11 months ago

20th Anniversary Highlights of Hope

  • Text
  • Hope
  • Institute
  • Scientific
  • Highlights
  • Epigenetics
  • Scientists
  • Michigan


OUR HISTORY PIONEERS, VISIONARIES AND TRAILBLAZERS When Van Andel Research Institute’s (VARI) Founding Research Director Dr. George Vande Woude first came to Grand Rapids to discuss leading the Institute's research program, the building was still under construction. He was one of a handful of scientists who vied for the opportunity to create something revolutionary in a midsized city in Michigan. Building a research institute without support from existing institutions or a university was something that was almost unheard of in the world of biomedical research, but Vande Woude had developed a reputation as a scientist who forged his own path. Vande Woude met with representatives from the Institute including the Institute’s first president, Dr. Luis Tomatis. Tomatis led early efforts to recruit scientists and advisors, and scout a research director who would be able to shape the Institute’s strategic vision and embrace the uncertainty of a new endeavor. Tomatis’ passion for his work and enthusiasm for the Institute fostered important early relationships with scientific pioneers, visionary thinkers and trailblazers in the field of biomedical research. Together, We Will Make History Vande Woude doesn’t think of himself as a pioneer, but his contributions to cancer research are undeniably impressive. A towering figure in the world of genomic cancer research, Vande Woude spent eight years at the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Plum Island Animal Disease Center and then served as director of the Basic Research Program at the National Cancer Institute’s (NCI) Frederick Cancer Research and Development Center, and as director for the Division of Basic Sciences. During his 40-year tenure at the NCI, Vande Woude explored the exciting world of genomic cancer research in order to better understand what causes cancer at the molecular level. His impressive list of achievements includes discovering the human MET oncogene and proto-oncogene. These discoveries revolutionized how cancer was viewed and led to the development of novel targeted cancer therapies. Vande Woude made a point to recruit bright, young people who were doing adventurous work in basic and translational cancer research. One of these young scientists was Dr. Bart Williams, now director of VARI’s Center for Cancer and Cell Biology. “It was an incredible opportunity to build something with one of the pioneers in cancer research and design a biomedical research program from scratch,” Williams said. “The experience was very 'handson' – building something incredible where nothing had previously existed. In that process, there was a lot of energy and enthusiasm.” Under David Van Andel's leadership, Vande Woude guided these young scientists and stimulated a dynamic workplace that sparked a chain reaction of 2000 Phase I of VAI's construction is completed. VARI holds its first scientific symposium. 2001 VAI creates signature special event Hope on the Hill to recognize donors and their charitable gifts to the Institute. Scientific seminar series established, later renamed in memory of Dr. Han-Mo Koo, a VARI scientist who died of cancer in 2004. Dr. Gordon Van Harn appointed Director of VAEI. 8 | VAN ANDEL INSTITUTE HIGHLIGHTS OF HOPE

VAN ANDEL RESEARCH INSTITUTE’S FOUNDING RESEARCH DIRECTOR DR. GEORGE VANDE WOUDE. growth and collaboration within the Institute. A natural leader and passionate mentor, Vande Woude created an environment that was both supportive and aspirational. “George is a very detailed, hands-on kind of person, and his management style was important in creating the Institute and laying its solid scientific foundations,” Williams said. “He was instrumental in getting other scientists to think about coming here, doing cutting-edge research, and building a research institute in Grand Rapids.” Joined by his wife and lifelong supporter Dot, Vande Woude brought scientists from around the country to a city tucked away in West Michigan, helping to shape the Institute’s destiny for the next two decades. A mentor’s mentor, Vande Woude’s exuberant love of science and passion for the continuum of discovery remain cornerstones of the Institute’s approach to biomedical research and science education. His ability to nurture the careers of top-tier scientists provided a bedrock for the Institute’s initial research CONTINUED ON PG 10 > 2003 VARI hosts first undergraduate interns in its laboratories. 2004 2004 sees the passing of Van Andel Institute Founders Jay and Betty Van Andel. VAN ANDEL INSTITUTE HIGHLIGHTS OF HOPE | 9

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