Van Andel Institute Principal Investigators 20 DEPARTMENT OF NEURODEGENERATIVE SCIENCE (CONTINUED) Rita Guerreiro, Ph.D. Associate Professor Dr. Rita Guerreiro parses the genetic variations that contribute to neurodegenerative diseases such as Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, dementia with Lewy bodies and frontotemporal dementia. Her research has led to new insights into the genetic contributors to these diseases, which currently have no cure and no treatments that slow progression. Michael Henderson, Ph.D. Assistant Professor Dr. Michael Henderson investigates the causes of neurodegenerative diseases like Parkinson’s and dementia with Lewy bodies, and the factors that control disease progression. He hopes to translate his findings into new therapies that slow or stop this progression. Qiang Zhu, Ph.D. Assistant Professor Dr. Qiang Zhu investigates the genetic, epigenetic and cellular factors that lead to neurodegenerative diseases such as ALS and frontotemporal dementia. To date, his work has revealed the complex mechanisms underlying the most common genetic cause for both of these diseases — an insight that has provided novel targets for the development of new therapies. Department of Cell Biology Our health, and consequently our lives, depend on the coordinated activities of our individual cells; diseases arise when the activities of these individual cells become derailed. Through combined expertise in different cell types and communication mechanisms and using stateof-the-art approaches, scientists in VAI’s Department of Cell Biology pursue fundamental research to understand how our cells grow, communicate, survive, assemble into tissues and organs, respond to the environment, and change with age. This transformative work will yield new diagnostic and treatment strategies to improve the quality of life for people with cancer, bone diseases and rare disorders. Tao Yang, Ph.D. Interim Chair and Associate Professor Dr. Tao Yang 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 and other skeletal aging. Stephanie Grainger, Ph.D. Assistant Professor Stem cells give rise to every cell type in the human body and play important roles in health and disease. Dr. Stephanie Grainger seeks to understand how these special cells develop, how they are maintained, and how they can become cancerous, with the goal of developing new strategies for combating cancer.
RESEARCH Brian Haab, Ph.D. Professor; Associate Dean, VAI Graduate School Dr. Brian Haab searches for new ways to diagnose and stratify pancreatic cancers based on the chemical fingerprints tumors leave behind. Part of the problem Dr. Haab aims to solve is that cancers often look and behave normally — until after they’ve started making people sick. Dr. Haab is sleuthing out clues to build a library of diagnostic tools that will help providers diagnose tumors earlier and optimize treatment. Stefan Jovinge, M.D., Ph.D. Professor, VAI; Director, DeVos Cardiovascular Research Program (a joint effort between VAI and Spectrum Health); Medical Director of Research, Frederik Meijer Heart and Vascular Institute, Spectrum Health Dr. Stefan Jovinge 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. Matt Steensma, M.D. Associate Professor Dr. Matt Steensma studies the genetic and molecular factors that cause benign tumors to become cancers, in search of vulnerabilities that may be targeted for treatment. As a scientist at VAI and practicing surgeon at Spectrum Health Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital, he is committed to translating scientific discoveries into treatments that improve patients’ lives. Bart Williams, Ph.D. Professor Dr. Bart Williams 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 cancer spread to the skeleton. FEDERAL AND FOUNDATIONAL FUNDING IN 2021 Awards breakdown Total of active awards (all): 9.5 million Total of active awards (all): 92 Total new awards 2021: 33 21