and its receptors are important drug targets for conditions such as anxiety, depression and migraines. Osteoarthritis Research initiated in Van Andel Institute’s Center for Cancer and Cell Biology and continued with colleagues in the Center for Skeletal Disease and Tumor Metastasis has linked a deficiency of Mig-6, a gene associated with joint stability, to osteoarthritis development and the regulation of cartilage cells. This work could lead to disease-modifying treatments for osteoarthritis, which is the most common form of joint disease in humans. Center for Cancer and Cell Biology van andel research institute 10

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