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2017 Annual Report

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Meet Van Andel Research

Meet Van Andel Research Institute’s Principal Investigators (continued) Center for Cancer and Cell Biology Research areas: Asthma, diabetes, neurofibromatosis Type 1, osteoarthritis, osteoporosis, sarcoma, tuberous sclerosis and blood, bone, breast, colorectal, pancreatic and prostate cancers Juan Du Juan Du, Ph.D. seeks to understand the brain’s intricate communication systems using state-of-the-art structural biology approaches, such as cryo-EM. She is an assistant professor in the Center for Cancer and Cell Biology. Patrick Grohar Patrick Grohar, M.D., Ph.D., develops new drugs to treat bone cancer in children, in addition to pursuing a deeper understanding of the mechanisms underlying sarcomas and related conditions. Once these potential therapies are proven safe and effective in the lab, his team translates these potential therapies into clinical trials for children with few other options. He is an associate professor in the Center for Cancer and Cell Biology and a pediatric oncologist at Spectrum Health Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital. Brian Haab Brian Haab, Ph.D., searches for new ways to diagnose and stratify pancreatic cancers based on the chemical fingerprints tumors left behind. Part of the problem Haab aims to solve is that cancers often look and behave normally — until after they’ve started making people sick. Haab is sleuthing out clues to build a library of diagnostic tools that will help providers diagnose tumors earlier and optimize treatment. He is a professor in the Center for Cancer and Cell Biology. Xiaohong Li Xiaohong Li, Ph.D., studies how and why various cancers, particularly prostate and breast cancer cells, migrate from their original site and spread to the bone. These cells stay dormant but might wake up years later and grow up to become bone metastases, causing debilitating pain and complicating treatments. Li hopes that a better understanding of metastatic cancers will lead to new diagnostic tests and targeted therapies. She is an assistant professor in the Center for Cancer and Cell Biology. Wei Lü Wei Lü, Ph.D., is working to unravel how brain cells communicate with each other. Using techniques such as cryo-EM, his work has contributed to the field’s understanding of molecules that play crucial roles in the development and function of the nervous system. He is an assistant professor in the Center for Cancer and Cell Biology. Karsten Melcher Karsten Melcher, Ph.D., studies molecular structure and cellular communication, which have implications for finding new treatments for serious health threats, including cancer, diabetes and obesity. His expertise extends beyond human cells — his research into plant hormones may one day lead to heartier crops that resist drought and help meet the nutritional demands of a growing global population. Dr. Melcher is an associate professor in the Center for Cancer and Cell Biology. 14 | VAN ANDEL INSTITUTE ANNUAL REPORT 2017

RESEARCH Lorenzo Sempere Lorenzo Sempere, Ph.D., studies the role of microRNAs in the origin and growth of cancer. These very short strands of genetic material were discovered just over 15 years ago and are now recognized as dynamic regulatory modules of the larger human genome. Sempere targets microRNAs in an effort to develop new cancer drugs, specifically for pancreatic and breast cancers. He is an assistant professor in the Center for Cancer and Cell and Biology. Matt Steensma Matt Steensma, M.D., studies the genetic and molecular factors that cause benign tumors to become cancers to find vulnerabilities that may be targeted for treatment. As a scientist at VARI and a practicing surgeon at Spectrum Health Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital, he is committed to translating scientific discoveries into treatments that improve patients’ lives. George Vande Woude George Vande Woude, Ph.D., is a titan in cancer biology. He is the founding director of VARI, which he led for a decade. His discovery and description of the MET receptor tyrosine kinase as an oncogene, together with its activating ligand hepatocyte growth factor, have led to new possibilities for cancer therapies and revolutionized the way scientists view the disease, especially in tumor progression. He is a distinguished scientific fellow, emeritus, in the Center for Cancer and Cell Biology and a member of the National Academy of Sciences. Ning Wu Ning Wu, Ph.D., investigates the interface between cellular metabolism and cellular signaling, particularly as they relate to cancer. On the most basic level, cancer is fundamentally a disease of uncontrolled cell growth, and Wu believes that understanding a tumor’s voracious energy requirements and altered signaling pathways will lead to new treatments that optimize existing combination therapies and identify novel therapeutic targets. She is an assistant professor in the Center for Cancer and Cell Biology. H. Eric Xu H. Eric Xu, Ph.D., explores the structure of molecules in the body’s complex hormone signaling system, which plays a vital role in health and disease. He is particularly known for his discoveries in defining the structure of molecules critical to the development of new drugs for cancer, diabetes and many others. He is a professor in VARI’s Center for Cancer and Cell Biology and serves as director of VARI–SIMM Research Center in Shanghai, China. Tao Yang Tao Yang, Ph.D., studies the signaling systems that govern skeletal stem cells and the role they play in diseases such as osteoarthritis and osteoporosis. Bones are the largest producer of adult stem cells, which mature into cartilage, fat or bone tissue — a process that falters with age. Yang seeks a better understanding of these systems in search of new treatments for degenerative bone disorders. He is an assistant professor in the Center for Cancer and Cell Biology. VAN ANDEL INSTITUTE ANNUAL REPORT 2017 | 15

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