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2018 Annual Report


MEET VAN ANDEL RESEARCH INSTITUTE’S PRINCIPAL INVESTIGATORS RESEARCH Structural Biology Huilin Li, Ph.D. Program Leader and Professor Huilin Li, Ph.D., uses cryo-electron microscopy (cryo-EM) to reveal the most basic building blocks of DNA replication and other systems vital for life. He has been at the vanguard of cryo-EM for more than 20 years, and his research has implications for some of the world’s most critical public health concerns, including tuberculosis, cancer, mental illness and many more. Juan Du, Ph.D. Assistant Professor 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. Her work has expanded knowledge of these important systems and may aid in development of new therapies in the future. Wei Lü, Ph.D. Assistant Professor 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. Karsten Melcher, Ph.D. Professor 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. H. Eric Xu, Ph.D. Professor 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. Metabolic And Nutritional Programming Russell Jones, Ph.D. Program Leader and Professor Russell Jones, Ph.D., investigates metabolism at the cellular level to understand how it affects cell behavior and health, with a specific eye on cancer and the immune system. By revealing how cancer cells use metabolic processes to fuel their growth and spread, he hopes to develop new treatments that help patients by changing the standard of care for cancer. Brian Haab, Ph.D. Professor; Assistant Dean, Van Andel Institute Graduate School Brian Haab, Ph.D., searches for new ways to diagnose and stratify pancreatic cancers based on the chemical fingerprints tumors leave 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. Connie Krawczyk, Ph.D. Associate Professor Connie Krawczyk, Ph.D., investigates the links between metabolism, epigenetics and the immune system, with the goal of understanding how they work together to keep us healthy and, when things go wrong, to promote disease. Adelheid Lempradl, Ph.D. Assistant Professor Adelheid Lempradl, Ph.D., is investigating how the dietary choices of parents may impact the health of their offspring in the hopes of translating her findings into new ways to prevent disease and create a healthier future. Ning Wu, Ph.D. Assistant Professor 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 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. EMERITUS FACULTY George Vande Woude, Ph.D. Distinguished Scientific Fellow, Emeritus George Vande Woude, Ph.D., is a titan in cancer biology. He is the founding director of Van Andel Research Institute, 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 member of the National Academy of Sciences. By the Numbers 118 peer-reviewed publications 8 new faculty 39 total faculty 32 countries represented by VAI employees 20 | VAN ANDEL INSTITUTE ANNUAL REPORT 2018 VAN ANDEL INSTITUTE ANNUAL REPORT 2018 | 21

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