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2022 Spring/Summer Highlights of Hope

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This is the 2022 Spring/Summer edition of Van Andel Institute's Highlights of Hope donor publication.

RESEARCH VAI scientists

RESEARCH VAI scientists have recordbreaking year for scientific grants Our scientists surpassed the Institute’s all-time funding record in 2021, earning more external grants than ever before. These important awards do more than support our groundbreaking research — they are vital, objective validation of this research. In 2021, VAI scientists earned 33 new grants, totaling more than million. Achieving this milestone would not have been possible without the exceptional support from VAI donors, whose generous gifts often fuel the early, foundational research required to attain these highly competitive grants. Many of this year’s grants will support projects that harness the collective expertise of VAI scientists and collaborators across the U.S. Here’s a snapshot. Specialized Programs of Research Excellence (SPORE) | National Cancer Institute of the National Institutes of Health This five-year grant, estimated at .4 million, will support nearly 20 scientists as they work to improve epigenetic therapies for cancer. The project is co-led by Coriell Institute for Medical Research’s President and CEO Dr. Jean-Pierre Issa, Van Andel Institute’s Chief Scientific Officer Dr. Peter A. Jones and Johns Hopkins University and VAI’s Dr. Stephen Baylin. 1 Read more at bit.ly/vaispore Transformative Research Award | National Institutes of Health Common Fund VAI’s Dr. J. Andrew Pospisilik and Maine Medical Center Research Institute’s Dr. Joseph Nadeau earned a five-year, .6 million Transformative Research Award from the National Institutes of Health to answer a set of questions that could fundamentally transform our understanding of health and disease: If you were born multiple times under the exact same circumstances, would you turn out to be the same person each time? And if not, what implications could the differences have for your health? Although they may sound like science fiction, the answers could provide real-world insights into new strategies for combating cancer, obesity and a host of other health concerns and diseases. 2 Read more at bit.ly/vaitransform 6 | VAN ANDEL INSTITUTE HIGHLIGHTS OF HOPE VAI GRADUATE SCHOOL STUDENT SVETLANA DJIRACKOR

Collaborative Research Network grants | Aligning Science Across Parkinson’s Two VAI scientists and their collaborators were awarded more than million to advance Parkinson’s disease research and accelerate the development of new therapies. This pair of awards, called Collaborative Research Network grants, comes from Aligning Science Across Parkinson’s, a coordinated research initiative to accelerate the pace of discovery and inform the path to a cure for Parkinson’s through collaboration, research-enabling resources and data sharing. VAI’s Dr. Michael Henderson and colleagues at Yale University and University of Pennsylvania were awarded million to identify areas and cell types in the brain that may be particularly vulnerable to Parkinson’s disease. 3 VAI’s Dr. Hong-yuan Chu and colleagues at Emory University were awarded .3 million to investigate the brain’s motor cortex — which helps manage movement — and its role in Parkinson’s. Changes to the cells that comprise this critical brain region have long been implicated in the disease. They also will collaborate with scientists at SUNY Downstate and Inscopix. 4 Read more at bit.ly/ASAPChu and bit.ly/ ASAPHend Maximizing Investigators’ Research Award | National Institute of General Medical Sciences of the National Institutes of Health Maximizing Investigators’ Research Awards are highly competitive and prestigious fiveyear grants and, in 2021, one was awarded to VAI Assistant Professor Dr. Stephanie Grainger. The award is worth nearly .4 million over the life of the award. Grainger’s project will explore a critical type of cellular communication that drives healthy development and, when disrupted, can spur cancer, osteoporosis, heart conditions and other diseases. 5 Research Scholar’s Grant | American Cancer Society VAI’s Dr. Scott Rothbart earned a four-year, 2,000 Research Scholar’s Grant from the American Cancer Society to investigate the mechanisms that power a promising class of potent anti-cancer drugs. Called EZH2 inhibitors, these drugs work by targeting an enzyme named EZH2 that has long been of interest to cancer researchers because it interacts with the proteins that support DNA. As such, EZH2 plays a major role in switching genes that regulate cell proliferation “on” or “off” — a process that can lead to cancer if it goes awry. It also helps tumors evade attack by the In 2020, VAI ranked among the top five National Institutes of Health-funded organizations in Michigan, just after the state’s larger universities and health systems. immune system. 6 VAN ANDEL INSTITUTE HIGHLIGHTS OF HOPE | 7 Source: United for Medical Research. 2020. NIH in Your State: Michigan. unitedformedicalresearch.org/nih-in-yourstate/ Funding Acknowledgements Research reported in this publication was supported by the National Institutes of Health under award numbers: 1 P50CA254897; 2 1R01HG012444; and 5 R35GM142779. The content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of the National Institutes of Health 3 Research reported in this publication was supported by funds from Emory University as part of an Aligning Science Across Parkinson’s Collaborative Research Network award. 4 Research reported in this publication was supported by funds from Yale University as part of an Aligning Science Across Parkinson’s Collaborative Research Network award. 6 Scott B. Rothbart, Ph.D., is supported by a Research Scholar Grant, RSG-21-031-01-DMC, from the American Cancer Society. The content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of the granting organizations.

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