11 months ago

2018 Annual Report


MEET VAN ANDEL RESEARCH INSTITUTE’S PRINCIPAL INVESTIGATORS RESEARCH Van Andel Research Institute is home to a growing team of scientists dedicated to improving the health and enhancing the lives of current and future generations through groundbreaking biomedical research. In 2018, eight new principal investigators joined the Institute, growing the number of faculty to 39 — an all-time high for VARI. LEADERSHIP Peter A. Jones, Ph.D., D.Sc. (hon) Chief Scientific Officer Peter A. Jones, Ph.D., D.Sc. (hon), is a pioneer in epigenetics, a growing field that explores how genes are regulated and provides new avenues for developing therapies for cancer and other diseases. His discoveries have helped usher in an entirely new class of drugs that have been approved to treat blood cancer and are being investigated in other tumor types. Dr. Jones is a member of the National Academy of Sciences and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences among other prestigious societies. He and his colleague Dr. Stephen Baylin co-lead the Van Andel Research Institute–Stand Up To Cancer Epigenetics Dream Team. Patrik Brundin, M.D., Ph.D. Associate Director of Research; Director, Center for Neurodegenerative Science Patrik Brundin, M.D., Ph.D., investigates molecular mechanisms in Parkinson’s disease with the goal of developing new therapies aimed at slowing or stopping disease progression and repairing damage. He is one of the top-cited researchers in the field of neurodegenerative disease and leads international efforts to repurpose drugs to treat Parkinson’s. J. Andrew Pospisilik, Ph.D. Director, Center for Epigenetics; Professor, Metabolic and Nutritional Programming, Center for Cancer and Cell Biology J. Andrew Pospisilik, Ph.D., seeks to understand how we become who we become, and how our disease susceptibility is defined from early on in life, even before conception, with the long-term goal of being able to predict lifelong health outlook at birth. Bart Williams, Ph.D. Director, Center for Cancer and Cell Biology; Professor, Skeletal Disease and Cancer Therapeutics, Center for Cancer and Cell Biology Bart Williams, Ph.D., studies the building blocks of bone growth on behalf of the millions suffering from diseases such as osteoporosis. He seeks new ways of altering cell signaling pathways to encourage healthy bone development and deter the spread of cancer to the skeleton. Scott Jewell, Ph.D. Director, Core Technologies and Services Scott Jewell, Ph.D., leads Van Andel Research Institute’s Core Technologies and Services, which provides technology and specialized expertise for research investigators. Services include bioinformatics and biostatistics, cryo-EM, optical imaging, flow cytometry, genomics, pathology and biorepository, vivarium management and transgenics. Jewell is a past president of the International Society for Biological and Environmental Repositories (ISBER). Steven J. Triezenberg, Ph.D. Dean, Van Andel Institute Graduate School Steven J. Triezenberg, Ph.D., is the dean of Van Andel Institute Graduate School. His lab, which closed in 2018 after 31 years of productive research, explored the genetic and epigenetic control systems of viruses to understand how infections progress and to reveal new ways to stop them. His discoveries with herpes simplex viruses opened up new possibilities for antiviral drug development and revealed new insights into how human cells control gene expression. CENTER FOR EPIGENETICS Stephen Baylin, M.D. Director’s Scholar Stephen Baylin, M.D., studies the body’s genetic control systems — called epigenetics — searching for vulnerabilities in cancer. Baylin is a leader in this field, ranking among the first to trace epigenetic causes of cancer. His studies have led to new therapies for common cancers, like breast, lung, colorectal and many others. He is co-leader of the VARI–SU2C Epigenetics Dream Team with Dr. Peter A. Jones, co-director of Johns Hopkins’ Cancer Biology Division and associate director for research at Sidney Kimmel Comprehensive Cancer Center. Stefan Jovinge, M.D., Ph.D. Professor, VARI; Medical Director of Research, Spectrum Health Frederick Meijer Heart and Vascular Institute; Director, DeVos Cardiovascular Research Program (a joint effort between Van Andel Research Institute and Spectrum Health) Stefan Jovinge, M.D., Ph.D., develops ways to help the heart heal itself and has led dozens of clinical trials in regenerative medicine. As a critical care cardiologist and scientist, he uses a bench-to-bedside approach in an effort to give patients with serious heart conditions longer, healthier lives. The clinical platform for his research is the Cardiothoracic Intensive Care Unit at Spectrum Health’s Fred and Lena Meijer Heart Center, and the basic science effort in regenerative medicine is performed at VARI. Peter W. Laird, Ph.D. Professor Peter W. Laird, Ph.D., seeks a detailed understanding of the molecular foundations of cancer with a particular focus on identifying crucial epigenetic alterations that convert otherwise healthy cells into cancer cells. He is widely regarded as an international leader in this effort and has helped design some of the world’s state-of-the art tools to aid in epigenetics research. Laird is a principal investigator for the National Cancer Institute’s Genome Data Analysis Network and played a leadership role in The Cancer Genome Atlas, a multi-institutional effort to molecularly map cancers. Gerd Pfeifer, Ph.D. Professor Gerd Pfeifer, Ph.D., studies how the body switches genes on and off, a biological process called methylation that, when faulty, can lead to cancer or other diseases. His studies range from the effects of tobacco smoke on genetic and epigenetic systems to the discovery of a mechanism that may help protect the brain from neurodegeneration. Pfeifer’s studies have implications across a range of diseases, including cancer, Parkinson’s, diabetes and many others. Scott Rothbart, Ph.D. Associate Professor Scott Rothbart, Ph.D., studies the ways in which cells pack and unpack DNA. This complex process twists and coils roughly two 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 has shed new light on the underlying mechanisms of other 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. 16 | VAN ANDEL INSTITUTE ANNUAL REPORT 2018 VAN ANDEL INSTITUTE ANNUAL REPORT 2018 | 17

Publications by Year