2018 Annual Report

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Through biomedical research and science education,<br />

Van Andel Institute is committed to improving the health and<br />

enhancing the lives of current and future generations.<br />

Table of Contents<br />

2 A Letter from David Van Andel<br />

4 Research<br />

6 Rare Diseases, Big Impact<br />

8 Keeping Watch On Our Cellular Clock<br />

10 Fueling Innovation<br />

11 An Art Gallery at the Near-Atomic Level<br />

22 Meeting the Grand Challenge<br />

24 Van Andel Research Institute Scientists Help<br />

Create Cancer “Atlas”<br />

26 Making a Difference Early On<br />

28 Van Andel Institute Graduate School Students<br />

30 Education<br />

32 Honoring and Empowering Teachers<br />

33 High School Students Spend Their Summer<br />

Days at Van Andel Education Institute<br />

44 Donors and Philanthropic Partners (cont.)<br />

44 Purple Community Football Games<br />

46 Purple Community 5K<br />

47 Running Like the Wind<br />

48 Purple Community Breaks a Record<br />

49 Duncan Lake Middle School Students<br />

50 Never Stop Giving Back — Sally Schaafsma<br />

51 Memorials<br />

12 A Surprising Discovery<br />

34 Donors and Philanthropic Partners<br />

51 Society of Hope<br />

14 Meet the Scientist Behind the Science<br />

36 Donor Profile: Alvin and Hylda Tuuk<br />

52 Signature Special Event Sponsors<br />

15 Stand Up To Cancer Global Telecast<br />

37 Donor Profile: Duke Suwyn<br />

53 Institute Leadership Team<br />

16 Van Andel Research Institute’s Principal<br />

Investigators<br />

38 Event Photos<br />

54 Board and Council Members


Dear Friends,<br />

Last fall, Van Andel Institute announced that a team led by<br />

our scientists uncovered groundbreaking new insights into<br />

the appendix’s possible role in Parkinson’s disease. The<br />

team’s discoveries were published in Science Translational<br />

Medicine, and covered by hundreds of major publications<br />

and news networks in every corner of the world. It was a<br />

moment that gave hope to people with Parkinson’s, while<br />

giving scientists new avenues for designing treatments for<br />

this devastating disease. It also was a shining example of<br />

what we are capable of when we work together, guided by<br />

imagination, vision and an unwavering desire to improve<br />

human health.<br />

Discoveries like this are possible because of you — our<br />

most valued donors and supporters. Your belief in our<br />

work and your dedication, commitment and generosity<br />

have served as the Institute’s bedrock since it was founded<br />

in 1996. We are eternally grateful.<br />

You have been with us as we have grown from a small<br />

research institute in West Michigan to an internationally<br />

known epicenter for incredible science, extensive<br />

collaboration and powerfully bold ideas. During the last<br />

year, you’ve stood by our side as we invested in new talent<br />

and technology, created new research programs and<br />

built on the vision articulated by our family more than<br />

two decades ago. We also have continued to move new<br />

discoveries from the lab into clinical trials — thanks to our<br />

collaborative partnerships with organizations like Stand Up<br />

To Cancer and The Cure Parkinson’s Trust.<br />

In the following pages, you’ll read about new findings in<br />

cancer and Parkinson’s, and the launch of an exciting<br />

metabolism program; meet the talented scientists who<br />

call the Institute home; and learn how we are working<br />

with students and teachers to transform K–12 education.<br />

You’ll also see how your generosity has made a significant,<br />

positive impact on every aspect of our mission.<br />

On behalf of everyone at the Institute, I would like to thank<br />

you for your support, your generous hearts and, most<br />

importantly, your friendship. As we take time to reflect<br />

on the work we’ve done and celebrate a year of great<br />

accomplishments, let’s continue to move ahead together<br />

and build on the amazing achievements described in<br />

these pages.<br />

Warmly,<br />

David Van Andel<br />

Van Andel Institute Chairman & CEO<br />

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Van Andel Research Institute<br />

is a world leader in cancer epigenetics and Parkinson’s disease research.<br />

Collaborating with academia, industry and philanthropy, the Institute<br />

orchestrates cutting-edge clinical trials to improve human health.<br />

Van Andel Institute Graduate School<br />

develops future leaders in biomedical research through an intense,<br />

problem-focused Ph.D. degree in molecular and cellular biology.<br />

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A bench-to-bedside effort to better understand and treat rare diseases aims to<br />

provide answers where there are now only questions.<br />

“Rare diseases are often understudied, which is a real problem when it comes to helping<br />

patients,” said Dr. Matt Steensma, a Van Andel Research Institute scientist, a surgeon at<br />

Spectrum Health and an assistant professor at Michigan State University. “It’s very difficult<br />

to tell someone, ‘we know what you have, but we don’t know what to do about it.’”<br />

More than 7,000 such disorders have been identified to date; some, like Aicardi syndrome,<br />

affect a handful of people while others, such as Neurofibromatosis Type 1 (NF1), affect<br />

thousands, but still fall below the 200,000-person cap that marks a disease as rare. An<br />

estimated 25 million people in the U.S. have a rare disease, a large proportion of whom<br />

are children.<br />

Going after the outliers<br />

About nine years ago, Steensma teamed up with Dr. Bart Williams, a bone disease expert<br />

and now director of the Institute’s Center for Cancer and Cell Biology, to create the<br />

Outliers Program, an effort to identify the causes of rare diseases and to find ways to<br />

treat them. Their work is bolstered by the expertise of the Institute’s Bioinformatics and<br />

Biostatistics Core and collaborators at nearby Michigan State University College of<br />

Human Medicine.<br />

At the top of their list was oculoectodermal syndrome (OES), an exceedingly uncommon<br />

disorder first identified in two unrelated patients in Grand Rapids in 1993. When the<br />

Outliers Program began in 2009, only 18 patients had ever been diagnosed with the<br />

disorder, which causes severe lesions on the scalp and debilitating bone growths on<br />

the jaw.<br />

Using samples from one of Steensma’s patients, the team determined the cause of<br />

the disease — a mutation to KRAS, one of the most heavily studied cancer genes. This<br />

discovery placed OES, unquestionably a rare disease, in the middle of the incredible<br />

science and innovation surrounding KRAS and cancer.<br />

“More importantly, our care of the patient was changed for the better,” Steensma said.<br />

The ripple effect<br />

Progress in rare disease research often is hindered by a lack of funding, with dollars<br />

frequently going to more common or better-known diseases. Although this is beginning to<br />

change, philanthropic support remains critical for propelling this promising work forward.<br />

The Outliers Program is a prime example. It is completely funded by donations, including<br />

a grant from Wells Fargo that helped establish the program and continuing support from<br />

Steensma and Williams’ own colleagues through VAI’s Employee Impact Fund (EIF), which is<br />

sustained by the Institute’s employees.<br />

In May, Steensma’s team was awarded a second round of EIF funding, this time to support<br />

research into Aicardi syndrome, a disorder that almost exclusively affects females and<br />

that is characterized by developmental problems in the brain and eyes that may lead to<br />

seizures, learning disabilities and blindness. There have been fewer than 60 documented<br />

cases of the disease in the world.<br />

Finding the mutations that cause rare diseases like OES or Aicardi often have broad<br />

implications; because the systems that keep our bodies up and running are so intricately<br />

intertwined, a discovery in one disease can directly impact what we know about another.<br />

That’s the case with NF1, a disease diagnosed in childhood that causes benign tumors to<br />

grow throughout the body. In <strong>2018</strong>, Steensma and Dr. Carrie Graveel, a senior research<br />

scientist in Steensma’s lab, discovered that changes to the gene that causes NF1 also<br />

significantly ups breast cancer risk in women with and without neurofibromatosis.<br />

“We call it the ‘ripple effect’ — often, the science behind why a rare disease occurs is really<br />

the same science as why a cancer occurs,” Steensma said. “By studying rare diseases,<br />

we can help people battling these conditions, while also developing treatments for more<br />

common disorders. It really opens the window to studying the underlying biology in a<br />

different context.”<br />

“More importantly, our care of the patient was changed for the better.”<br />




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In many ways, our futures are written in the history of<br />

our cells.<br />

But before this information can be deciphered, it must be<br />

measured, something that was difficult until recently.<br />

Now, thanks to a team led by investigators at Van Andel<br />

Research Institute (VARI) and Cedars-Sinai, scientists have<br />

a straightforward, computational way to measure cellular<br />

age, a feat that may lead to better, simpler screening and<br />

monitoring methods for cancer and other diseases.<br />

The findings, published in April, reveal a progressive,<br />

measurable loss of special chemical tags that regulate<br />

our genes and are detectable at the earliest stages<br />

of development. These changes continue throughout<br />

a person’s life, correlating with cellular rather than<br />

chronological age and foreshadowing alterations found in<br />

cancer cells.<br />

The work is the result of a long-time collaboration between<br />

senior authors Dr. Peter W. Laird and Dr. Hui Shen of VARI<br />

and Dr. Benjamin Berman then at Cedars-Sinai in Los<br />

Angeles. It builds on a 2011 discovery by Berman and Laird<br />

that first determined loss of these DNA marks — called<br />

methyl groups — occurs in specific areas of the genome in<br />

cancer. However, the techniques used back then were not<br />

able to detect this process occurring in normal cells.<br />

“Our cellular clock starts ticking the moment our cells<br />

begin dividing,” Laird said. “This method allows us to track<br />

the history of these past divisions and measure age-related<br />

changes to the genetic code that may contribute to both<br />

normal aging and dysfunction.”<br />

Each of the nearly 40 trillion cells in the human body<br />

can trace its lineage back to a single, fertilized egg cell<br />

containing the original copy of an individual’s DNA.<br />

Throughout a person’s lifetime, these cells divide, replacing<br />

old or damaged cells at different rates based on factors<br />

such as their function in the body, environmental insults<br />

and wound healing.<br />

Despite undergoing elaborate biological quality control<br />

checks, each cell division chips away at the genome’s<br />

integrity, leaving behind an accumulating number of<br />

changes. Chief among these is a dramatic shift in the<br />

number and location of methyl groups on the genome,<br />

part of a process that begins during fetal development and<br />

continues throughout a lifetime.<br />

“What is striking about the results from our new method is<br />

that they push back the start of this process to the earliest<br />

stages of in utero development,” Berman said. “That was<br />

completely surprising, given the current assumption that<br />

the process begins relatively late on the path to cancer.<br />

This finding also suggests that it may play a functional role<br />

relatively early in the formation of tumors.”<br />

While loss of DNA methyl groups, known as hypomethylation,<br />

is a common feature of many cancers, the mechanisms<br />

behind this phenomenon have until now been largely<br />

unknown. It is more profound in cancers that arise in<br />

tissues with a high turnover rate, such as the skin and the<br />

epithelium, the thin layer of cells that line many organs.<br />

It also features prominently in pediatric cancers such as<br />

medulloblastoma, a rare brain tumor.<br />

“Tissues with higher turnover rates are typically more<br />

susceptible to cancer development simply because there<br />

are more opportunities for errors to accumulate and force<br />

the change from a normal cell to a malignant one,” Shen<br />

said. “What we’re seeing is a normal process — cellular<br />

aging — augmented and accelerated once a cell becomes<br />

cancerous. The cumulative effect is akin to a runaway<br />

freight train.”<br />

Analysis and data interpretation for the project were led<br />

by Dr. Wanding Zhou, a postdoctoral fellow in the labs of<br />

Laird, Shen and VARI Chief Scientific Officer Dr. Peter A.<br />

Jones, along with co-first author Dr. Huy Q. Dinh, at the<br />

time a project scientist in Berman’s lab at the Cedars-Sinai<br />

Center for Bioinformatics and Functional Genomics. The<br />

study encompassed 39 diverse tumors and more than<br />

340 human and 200 mouse datasets — the most in-depth<br />

study of its kind — and would not have been possible<br />

without massive swaths of publicly accessible data from<br />

large-scale sequencing projects, including The Cancer<br />

Genome Atlas.<br />

“This research project is a great example of combining<br />

our own data with externally available datasets to<br />

discover something new,” Zhou said. “If the project had<br />

been completed three years ago, the storyline would<br />

have been slightly different. Now, thanks to access to<br />

broader data, we can see that our method reveals a more<br />

general principle that extends all the way back to early<br />

development.”<br />

In addition to Zhou, Dinh, Shen, Laird and Berman, authors<br />

include Zachary Ramjan of VARI; and Dr. Daniel J. Weisenberger<br />

and Dr. Charles M. Nicolet, of University of Southern California<br />

Norris Comprehensive Cancer Center.<br />

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On the surface, diseases like cancer, Parkinson’s and<br />

diabetes appear vastly different.<br />

But go deeper and you’ll find that they are linked by a<br />

common thread, one that scientists hope will lead to new<br />

ways to prevent, diagnose and treat these disorders along<br />

with a range of other health problems that plague people<br />

around the world.<br />

That connector is metabolism, a set of chemical reactions<br />

that fuel everyday life, from keeping the heart beating<br />

to powering the body’s immune defenses. Although<br />

metabolism is a central part of human health and wellbeing,<br />

there’s still much that we don’t know about how it<br />

works and how it contributes to a host of health problems.<br />

That’s why, in the fall, Van Andel Research Institute (VARI)<br />

established the most comprehensive metabolism research<br />

program of its kind, aimed at developing scientifically<br />

driven strategies for improving health and for preventing<br />

and treating disease.<br />

“Metabolism is involved in every process in the body, from<br />

big, system-level things like our immune system down to<br />

smaller-scale things like the life cycles of individual cells,”<br />

said Dr. Russell Jones, the program’s leader, who joined the<br />

Institute in <strong>2018</strong>. “We have so much to learn. It is our hope<br />

that we can leverage what we find to prevent disease and<br />

to better treat it when it does occur.”<br />

Metabolism is akin to a biological power plant — when<br />

there’s an outage, people who depend on that plant’s<br />

electricity aren’t able to go about their business efficiently<br />

or, perhaps, even at all. The same is true for our cells; if<br />

the body’s metabolism doesn’t supply enough energy, cells<br />

can’t carry out the necessary functions to keep us healthy.<br />

This collaborative effort comprises six laboratories, four<br />

of which are new, to investigate the full spectrum of<br />

metabolism, from dietary influences and their impact<br />

through the generations to how cancer cells hijack<br />

metabolic processes to invade healthy tissue.<br />

It’s an urgent mission, spurred by a looming increase in the<br />

incidence of many of the world’s most challenging diseases.<br />

This new program is a catalyst, one that will rally the<br />

collaborative spirit of the Institute and connect all aspects<br />

of its research to create a healthier future.<br />

Learn more at vai.org.<br />





Two years ago, Van Andel Research Institute became home to one of the world’s most powerful microscopes,<br />

which is capable of visualizing the building blocks of life in stunning clarity. Called cryo-electron microscopy (cryo-<br />

EM), this technique is rapidly changing how we understand the very basis of biology and could lead to improved<br />

therapies for dozens of diseases. Here is a quick look at a few of the molecules and molecular complexes imaged<br />

by VARI’s cryo-EM in <strong>2018</strong>.<br />

Assembly mechanism of E. coli pili<br />

Dr. Huilin Li<br />

E. coli bacteria are the main culprit behind<br />

urinary tract infections, which affect more<br />

than 150 million people worldwide each<br />

year. Using cryo-EM, Dr. Huilin Li and<br />

collaborators determined the architecture<br />

of the mechanism responsible for building<br />

the hair-like structures, or pili, that the<br />

bacteria use to infect the kidneys and<br />

bladder. Their work may lead to more<br />

precise antimicrobial therapies that target<br />

E. coli but spare healthy cells.<br />

The protein TRPM2<br />

Dr. Juan Du and Dr. Wei Lü<br />

TRPM2 is a protein found throughout<br />

the body that aids in regulating core<br />

body temperature, mediating immune<br />

responses and governing apoptosis, the<br />

programmed death of cells. This central<br />

role in so many important processes<br />

makes it a promising drug target,<br />

particularly for Alzheimer’s disease and<br />

bipolar disorder. TRPM2 belongs to TRP<br />

superfamily, a group of proteins that play<br />

an important role in the body’s response<br />

to sensory stimuli, such as pain, pressure<br />

and temperature. It is the second TRP<br />

protein determined by Lü and Du; in<br />

2017, they visualized TRPM4, which helps<br />

regulate blood supply to the brain.<br />

The protein TRPC3<br />

Dr. Wei Lü and Dr. Juan Du<br />

The protein TRPC3 can be found in the<br />

brain and smooth muscles, where it<br />

helps regulate the formation of nerves.<br />

Problems with TRPC3 can contribute to<br />

neurodegenerative diseases, abnormal<br />

thickening of the heart muscle and ovarian<br />

cancer. Now that its structure is known,<br />

scientists have high hopes that it may be<br />

useful as a drug target for treating these<br />

diseases and many others.<br />

A GPCR bound to an inhibitory G protein<br />

Dr. Eric Xu and Dr. Karsten Melcher<br />

For the first time, scientists have<br />

visualized the interaction between two<br />

critical components of the body’s cellular<br />

communication network, a discovery that<br />

could lead to more effective medications<br />

with fewer side effects for conditions<br />

ranging from migraine to cancer. The<br />

near-atomic resolution images, made<br />

possible by cryo-EM, show a G-protein<br />

coupled receptor (GPCR) called rhodopsin<br />

bound to an inhibitory G protein, and<br />

provides a blueprint for designing more<br />

precise, selective drugs while also solving a<br />

longstanding problem in the field.<br />

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When it comes to Parkinson’s disease, the appendix is<br />

usually not the first thing that springs to mind — but<br />

perhaps it should be, according to Van Andel Research<br />

Institute’s (VARI) Dr. Viviane Labrie.<br />

In October, she and her colleagues published revolutionary<br />

new findings that peg the appendix as a starting point for<br />

Parkinson’s, a discovery that provides a path forward for<br />

devising powerful new ways to predict and possibly prevent<br />

the disease. The findings were hailed as a major — and<br />

surprising — breakthrough by scientists around the world.<br />

“We’re in the midst of a watershed moment in Parkinson’s<br />

research,” Labrie said. “Right now, there are no ways to<br />

prevent, slow or stop Parkinson’s, or even to objectively<br />

diagnose it prior to the onset of motor symptoms. We are<br />

extremely hopeful that our work will help change that.”<br />

The findings come at a time when experts are warning of a<br />

looming Parkinson’s epidemic, largely the result of an aging<br />

global population. Between 1990 and 2015, the prevalence<br />

of Parkinson’s doubled to an estimated 7 million people<br />

worldwide. By 2040, the number is expected to double<br />

again.<br />

The team’s research shows that removing the appendix —<br />

a surgery called an appendectomy — significantly reduces<br />

the risk of developing Parkinson’s disease by eliminating a<br />

major reservoir for abnormal proteins linked to its onset.<br />

Called alpha-synuclein, these proteins travel from cell<br />

to cell, clumping together and clogging up the cellular<br />

machinery required for normal, healthy function.<br />

Their results also indicate that people who have had their<br />

appendix removed early in their lives are 19 percent less<br />

likely to develop Parkinson’s. In people who live in rural<br />

areas, that number is even higher, with appendectomies<br />

reducing the risk of developing the disease by 25 percent.<br />

Parkinson’s often is more prevalent in rural populations,<br />

which studies suggest may be related to pesticide<br />

exposure.<br />

That’s not all. The findings also show that appendectomy<br />

may slow the disease’s progress, pushing back diagnosis by<br />

an average of 3.6 years. Because diagnosing Parkinson’s is<br />

closely tied to onset of movement-related symptoms, this<br />

means people have more time before these symptoms<br />

become pronounced enough to be noticed.<br />

There is an important caveat, however. Removal of the<br />

appendix — and the Parkinson’s-associated alphasynuclein<br />

proteins contained within it — must occur before<br />

the disease process begins to impact risk. This window<br />

of time can vary from person to person, with evidence<br />

suggesting the disease process starts as early as 20 years<br />

before diagnosis.<br />

Removal of the appendix also doesn’t appear to prevent or<br />

delay Parkinson’s in people whose disease has an evident<br />

genetic cause — a group that comprises less than 10<br />

percent of those with Parkinson’s disease.<br />

Labrie and her colleagues stress that people shouldn’t<br />

opt for an appendectomy as a way to mitigate risk for two<br />

major reasons. First, despite its undeserved reputation<br />

as useless, the appendix actually acts as an important<br />

storehouse for bacteria that play a role in the immune<br />

system. Secondly, appendectomy only demonstrated<br />

benefit decades before the onset of Parkinson’s and would<br />

not be protective in people who have already developed<br />

the disease. It’s also worth noting that all surgeries carry<br />

risk and that, while appendectomy reduced the chances of<br />

developing Parkinson’s, it did not eliminate the disease.<br />

Instead, Labrie said, this discovery could lead to new ways<br />

to more effectively reduce the levels of alpha-synuclein<br />

proteins before they cause Parkinson’s.<br />

“There are up-and-coming new medications designed to<br />

break up these problematic protein clumps undergoing<br />

rigorous testing in clinical trials,” she said. “If successful,<br />

we could have a new way to interfere with disease<br />

progression, an urgent unmet need and something current<br />

treatments can’t do.”<br />

“Right now, there are no ways to prevent, slow or stop Parkinson’s, or even to objectively diagnose it prior to the<br />

onset of motor symptoms. We are extremely hopeful that our work will help change that.”<br />


In an unexpected turn, Labrie and her team also found<br />

alpha-synuclein pathology in the appendixes of healthy<br />

people of all ages as well as people with Parkinson’s,<br />

raising new questions about the mechanisms that cause<br />

the disease and propel its progression. Prior to this study,<br />

alpha-synuclein pathology was thought to only be present<br />

in people with Parkinson’s.<br />

“We found alpha-synuclein pathology in people of all ages,<br />

and with and without the disease, which suggests that it<br />

is not unique to Parkinson’s,” Labrie said. “Parkinson’s is<br />

relatively rare — less than 1 percent of the population —<br />

so there has to be some other mechanism or confluence<br />

of events at play that allows the appendix to affect<br />

Parkinson’s risk. That’s what we plan to look at next —<br />

which factor or factors tip the scale in favor of Parkinson’s?”<br />

Data for the study was gleaned from an in-depth<br />

characterization and visualization of alpha-synuclein forms<br />

in the appendix, which bore a remarkable resemblance<br />

to those found in the Parkinson’s disease brain, as well<br />

as analyses of two large health-record databases. The<br />

first dataset was garnered from the Swedish National<br />

Patient Registry, a one-of-a-kind database that contains<br />

de-identified medical diagnoses and surgical histories for<br />

the Swedish population beginning in 1964, and Statistics<br />

Sweden, a Swedish governmental agency responsible for<br />

official national statistics. The VARI team collaborated with<br />

researchers at Lund University, Sweden, to comb through<br />

records for 1,698,000 people followed up to 52 years, a<br />

total of nearly 92 million person-years. The second dataset<br />

was from the Parkinson’s Progression Marker Initiative<br />

(PPMI), which includes details about patient diagnosis, age<br />

of onset, demographics and genetic information.<br />

“The expansion of Parkinson’s disease<br />

research into areas outside of the brain<br />

and affecting the GI tract and immune<br />

system has really opened the door for<br />

understanding this illness,” Labrie said.<br />

“We know more about disease initiation<br />

than ever before and are committed to<br />

leveraging our findings to improve patients’<br />

lives.”<br />

In addition to Labrie, authors include<br />

Dr. Bryan A. Killinger, Zachary Madaj,<br />

Dr. Lena Brundin, Dr. Patrik Brundin, Alec J.<br />

Haas, Yamini Vepa of Van Andel Research Institute; Dr. Jacek W.<br />

Sikora and Dr. Paul M. Thomas of Northwestern University; Dr.<br />

Nolwen Rey of Paris-Saclay Institute of Neuroscience; Dr. Daniel<br />

Lindqvist of Lund University; and Dr. Honglei Chen of Michigan<br />

State University.<br />


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Dr. Viviane Labrie is an assistant professor<br />

in Van Andel Research Institute’s Center<br />

for Neurodegenerative Science. Her team<br />

studies the dynamic interplay between<br />

the human genome and its control system<br />

— the epigenome — to understand how<br />

neurodegenerative diseases start and<br />

progress in an effort to develop improved<br />

diagnostics and treatments.<br />

In <strong>2018</strong>, Labrie was the senior author of<br />

a study published in Science Translational<br />

Medicine that suggested the appendix<br />

may contribute to Parkinson’s disease and<br />

revealed it as a major reservoir for abnormally<br />

folded alpha-synuclein proteins, which are<br />

closely linked to Parkinson’s onset and<br />

How would you describe your research to someone<br />

unfamiliar with science?<br />

I work as a neuroscientist and a geneticist. I study the<br />

origins of Parkinson’s disease and Alzheimer’s disease. I<br />

try to understand what is happening at the cellular level<br />

that may cause changes that could lead to these two<br />

neurodegenerative diseases.<br />

Specifically, I study different mechanisms in the cells that<br />

affect the way DNA works. There is the DNA code, then<br />

there is a second code that sits on top of the DNA called<br />

epigenetics. Epigenetics is almost like a coat the DNA<br />

wears. When the coat opens, readers of the DNA can come<br />

in, and then that part of the DNA can be activated — but<br />

when it’s closed, these readers can’t access the DNA and<br />

those genes in that section of DNA remain silent. In this<br />

way, the epigenetic code is able to guide how genes work<br />

and determine how they affect the function of cells.<br />

The epigenetic code can be inherited, meaning you can<br />

get it from your mom and dad, but it can also change<br />

because of environmental factors throughout a lifetime.<br />

The foods you eat, how much sleep you get or how much<br />

stress you have can also play a role in epigenetics. The<br />

epigenetic code greatly affects how your cells work and<br />

can be both inherited and changed by your environmental<br />

experiences. We think that changes in this epigenetic code<br />

might have a significant function in the development of<br />

neurodegenerative diseases.<br />

In your field of study what do you see on the horizon?<br />

We are trying to understand how epigenetic changes play<br />

a part in the development of neurodegenerative diseases,<br />

and we are also trying to understand the mechanisms<br />

behind these changes.<br />

We are also very interested in the role of the<br />

gastrointestinal (GI) tract in Parkinson’s disease. We’ve<br />

noticed that the pathology associated with Parkinson’s<br />

disease, which is a clumped protein called alpha-synuclein,<br />

can be seen in the GI tract many years before the<br />

symptoms of Parkinson’s occur. There is a hypothesis<br />

that suggests environmental factors might play a role<br />

in clumping of the protein in the GI tract, and we are<br />

interested in how epigenetics might influence this<br />

process because of how responsive epigenetics is to the<br />

environment.<br />

How does alpha-synuclein get from the gut to the<br />

brain?<br />

Alpha-synuclein can travel from neuron to neuron, and<br />

we think that it can spread through conduits like the<br />

vagus nerve that connects the GI tract to the brain.<br />

Scientists have found that Parkinson’s pathology often<br />

starts where the vagus nerve connects to the brain. Once<br />

the pathology occurs at this spot, it can move between<br />

neurons, eventually reaching an area where there are a<br />

lot of dopaminergic neurons that it destroys, which leads<br />

to the motor symptoms associated with Parkinson’s. We<br />

are studying the factors that could be responsible for the<br />

initiation of Parkinson’s pathology in the GI tract and its<br />

eventual transit to the brain.<br />



The Institute was part of the <strong>2018</strong> Stand Up To Cancer<br />

(SU2C) telecast, which raised a record-breaking $123<br />

million for cancer research.<br />

The Institute has worked closely with Stand Up To<br />

Cancer since 2014, when it became home to the<br />

Van Andel Research Institute–Stand Up To Cancer<br />

Epigenetics Dream Team, a multi-institutional effort to<br />

move more effective cancer therapies into clinical trials<br />

and onto the patients who need them most.<br />

Ann Schoen, a cancer survivor and VAI employee<br />

for 22 years, was featured in the special’s Everyday<br />

Heroes segment honoring cancer survivors.<br />

progression.<br />



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Van Andel Research Institute is home to a growing team of scientists dedicated to improving the health and enhancing<br />

the lives of current and future generations through groundbreaking biomedical research. In <strong>2018</strong>, eight new principal<br />

investigators joined the Institute, growing the number of faculty to 39 — an all-time high for VARI.<br />


Peter A. Jones, Ph.D., D.Sc. (hon)<br />

Chief Scientific Officer<br />

Peter A. Jones, Ph.D., D.Sc. (hon), is<br />

a pioneer in epigenetics, a growing<br />

field that explores how genes<br />

are regulated and provides new<br />

avenues for developing therapies<br />

for cancer and other diseases. His discoveries have helped<br />

usher in an entirely new class of drugs that have been<br />

approved to treat blood cancer and are being investigated<br />

in other tumor types. Dr. Jones is a member of the National<br />

Academy of Sciences and the American Academy of Arts<br />

and Sciences among other prestigious societies. He and his<br />

colleague Dr. Stephen Baylin co-lead the Van Andel Research<br />

Institute–Stand Up To Cancer Epigenetics Dream Team.<br />

Patrik Brundin, M.D., Ph.D.<br />

Associate Director of Research;<br />

Director, Center for<br />

Neurodegenerative Science<br />

Patrik Brundin, M.D., Ph.D.,<br />

investigates molecular mechanisms<br />

in Parkinson’s disease with the goal<br />

of developing new therapies aimed at slowing or stopping<br />

disease progression and repairing damage. He is one of<br />

the top-cited researchers in the field of neurodegenerative<br />

disease and leads international efforts to repurpose drugs<br />

to treat Parkinson’s.<br />

J. Andrew Pospisilik, Ph.D.<br />

Director, Center for<br />

Epigenetics; Professor,<br />

Metabolic and Nutritional<br />

Programming, Center for<br />

Cancer and Cell Biology<br />

J. Andrew Pospisilik, Ph.D., seeks<br />

to understand how we become who we become, and how<br />

our disease susceptibility is defined from early on in life,<br />

even before conception, with the long-term goal of being<br />

able to predict lifelong health outlook at birth.<br />

Bart Williams, Ph.D.<br />

Director, Center for Cancer<br />

and Cell Biology; Professor,<br />

Skeletal Disease and Cancer<br />

Therapeutics, Center for<br />

Cancer and Cell Biology<br />

Bart Williams, Ph.D., studies the<br />

building blocks of bone growth on behalf of the millions<br />

suffering from diseases such as osteoporosis. He seeks<br />

new ways of altering cell signaling pathways to encourage<br />

healthy bone development and deter the spread of cancer<br />

to the skeleton.<br />

Scott Jewell, Ph.D.<br />

Director, Core Technologies<br />

and Services<br />

Scott Jewell, Ph.D., leads Van Andel<br />

Research Institute’s Core<br />

Technologies and Services,<br />

which provides technology and<br />

specialized expertise for research investigators. Services<br />

include bioinformatics and biostatistics, cryo-EM, optical<br />

imaging, flow cytometry, genomics, pathology and<br />

biorepository, vivarium management and transgenics.<br />

Jewell is a past president of the International Society for<br />

Biological and Environmental Repositories (ISBER).<br />

Steven J. Triezenberg, Ph.D.<br />

Dean, Van Andel Institute<br />

Graduate School<br />

Steven J. Triezenberg, Ph.D., is<br />

the dean of Van Andel Institute<br />

Graduate School. His lab, which<br />

closed in <strong>2018</strong> after 31 years of<br />

productive research, explored the genetic and epigenetic<br />

control systems of viruses to understand how infections<br />

progress and to reveal new ways to stop them. His<br />

discoveries with herpes simplex viruses opened up<br />

new possibilities for antiviral drug development and<br />

revealed new insights into how human cells control gene<br />

expression.<br />


Stephen Baylin, M.D.<br />

Director’s Scholar<br />

Stephen Baylin, M.D., studies the<br />

body’s genetic control systems —<br />

called epigenetics — searching for<br />

vulnerabilities in cancer. Baylin is a<br />

leader in this field, ranking among<br />

the first to trace epigenetic causes of cancer. His studies<br />

have led to new therapies for common cancers, like breast,<br />

lung, colorectal and many others. He is co-leader of the<br />

VARI–SU2C Epigenetics Dream Team with Dr. Peter A.<br />

Jones, co-director of Johns Hopkins’ Cancer Biology Division<br />

and associate director for research at Sidney Kimmel<br />

Comprehensive Cancer Center.<br />

Stefan Jovinge, M.D., Ph.D.<br />

Professor, VARI; Medical<br />

Director of Research,<br />

Spectrum Health Frederick<br />

Meijer Heart and Vascular<br />

Institute; Director, DeVos<br />

Cardiovascular Research<br />

Program (a joint effort between Van Andel<br />

Research Institute and Spectrum Health)<br />

Stefan Jovinge, M.D., Ph.D., develops ways to help the heart<br />

heal itself and has led dozens of clinical trials in regenerative<br />

medicine. As a critical care cardiologist and scientist, he<br />

uses a bench-to-bedside approach in an effort to give<br />

patients with serious heart conditions longer, healthier lives.<br />

The clinical platform for his research is the Cardiothoracic<br />

Intensive Care Unit at Spectrum Health’s Fred and Lena<br />

Meijer Heart Center, and the basic science effort in<br />

regenerative medicine is performed at VARI.<br />

Peter W. Laird, Ph.D.<br />

Professor<br />

Peter W. Laird, Ph.D., seeks<br />

a detailed understanding of<br />

the molecular foundations of<br />

cancer with a particular focus<br />

on identifying crucial epigenetic<br />

alterations that convert otherwise healthy cells into cancer<br />

cells. He is widely regarded as an international leader<br />

in this effort and has helped design some of the world’s<br />

state-of-the art tools to aid in epigenetics research. Laird is<br />

a principal investigator for the National Cancer Institute’s<br />

Genome Data Analysis Network and played a leadership<br />

role in The Cancer Genome Atlas, a multi-institutional effort<br />

to molecularly map cancers.<br />

Gerd Pfeifer, Ph.D.<br />

Professor<br />

Gerd Pfeifer, Ph.D., studies how<br />

the body switches genes on and<br />

off, a biological process called<br />

methylation that, when faulty,<br />

can lead to cancer or other<br />

diseases. His studies range from the effects of tobacco<br />

smoke on genetic and epigenetic systems to the discovery<br />

of a mechanism that may help protect the brain from<br />

neurodegeneration. Pfeifer’s studies have implications<br />

across a range of diseases, including cancer, Parkinson’s,<br />

diabetes and many others.<br />

Scott Rothbart, Ph.D.<br />

Associate Professor<br />

Scott Rothbart, Ph.D., studies<br />

the ways in which cells pack and<br />

unpack DNA. This complex process<br />

twists and coils roughly two meters<br />

of unwound DNA into a space less<br />

than one-tenth the width of a human hair. Although this<br />

process is impressive, it is also subject to errors that can<br />

cause cancer and other disorders. Rothbart seeks new<br />

targets for drug development in this process.<br />

Hui Shen, Ph.D.<br />

Associate Professor<br />

Hui Shen, Ph.D., develops new<br />

approaches to cancer prevention,<br />

detection and treatment by studying<br />

the interaction between genes<br />

and their control systems, called<br />

epigenetics. Her research focuses on women’s cancers,<br />

particularly ovarian cancer, and has shed new light on the<br />

underlying mechanisms of other cancer types, including<br />

breast, kidney and prostate cancers.<br />

Xiaobing Shi, Ph.D.<br />

Professor<br />

Xiaobing Shi, Ph.D., investigates<br />

the mechanisms that regulate<br />

DNA and gene expression in an<br />

effort to better understand how<br />

they impact cancer development.<br />

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Piroska Szabó, Ph.D.<br />

Associate Professor<br />

Piroska Szabó, Ph.D., studies the<br />

flow of epigenetic information<br />

from parents to their offspring,<br />

with a focus on how epigenetic<br />

markers are remodeled during<br />

egg and sperm production and how these markers<br />

are rewritten after fertilization. These processes<br />

have profound implications for fertility and embryo<br />

development. Disturbances in epigenetic remodeling are<br />

thought to contribute to disease conditions lasting well<br />

into adulthood.<br />

Timothy J. Triche, Jr., Ph.D.<br />

Assistant Professor<br />

As a statistician and computational<br />

biologist with an interest in clonal<br />

evolution and cancers of the<br />

blood, Tim Triche, Jr.’s, Ph.D., work<br />

focuses on wedding data-intensive<br />

molecular phenotyping to adaptive clinical trial designs<br />

in an effort to accelerate the pace of drug targeting and<br />

development in rare or refractory diseases.<br />

Hong Wen, Ph.D.<br />

Associate Professor<br />

Hong Wen, Ph.D., investigates<br />

the fundamental mechanisms<br />

of pediatric cancers caused<br />

by dysregulation of epigenetic<br />

regulators, in hopes of developing<br />

new, improved therapies for these devastating diseases.<br />


José Brás, Ph.D.<br />

Associate Professor<br />

Dr. José Brás is a molecular<br />

geneticist whose research focuses<br />

on how variations in our genes<br />

impact the onset and progression<br />

of neurodegenerative diseases<br />

such as Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s and dementia with Lewy<br />

bodies.<br />

Lena Brundin, M.D., Ph.D.<br />

Associate Professor<br />

As a psychiatrist and a scientist,<br />

Lena Brundin, M.D., Ph.D.,<br />

seeks ways to diagnose and<br />

treat depression and suicidality<br />

by studying inflammation of<br />

the nervous system. Her findings may lead to earlier<br />

interventions for depressive patients and to the<br />

development of a new class of antidepressants that<br />

targets the immune system. She also investigates how<br />

inflammatory mechanisms can damage nerve cells in<br />

Parkinson’s disease.<br />

Hong-Yuan Chu, Ph.D.<br />

Assistant Professo<br />

Hong-Yuan Chu, Ph.D., investigates<br />

how and why dopamine-producing<br />

cells die off in Parkinson’s, a<br />

process that underlies many of<br />

the disease’s hallmark symptoms.<br />

He plans to leverage this new knowledge to develop new,<br />

more precise ways to slow or stop disease progression.<br />

Gerhard Coetzee, Ph.D.<br />

Professor<br />

Gerhard Coetzee, Ph.D., searches<br />

the human genome for minuscule<br />

changes that contribute to the onset,<br />

progression and drug resistance of<br />

many diseases, including cancer,<br />

Parkinson’s, and rare and heritable disorders. His team<br />

deploys genome sequencing technologies and highpowered<br />

computational arrays to tease out patterns and<br />

interactions of markers and treatment targets from among<br />

the human genome’s more than 3 billion DNA base pairs.<br />

Rita Guerreiro, Ph.D.<br />

Associate Professor<br />

Rita Guerreiro, Ph.D., is a<br />

neurogeneticist who studies<br />

the genomic contributors to<br />

neurodegenerative diseases such<br />

as Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s<br />

disease and dementia with Lewy bodies.<br />

Viviane Labrie, Ph.D.<br />

Assistant Professor<br />

Viviane Labrie, Ph.D., studies<br />

the dynamic interplay between<br />

the human genome and<br />

its control system — the<br />

epigenome — to understand how<br />

neurodegenerative diseases start and progress in an effort<br />

to develop improved diagnostics and treatments. Labrie’s<br />

scientific pursuits have deepened the understanding of<br />

conditions including Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, schizophrenia<br />

and lactose intolerance. She has also developed new<br />

methods for epigenome analysis.<br />

Jiyan Ma, Ph.D.<br />

Professor<br />

Jiyan Ma, Ph.D., studies<br />

abnormal proteins that cause<br />

neurodegenerative diseases,<br />

including Parkinson’s disease<br />

and prion diseases. His lab has<br />

developed new ways to understand how these proteins<br />

spread and cause diseases in humans and animals. The<br />

lab is also developing new approaches to diagnose and<br />

treat these devastating disorders.<br />

Darren Moore, Ph.D.<br />

Professor<br />

Darren Moore, Ph.D., seeks<br />

new diagnostic and treatment<br />

approaches for Parkinson’s by<br />

investigating the inherited form<br />

of the disease, which accounts<br />

for 5 to 10 percent of cases. He aims to translate the<br />

understanding of these genetic mutations into better<br />

treatments and new diagnostic tools for Parkinson’s, both<br />

inherited and non-inherited. Discoveries in Moore’s lab<br />

routinely elucidate the faulty molecular interactions that<br />

transform healthy, functioning neurons into diseased ones.<br />


Skeletal Disease and Cancer Therapeutics<br />

Patrick Grohar, M.D., Ph.D.<br />

Program Leader and Associate<br />

Professor<br />

Patrick Grohar, M.D., Ph.D.,<br />

develops new drugs to treat bone<br />

cancer in children, in addition to<br />

pursuing a deeper understanding<br />

of the mechanisms underlying sarcomas and related<br />

conditions. Once proven safe and effective in the lab, his<br />

team translates these potential therapies into clinical trials<br />

for children with few other options. He is program leader<br />

of the Skeletal Disease and Cancer Therapeutics team,<br />

an associate professor in the Center for Cancer and Cell<br />

Biology and a pediatric oncologist at Spectrum Health<br />

Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital.<br />

Xiaohong Li, Ph.D.<br />

Assistant Professor<br />

Xiaohong Li, Ph.D., studies how and<br />

why various cancers, particularly<br />

prostate and breast cancer cells,<br />

migrate from their original site<br />

and spread to the bone. These<br />

cells stay dormant but might wake up years later and<br />

grow to become bone metastases, causing debilitating<br />

pain and complicating treatment. Li hopes that a better<br />

understanding of metastatic cancers will lead to new<br />

diagnostic tests and targeted therapies.<br />

Matt Steensma, M.D.<br />

Assistant Professor<br />

Matt Steensma, M.D., studies the<br />

genetic and molecular factors<br />

that cause benign tumors to<br />

become cancers in order to<br />

find vulnerabilities that may<br />

be targeted for treatment. As a scientist at VARI and a<br />

practicing surgeon at Spectrum Health Helen DeVos<br />

Children’s Hospital, he is committed to translating scientific<br />

discoveries into treatments that improve patients’ lives.<br />

Tao Yang, Ph.D.<br />

Assistant Professor<br />

Tao Yang, Ph.D., studies the<br />

signaling systems that govern<br />

skeletal stem cells and the role<br />

they play in diseases such as<br />

osteoarthritis and osteoporosis.<br />

Bones are the largest producer of adult stem cells, which<br />

mature into cartilage, fat or bone tissue — a process<br />

that falters with age. Yang seeks a better understanding<br />

of these systems in search of new treatments for<br />

degenerative bone disorders.<br />

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Structural Biology<br />

Huilin Li, Ph.D.<br />

Program Leader and Professor<br />

Huilin Li, Ph.D., uses cryo-electron<br />

microscopy (cryo-EM) to reveal<br />

the most basic building blocks of<br />

DNA replication and other systems<br />

vital for life. He has been at the<br />

vanguard of cryo-EM for more than 20 years, and his<br />

research has implications for some of the world’s most<br />

critical public health concerns, including tuberculosis,<br />

cancer, mental illness and many more.<br />

Juan Du, Ph.D.<br />

Assistant Professor<br />

Juan Du, Ph.D., seeks to understand<br />

the brain’s intricate communication<br />

systems using state-of-the-art<br />

structural biology approaches,<br />

such as cryo-EM. Her work has<br />

expanded knowledge of these important systems and may<br />

aid in development of new therapies in the future.<br />

Wei Lü, Ph.D.<br />

Assistant Professor<br />

Wei Lü, Ph.D., is working to unravel<br />

how brain cells communicate with<br />

each other. Using techniques<br />

such as cryo-EM, his work<br />

has contributed to the field’s<br />

understanding of molecules that play crucial roles in the<br />

development and function of the nervous system.<br />

Karsten Melcher, Ph.D.<br />

Professor<br />

Karsten Melcher, Ph.D., studies<br />

molecular structure and cellular<br />

communication, which have<br />

implications for finding new<br />

treatments for serious health<br />

threats, including cancer, diabetes and obesity. His<br />

expertise extends beyond human cells — his research into<br />

plant hormones may one day lead to heartier crops that<br />

resist drought and help meet the nutritional demands of a<br />

growing global population.<br />

H. Eric Xu, Ph.D.<br />

Professor<br />

H. Eric Xu, Ph.D., explores the<br />

structure of molecules in the body’s<br />

complex hormone signaling system,<br />

which plays a vital role in health and<br />

disease. He is particularly known for<br />

his discoveries in defining the structure of molecules critical<br />

to the development of new drugs for cancer, diabetes and<br />

many others. He is a professor in VARI’s Center for Cancer<br />

and Cell Biology and serves as director of VARI–SIMM<br />

Research Center in Shanghai, China.<br />

Metabolic And Nutritional Programming<br />

Russell Jones, Ph.D.<br />

Program Leader and Professor<br />

Russell Jones, Ph.D., investigates<br />

metabolism at the cellular level<br />

to understand how it affects cell<br />

behavior and health, with a specific<br />

eye on cancer and the immune system. By revealing how<br />

cancer cells use metabolic processes to fuel their growth<br />

and spread, he hopes to develop new treatments that help<br />

patients by changing the standard of care for cancer.<br />

Brian Haab, Ph.D.<br />

Professor; Assistant Dean,<br />

Van Andel Institute Graduate<br />

School<br />

Brian Haab, Ph.D., searches for<br />

new ways to diagnose and stratify<br />

pancreatic cancers based on the<br />

chemical fingerprints tumors leave behind. Part of the<br />

problem Haab aims to solve is that cancers often look<br />

and behave normally — until after they’ve started making<br />

people sick. Haab is sleuthing out clues to build a library of<br />

diagnostic tools that will help providers diagnose tumors<br />

earlier and optimize treatment.<br />

Connie Krawczyk, Ph.D.<br />

Associate Professor<br />

Connie Krawczyk, Ph.D.,<br />

investigates the links between<br />

metabolism, epigenetics and the<br />

immune system, with the goal of<br />

understanding how they work<br />

together to keep us healthy and, when things go wrong, to<br />

promote disease.<br />

Adelheid Lempradl, Ph.D.<br />

Assistant Professor<br />

Adelheid Lempradl, Ph.D., is<br />

investigating how the dietary<br />

choices of parents may impact<br />

the health of their offspring in the<br />

hopes of translating her findings<br />

into new ways to prevent disease and create a healthier<br />

future.<br />

Ning Wu, Ph.D.<br />

Assistant Professor<br />

Ning Wu, Ph.D., investigates<br />

the interface between cellular<br />

metabolism and cellular signaling,<br />

particularly as they relate to cancer.<br />

On the most basic level, cancer is a<br />

disease of uncontrolled cell growth, and Wu believes that<br />

understanding a tumor’s voracious energy requirements<br />

and altered signaling pathways will lead to new treatments<br />

that optimize existing combination therapies and identify<br />

novel therapeutic targets.<br />


George Vande Woude, Ph.D.<br />

Distinguished Scientific Fellow,<br />

Emeritus<br />

George Vande Woude, Ph.D., is a<br />

titan in cancer biology. He is the<br />

founding director of Van Andel<br />

Research Institute, which he led<br />

for a decade. His discovery and description of the MET<br />

receptor tyrosine kinase as an oncogene, together with<br />

its activating ligand hepatocyte growth factor, have led to<br />

new possibilities for cancer therapies and revolutionized<br />

the way scientists view the disease, especially in tumor<br />

progression. He is a member of the National Academy of<br />

Sciences.<br />

By the Numbers<br />

118 peer-reviewed<br />

publications<br />

8 new faculty<br />

39 total faculty<br />

32 countries<br />

represented by<br />

VAI employees<br />

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In September, the Institute hosted its annual Grand<br />

Challenges in Parkinson’s Disease scientific symposium<br />

and parallel Rallying to the Challenge meeting.<br />

Nearly 300 scientists, physicians and people with<br />

Parkinson’s spent two days intensely focused on the<br />

non-motor symptoms of Parkinson’s, a diverse group of<br />

problems that include depression, loss of sense of smell,<br />

gastrointestinal issues, cognitive decline, trouble sleeping<br />

and fatigue. Not only do these issues play a major role in<br />

quality of life, they also provide important clues for better<br />

understanding a condition that affects 7 to 10 million<br />

people worldwide.<br />

Grand Challenges in Parkinson’s Disease and Rallying to the<br />

Challenge also provide a platform to recognize scientific<br />

excellence and service to the Parkinson’s community. We<br />

were honored to present the <strong>2018</strong> Jay Van Andel Award for<br />

Outstanding Achievement in Parkinson’s Disease Research<br />

to Prof. K. Ray Chaudhuri, an international authority whose<br />

research and scientific expertise has greatly expanded<br />

understanding of non-motor symptoms and reinforced the<br />

importance of addressing them to improve quality of life.<br />

The <strong>2018</strong> Jay Van Andel Award<br />

for Outstanding Achievement in<br />

Parkinson’s Disease Research<br />

was given to scientists who have<br />

made exceptional contributions to<br />

Parkinson’s disease research and<br />

who have positively impacted<br />

human health.<br />

The award was established in 2012 in memory of Institute<br />

founder Jay Van Andel, who battled Parkinson’s disease<br />

for a decade before his death in 2004. The award is given<br />

to scientists who have made exceptional contributions<br />

to Parkinson’s disease research and who have positively<br />

impacted human health.<br />

The Institute and The Cure Parkinson’s Trust also<br />

presented Dr. Simon Stott and Prof. Bastiaan Bloem with<br />

the Tom Isaacs Award, which was established in memory<br />

of the Trust’s co-founder and champion of the Parkinson’s<br />

community Tom Isaacs. The annual honor recognizes<br />

individuals who have had a significant impact on the lives<br />

of people with Parkinson’s and/or involved people with<br />

Parkinson’s in a participatory way in their work.<br />

Since 2015, Stott has run Science of Parkinson’s, a website<br />

dedicated to translating the complex research surrounding<br />

the disease and new breakthroughs into an accessible,<br />

patient-friendly format.<br />

Bloem is the co-founder and medical director of Parkinson<br />

Centre Nijmegen and co-director of ParkinsonNet at<br />

Radboud University Medical Center in the Netherlands.<br />

ParkinsonNet provides patients across the Netherlands<br />

increased access to Parkinson’s experts via the internet<br />

and in person, making it easier for patients to get the care<br />

they need.<br />

Chaudhuri, Stott and Bloem are tireless advocates for<br />

the Parkinson’s community, whose inclusive work and<br />

extensive outreach helps shrink the gap between scientists<br />

and people with the disease. They embody the spirit of<br />

Grand Challenges in Parkinson’s Disease and Rallying to the<br />

Challenge — that together, we can find ways to slow or<br />

stop the disease and improve quality of life for people<br />

around the world.<br />

THE <strong>2018</strong> GRAND CHALLENGES IN<br />



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Just as a map (or these days, a GPS) can help you get to your destination, a new<br />

comprehensive atlas is helping scientists hit the mark when it comes to more<br />

accurately classifying cancers.<br />

In April, The Cancer Genome Atlas (TCGA) Research Network, an initiative spearheaded by<br />

the National Institutes of Health, published its final batch of 29 studies detailing precise<br />

— and often subtle — molecular variations in 33 major types of cancer. The findings are<br />

the result of more than a decade of work by scientists in the U.S. and abroad, including<br />

Institute investigators Dr. Peter W. Laird and Dr. Hui Shen, and already are impacting how<br />

cancers are classified and studied.<br />

“TCGA’s findings have greatly deepened our molecular understanding of the major cancer<br />

types,” Laird said. “It is our hope that this work will serve as a guide for scientists who plan<br />

to harness TCGA’s robust data to develop new, more personalized methods of patient<br />

care.”<br />

This research, which represents the initiative’s capstone, joins dozens of other papers that<br />

have been published since TCGA’s inception in 2005. Collectively, they provide a highly<br />

detailed description of molecular changes occurring in all major human cancers along<br />

with insights that could revolutionize cancer treatment.<br />

“It is our hope that this work will serve as a guide for<br />

scientists who plan to harness TCGA’s robust data to<br />

develop new, more personalized methods of patient care.”<br />

— Dr. Peter W. Laird<br />

Major takeaways include:<br />

Cancers should be classified based on genetic, epigenetic and molecular<br />

differences.<br />

Historically, cancers have been categorized and named based on the organ or tissue in<br />

which they arose — for example, cancers that start in the esophagus have been called<br />

esophageal cancers and were believed to have a lot in common with other cancers found<br />

in the esophagus.<br />

TCGA’s findings urge a shift away from this view, based on new insight into the incredibly<br />

complex factors that influence and differentiate one cancer from another. In short, this<br />

means that a cancer found in the lower part of the esophagus may actually have more in<br />

common with a stomach cancer than other esophageal cancers.<br />

Better classifying cancers is a game-changer for cancer research and treatment.<br />

When it comes to combating cancer, the old adage, “Know thine enemy,” is incredibly<br />

apt. Not only do the specific characteristics identified by TCGA reveal new vulnerabilities<br />

that can be targeted by future medications, but they also may help simplify treatment<br />

decisions today.<br />

For example, if physicians know that an individual’s cancer is marked by a certain<br />

characteristic, they can choose medications designed specifically for that subtype and<br />

avoid other treatments that are better suited for another subtype.<br />

Working together is the way forward.<br />

TCGA’s work was a massive, decade-long undertaking that required the time and talent<br />

of hundreds of scientists from around the world, who painstakingly analyzed more than<br />

10,000 samples from 33 different cancer types. None of this would have been possible<br />

without an extraordinary level of cooperation, teamwork and a singular dedication to<br />

creating a resource that may revolutionize cancer research and treatment.<br />

“Team science endeavors like TCGA are the future,” Laird said. “By sharing resources,<br />

expertise and data, we were able to do more together than we ever could have apart.”<br />


DR. HUI SHEN<br />

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Van Andel Research Institute is home to a thriving community of graduate students working toward their<br />

Ph.D.s and postdoctoral fellows gaining additional experience after earning their doctorates. These young<br />

scientists are an integral part of the Institute’s research enterprise and make important contributions to the<br />

discoveries that are changing how we view health and disease.<br />

Postdoctoral fellows<br />

In <strong>2018</strong>, several of our graduate students and postdoctoral<br />

fellows earned awards to support their research, which enables<br />

them to conduct groundbreaking and impactful studies that<br />

investigate the basis of disorders like cancer and Parkinson’s.<br />

Van Andel Institute Graduate School students<br />

Dr. Alison Lanctot Chomiak, Rothbart<br />

Laboratory<br />

National Cancer Institute Ruth L. Kirschstein<br />

National Research Service Award<br />

Dr. Chomiak studies the molecular changes<br />

that give rise to colon cancer, a disease that is<br />

becoming more prevalent in younger people.<br />

To do so, she’s focusing on an epigenetic<br />

process called DNA methylation, an ensemble<br />

of small tags on DNA that tell our genes when<br />

they should be expressed and to what extent.<br />

Dr. Manpreet Kalkat, Laird Laboratory<br />

Canadian Institutes for Health<br />

Research Fellowship<br />

Dr. Kalkat is investigating how epigenetics,<br />

which regulate how and when the instructions<br />

in our genes are interpreted and acted upon,<br />

can contribute to colorectal cancers. Each<br />

year, more than 145,000 people are diagnosed<br />

with colon or rectal cancers in the U.S. alone,<br />

making these diseases the third most common<br />

cancers among both men and women.<br />

Maggie Chassé, Grohar Laboratory<br />

National Cancer Institute Ruth L. Kirschstein<br />

Predoctoral Individual Service Award<br />

Maggie Chassé is searching for the Achilles’<br />

heel of rhabdoid tumor, an aggressive<br />

pediatric cancer with no effective treatment<br />

options, by investigating compounds that<br />

starve cancer cells of the resources they need<br />

to survive.<br />

Dr. Madalynn Erb, Moore Laboratory<br />

Parkinson’s Foundation Postdoctoral<br />

Fellowship<br />

Dr. Erb studies the genetic underpinnings<br />

of Parkinson’s disease, in particular a gene<br />

called LRRK2 that is a major player in cases of<br />

the disease genetically passed down through<br />

families. This award supports her research into<br />

LRRK2 and its relationship with another gene,<br />

ATP132A, which may protect brain cells against<br />

damage caused by mutations in LRRK2.<br />

Dr. Xiaotian Zhang, VARI Fellow, Pfeifer<br />

Laboratory<br />

Edward P. Evans Foundation —<br />

EvansMDS Young Investigator Award<br />

American Society of Hematology,<br />

Basic Research Fellow<br />

Dr. Zhang seeks to understand how changes<br />

in epigenetic mechanisms can give rise to<br />

myelodysplastic syndrome (MDS), a bone marrow<br />

disorder than can rapidly progress to an aggressive<br />

blood cancer called acute myeloid leukemia (AML).<br />

Jamie Grit, Steensma Laboratory<br />

Children’s Tumor Foundation<br />

Young Investigator Award<br />

Jamie Grit studies Neurofibromatosis Type<br />

1 (NF1), a rare genetic disorder that causes<br />

benign tumors to grow throughout the body<br />

and increases cancer risk. She is seeking new<br />

treatments for malignant peripheral nerve<br />

sheath tumors, a rare type of cancer that<br />

causes malignant growths along the spine and<br />

nerves.<br />

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Kajang, a bustling city on the outskirts of the Malaysian capital of Kuala Lumpur, is a long way away from Grand Rapids, Michigan. But for Menusha Arumugam, a doctoral<br />

student enrolled in Van Andel Institute Graduate School (VAIGS), both cities are home. Arumugam is part of a community of international students who come to the Institute from all<br />

over the world to train as the scientific leaders of the future. They hail from diverse backgrounds and cultures, but they are bonded by a common desire to use their talents and skills in<br />

the service of something they all feel strongly about — the idea that great science can change the world for the better.<br />

Menusha Arumugam (Malaysia)<br />

Arumugam’s love of science comes from a deep desire to<br />

help people. As a young student growing up in Malaysia,<br />

Arumugam had dreams of becoming a doctor and helping<br />

cure people suffering from disease.<br />

“When I was a student in high school, I shadowed a doctor<br />

and, while I liked the idea of improving human health, I quickly<br />

learned that I was really interested in figuring out how the<br />

diseases come about and how we can improve treatments for<br />

patients,” Arumugam said.<br />

From that moment on, Arumugam has worked toward her<br />

goal of being a scientist. That choice led her to leave her<br />

hometown of Kajang to study, first at the University of Michigan–Flint, and now at VAIGS.<br />

“When I received a scholarship from the Malaysian government to study abroad, I decided<br />

to come to Michigan to further my education,” Arumugam said. “Grand Rapids is such a<br />

great city, and the Institute’s location on the Medical Mile allows for a lot of collaboration<br />

with other scientists, clinicians and organizations like Michigan State University and<br />

Spectrum Health.”<br />

Arumugam works alongside a team of scientists in the laboratory of physician-scientist<br />

Dr. Matt Steensma, an expert in orthopedic oncology and rare diseases such as<br />

Neurofibromatosis Type 1 (NF1). This direct connection between research and patient<br />

care is something that Arumugam loves about her work in the Steensma lab, where she<br />

studies breast cancer in NF1 patients.<br />

“When you’re a scientist working in a lab, sometimes you can forget why you’re doing what<br />

you’re doing,” Arumugam said. “In our lab, the work might directly impact patients, and I<br />

think when you’re constantly reminded that your work impacts real people, you’ll never<br />

lose the passion for what you’re doing.”<br />

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Eric Cordeiro-Spinetti (Brazil)<br />

Eric Cordeiro-Spinetti speaks about science<br />

in a soulfully enthusiastic way, like a dancer<br />

talking about music or an architect talking<br />

about geometry.<br />

“I want everyone to be a scientist in their own<br />

way,” he said. “Being a scientist is not just a job,<br />

it’s a lifestyle, and being curious and thinking<br />

critically means you’re living your life to the<br />

fullest.”<br />

His passion for science began as a small boy<br />

in Rio de Janeiro watching American television<br />

shows and movies. The scientists he saw on the glowing screen were larger than life<br />

characters, but they were important, and they were making sense of the world.<br />

“I have a vivid memory of being 5 or 6 years old and watching scientists on television<br />

shows and movies, and I loved how they were always curious and trying to figure things<br />

out,” Cordeiro-Spinetti said.<br />

Today, Cordeiro-Spinetti is a doctoral student in the laboratory of Dr. Scott Rothbart,<br />

where he collaborates with a team of scientists to better understand the role of<br />

epigenetics in human diseases. In addition to his work as a graduate student, he uses his<br />

love of communication and his big personality to create educational videos he hopes will<br />

inspire others to pursue science and examine their world.<br />

“I’m always challenging myself and trying to reach people,” Cordeiro-Spinetti said. “I want<br />

to tell people in Brazil and around the world, ‘Hey, I’m working at this really cool place in<br />

Michigan where I am training to become a great scientist, and if I can do it, you can do it<br />

too.’”<br />

Wooyoung Choi (South Korea)<br />

Wooyoung Choi is both a scientist and an<br />

explorer. He has traveled to almost every<br />

country in Asia and has recently started to<br />

explore Canada and the United States. In 2016,<br />

he took the most significant trip of his life when<br />

he traveled to Grand Rapids after finishing<br />

his master’s degree at Tsinghua University<br />

in Beijing, China. Drawn to the Institute’s<br />

reputation for great science and intrigued by<br />

the opportunity to work with the Institute’s<br />

state-of-the-art cryo-electron microscope (cryo-<br />

EM), Choi decided to move halfway around the<br />

world to continue his studies at VAIGS.<br />

“I thought this was a great opportunity to be a<br />

part of an institute with this incredibly advanced technology and answer really complex<br />

biological questions,” Choi said. “I wanted to use this technology to better understand the<br />

structures of proteins, which can be used to understand mechanisms in cells and help<br />

develop new treatments.”<br />

Choi’s mentor at the Institute, Dr. Wei Lü, is an expert in cryo-EM and structural biology.<br />

Working and learning alongside a scientist with such a specialized focus is the opportunity<br />

of a lifetime.<br />

“Dr. Lü is very knowledgeable and experienced with using cryo-EM, and his enthusiasm<br />

for his work is incredible,” Choi said. “Everyone here is passionate about teaching me, and<br />

everyone I work with treats me like family. Being here is life-changing.”<br />

The close-knit bonds Choi has with his mentor and classmates helped him navigate the<br />

complexities of a new culture and new environment, and these relationships have helped<br />

him succeed in this new adventure.<br />

“People are really kind here and care about teaching me not just science but American<br />

culture. They really want me to learn,” Choi said. “I am happy to be at a graduate program<br />

that provides such great opportunities and lets me seek out and achieve my goals for the<br />

future.”<br />

Minge Du (China)<br />

On her family’s farm in China, Minge Du tended<br />

to the bountiful corn and wheat crops. As a<br />

child working directly with the natural world,<br />

Du developed a keen interest in animals and<br />

plants, that eventually led her to pursue a<br />

career in science.<br />

“I loved nature and animals when I was young,<br />

but I became really interested in science in<br />

college, where I studied a lot of biology,” Du<br />

said. “I have always been a very curious person<br />

and, while most of my family members are farmers, I decided I wanted to be a scientist.”<br />

Du began her graduate education in the U.S. at Stony Brook University in New York. There,<br />

she worked alongside Dr. Huilin Li, whose research uses cryo-EM to determine the<br />

structures of molecules. When Li accepted a position at the Institute, Du and her husband,<br />

who is also a scientist in Li’s lab, followed him to Grand Rapids.<br />

“I never imagined I would be in Grand Rapids, Michigan, but I am happy to be here<br />

because it’s such a good graduate school program,” Du said. “The size of the Institute<br />

allows students to work collaboratively and get to know each other, and that is very good<br />

for me.”<br />

Du’s work with Li focuses on uncovering the molecular structure of specific proteins using<br />

tools such as cryo-EM. Her experience at the Institute is unlike any she’s ever had, and she<br />

is excited to work with program peers who share her interest in technology and scientific<br />

discovery.<br />

“Every day, I am discussing newly published papers, working and collaborating with other<br />

scientists, and living a life much different than I ever expected,” Du said. “I am glad I am<br />

following my dreams.”<br />

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Van Andel Education Institute<br />

is dedicated to creating classrooms where curiosity, creativity and critical<br />

thinking thrive.<br />

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In <strong>2018</strong>, more than 130 teachers, administrators and<br />

education professionals visited Van Andel Education<br />

Institute (VAEI) for the inaugural Science on the Grand<br />

conference.<br />

Terra Tarango, VAEI’s director and chief education officer,<br />

and her team designed the conference to honor the work<br />

of teachers and provide them with the opportunity to gain<br />

practical, purposeful strategies to incorporate inquirybased<br />

instruction into their teaching.<br />

“During this event we literally and figuratively rolled out<br />

the red carpet for teachers,” Tarango said. “We wanted<br />

teachers to be inspired by world-class speakers, as well as<br />

empowered with classroom-proven strategies and lessons<br />

to create extraordinary classrooms. But more than that,<br />

we wanted them to feel honored and appreciated for the<br />

extraordinary work they do.”<br />

Lori Corley, principal of Springfield Elementary in<br />

Greenwood, South Carolina, traveled hundreds of miles<br />

to attend the conference along with two science teachers<br />

from her school. Corley was introduced to the Institute<br />

while attending the National Science Teachers Association<br />

Conference, where she met VAEI education specialists<br />

and learned about the Institute’s science education and<br />

professional development programs.<br />

“After meeting representatives from the Institute, I<br />

recognized that the beliefs that go into VAEI’s education<br />

philosophy are very similar to the beliefs that I hold as a<br />

principal,” she said.<br />

While at the conference, Corley and members of her team<br />

went on a tour of an Institute lab, met with scientists,<br />

participated in breakout sessions, heard inspirational<br />



“We wanted teachers to be<br />

inspired by world-class speakers,<br />

as well as empowered with<br />

classroom-proven strategies and<br />

lessons to create extraordinary<br />

classrooms.”<br />

— Terra Tarango<br />

speakers and networked with teachers, where they<br />

discovered new ways to view education and new insights<br />

into their profession.<br />

“One of the takeaways I received from the conference<br />

is the importance of teaching students to think like<br />

scientists,” Corley said. “We want to let students know<br />

that if you think like a scientist in the classroom, there is<br />

no reason why you can’t be one in the future. I think this<br />

understanding is really important.”<br />

Tarango is optimistic that the conference will serve<br />

as a way for teachers and administrators to become<br />

familiarized with both the Institute and its mission, which<br />

focuses on inquiry-based instruction.<br />

The two-day conference was divided into two sections<br />

— day one focusing on classroom culture and day two<br />

focusing on practical, inquiry-based lessons and STEAM<br />

(science, technology, engineering, art and math) content.<br />

Tarango views the conference structure as a reflection of<br />

VAEI’s framework, which emphasizes both the classroom<br />

learning environment and content-area knowledge.<br />

“I think the conference was a perfect forum for reminding<br />

teachers why they entered this noble profession and<br />

inspiring them to continually grow and improve their<br />

craft,” she said. “I have heard from many teachers who<br />

were frustrated with teaching, tempted to leave education<br />

altogether, and then they heard an inspiring speaker or<br />

learned an innovative strategy at a conference, and just<br />

like that — they are recommitted to their students and all<br />

the promise of this remarkable profession.”<br />

High school students from across West Michigan spent<br />

their summer days exploring their world and making<br />

new discoveries during Van Andel Education Institute’s<br />

(VAEI) week-long summer camp.<br />

Students used hands-on interactive investigations and<br />

inquiry-based learning techniques to delve into a series<br />

of complex projects including using electrophoresis to<br />

identify DNA, testing the quality of river water, exploring<br />

what it would be like to live on Mars, and building and<br />

testing robotic devices. VAEI’s summer camp is one of<br />

several student programs in which young scientists can<br />

explore their world, collaborate with other students and<br />

learn in an environment where curiosity, creativity and<br />

critical thinking thrive.<br />

Esther Vanderwey, Sophomore<br />

“I like science very much, so I really enjoyed this camp.<br />

Today, we were using DNA to figure out how to solve<br />

crimes. We used samples and gel electrophoresis to match<br />

DNA and learn about forensics. My interests are in zoology,<br />

but I love all sciences and I had a lot of fun.”<br />

Eli Lake, Freshman<br />

“The instructors we had at the camp are really nice. What I<br />

really loved is that we were doing things that scientists in a<br />

big university lab do right here in a classroom, and that is<br />

really cool. I really like science and one day I would like to<br />

be a molecular biologist.”<br />

Alex Kempston, Freshman<br />

“Everyone at the camp is interested in science, and it was<br />

a good opportunity for me to be around other people who<br />

like science as much as I do. I’m really interested in science<br />

as a career.”<br />

Sophia Maisel & Lucie Kovarik, Freshmen<br />

“The camp was good because it was very hands-on, and<br />

compared to doing online courses, this was more fun. We<br />

did a lot of trial and error in our projects, which is cool<br />

because it’s all up to you and your group if you succeed<br />

or fail. I liked working with other people and collaborating,<br />

and it was fun seeing people succeed.”<br />

VAEI’s summer camp is one of several<br />

student programs in which young<br />

scientists can explore their world,<br />

collaborate with other students and<br />

learn in an environment where curiosity,<br />

creativity and critical thinking thrive.<br />

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Van Andel Institute’s donors and philanthropic partners are connected by<br />

a shared sense of commitment to the Institute’s mission. Their creativity,<br />

passion and dedication have helped the Institute become a thriving center<br />

for innovative biomedical research and science education.<br />

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Alvin and Hylda Tuuk believed in the American<br />

dream. Second generation Dutch immigrants, they met<br />

and married after Al served his country in World War<br />

II. Together, they raised a family, started a successful<br />

business and later became examples of the American<br />

dream in the West Michigan community. People of modest<br />

means, the couple’s drive for a better life was shaped<br />

equally by the Great Depression and the experiences<br />

they lived through during World War II. They worked hard<br />

and instilled in their four children the value of education,<br />


the power of American capitalism and the importance<br />

of charitable giving. In 1985, Hylda lost Al to prostate<br />

cancer before they had the chance to enjoy their golden<br />

years. Committed to making a difference, she arranged<br />

to donate a portion of her estate to fund research that<br />

could give hope to people facing this difficult disease.<br />

In February 2017, Hylda passed away at the age of 93.<br />

She left a generous planned gift that will benefit prostate<br />

cancer research pilot studies in the laboratories of Dr.<br />

Xiaohong Li and Dr. Bart Williams.<br />

“It is heartwarming to know that our<br />

gift will go directly to fund important<br />

research being conducted right here<br />

in Grand Rapids.” — Mary Tuuk<br />

“Growing up and living for much of their lives in West<br />

Michigan, both my parents were impressed by the<br />

business success and the generous spirit of the Van Andel<br />

family. My siblings and I were proud to make a gift to<br />

benefit the Institute’s cancer research on their behalf,”<br />

said Hylda and Al’s daughter, Mary Tuuk, vice president<br />

and chief compliance officer at Meijer.<br />

“Van Andel Institute has been an incredibly positive force<br />

both in the health science community and the community<br />

as a whole. It has been a tremendous catalyst for growth<br />

in the region while making an impact on a global scale. It is<br />

heartwarming to know that our gift will go directly to fund<br />

important research being conducted right here in Grand<br />

Rapids.”<br />

In recognition of Alvin and Hylda Tuuk’s legacy of<br />

generosity, they were posthumously inducted as<br />

members of Van Andel Institute’s (VAI) Society of Hope.<br />

The Society of Hope recognizes individuals who have<br />

notified us they are including VAI in their will or another<br />

deferred giving plan. The Tuuks’ spirit of purposeful giving<br />

will live on in the work of the Institute’s scientists and the<br />

impact they have on improving the health of current and<br />

future generations.<br />


Duke Suwyn is one of Van Andel Institute’s most<br />

committed donors, and his belief in philanthropy<br />

and the Institute’s mission comes from a very<br />

personal place — a life-long love.<br />

When Duke Suwyn first met his wife, Sue, at a church<br />

function, his world opened up and he was never the same.<br />

Suwyn grew up on a family farm in the lush Michigan<br />

countryside. Sue was from Chicago — the city of big<br />

shoulders — and was filled with ambition, drive and<br />

determination.<br />

“The first time I saw her, I knew she was unlike anyone<br />

I’d ever met,” Suwyn said. “She was extremely talented,<br />

gregarious and full of life. And from that moment on, she<br />

was my mentor, coach and my teammate.”<br />

Sue and Duke got married, started a family, built successful<br />

careers and discovered their love for giving back to their<br />

community. Together, they were active in their children’s<br />

school, Ada Christian, and, guided by a deep faith, they<br />

served on the school’s various foundations and boards.<br />

Through their philanthropic work, they met community<br />

leaders David and Carol Van Andel, who also volunteered<br />

and gave of their time and talent to benefit the school.<br />

“They were some of the most hardworking, focused,<br />

visionary people I’d ever met. They didn’t just come with<br />

ideas — they really rolled up their sleeves and helped us<br />

improve the school for the better,” Suwyn said.<br />

Impressed by the Van Andels’ generosity, the Suwyns<br />

decided to get involved with Van Andel Institute and soon<br />

became some of the Institute’s most ardent advocates and<br />

donors. Duke pursued a career in commercial real estate<br />

and became an executive with Colliers International. In his<br />

leadership position, he encouraged the company to focus<br />

a portion of its charitable giving on the Institute in support<br />

of research. The gift, totaling more than $100,000, provided<br />

Institute scientists with the funds to facilitate research into<br />

rare childhood diseases.<br />

In 2016, Suwyn’s connection to the Institute became<br />

extraordinarily personal when Sue was diagnosed with<br />

glioblastoma multiforme, an aggressive type of brain<br />

cancer. Suddenly, and without warning, the woman who<br />

gave his life meaning was facing an incredible battle.<br />

“When Sue was diagnosed, we knew we needed help, and<br />

we felt fortunate to live in a community where we have<br />

these great hospitals and research centers right here in<br />

our city,” Suwyn said. “The facilities in Grand Rapids on the<br />

Medical Mile are just amazing, and when you go into these<br />

places, you don’t go in there thinking negatively, you go in<br />

with such a sense of hope.”<br />

During this difficult time, both Sue and Duke were<br />

comforted with the idea that the Institute’s scientists<br />

were working on new treatments that might one day help<br />

others affected by cancer. Sue passed away in August<br />

2017, and one of her last wishes was that memorial gifts<br />

be given to the two organizations that were held closest to<br />

her heart.<br />

“There were two places Sue wanted people to think about<br />

when they thought of her — Ada Christian and Van Andel<br />

Institute,” Suwyn said. “When you see the passion that the<br />

Institute’s scientists have for their work, and you know<br />

that these scientists are going to work every day for the<br />

benefit of other people, you really can’t help but fall in love<br />

with this place.”<br />



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EVENTS<br />













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EVENTS<br />












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EVENTS<br />












THE EVENT Q&A.<br />

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On any given weekend during the fall, people across<br />

the country gather under the Friday night lights,<br />

braving the cold weather to cheer on their hometown<br />

high school football teams.<br />

Football games help bring people together, uniting<br />

students, teams and the community around a common<br />

cause. Teams across Michigan hosted Purple Community<br />

games to benefit cancer research at Van Andel Institute<br />

(VAI). The games, filled with emotion and camaraderie,<br />

honored people affected by cancer and gave everyone in<br />

attendance a reason to be hopeful.<br />

Scott Merchant, head coach at Chippewa Valley High<br />

School in Clinton Township, Michigan, has coached<br />

hundreds of young athletes during the past nine years, but<br />

there’s one player he will never forget.<br />



One day, a junior, just starting out on the varsity team,<br />

didn’t show up for practice because he was experiencing<br />

back pain and fatigue. The student received a diagnosis<br />

of testicular cancer and he learned that it had spread<br />

throughout his body. He wasn’t able to play in a single<br />

game, but even after surgery and aggressive treatments,<br />

he remained there for his team and cheered them on<br />

throughout the season from the sidelines. Sadly, before<br />

he could graduate, his life was tragically cut short, and he<br />

passed away from the disease.<br />

“So many people are affected by cancer, but when it gets<br />

one of your players, and it happens right in front of your<br />

face, it really hits home and inspires you to take action,”<br />

Merchant said.<br />

Mary Woltjer, a mother of three and one of the lead<br />

organizers of the South Christian High Purple Out game,<br />

rallies her school in support of VAI’s mission, and believes<br />

her school’s generosity stems from faith, community and<br />

a culture of compassion. In 2017, the school hosted a<br />

game that raised more than $37,000 to benefit cancer<br />

research at VAI. In total, Woltjer has helped organize five<br />

years of Purple events, and to date the school has raised<br />

more than $70,000. While this amount is impressive, the<br />

events have become more than a source for fundraising<br />

— they have become a way to honor those who have been<br />

impacted by this indiscriminate disease.<br />


“One of the boys we honored during the game was a<br />

student and football player who was diagnosed with<br />

Hodgkin’s lymphoma — he’s now in remission, but we still<br />

wanted him to know how much support he has in our<br />

community,” Woltjer said.<br />

The game also honored Bob Blacquiere, who had served<br />

as South Christian’s head football coach for nearly 40 years<br />

and was diagnosed with brain cancer in 2016.<br />

“Most people know someone who has been affected by cancer, and supporting<br />

research at VAI is something our community has really embraced...”<br />

A member of the Michigan Coaches Hall of Fame,<br />

Blacquiere helped generations of South Christian Sailors<br />

achieve their dreams. During the game, members of<br />

the football team, students, friends and family joined<br />

Blacquiere on the field to say “thank you” for his spirit and<br />

his service.<br />

A deep and significant sense of community support also<br />

connects the students, parents and teachers of Traverse<br />

City West High School. Terra Walters, mother and Pink<br />

— Terra Walters<br />

Game event coordinator, is proud of her school’s spirit and<br />

sense of togetherness and activism, which have helped<br />

raise more than $19,000 to benefit cancer research.<br />

“Giving back to our community and helping others is part<br />

of Traverse City West Football’s philosophy,” Walters said.<br />

“Most people know someone who has been affected by<br />

cancer, and supporting research at VAI is something our<br />

community has really embraced, and everyone looks<br />

forward to our Purple Community Pink Game.”<br />


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On a cool, spring Saturday morning, hundreds of<br />

people rallied together on the grounds of the Mary<br />

Free Bed YMCA in Grand Rapids for the annual<br />

Consumers Credit Union Purple Community 5K (PC5K).<br />

Enthusiastic runners, walkers and volunteers participated<br />

in a day of activism and fundraising in support of Van Andel<br />

Institute’s (VAI) research into cancer, Parkinson’s and other<br />

diseases. The event has grown from a small gathering in<br />

2015 into one of West Michigan’s premier 5K races, thanks<br />

to an outpouring of community support and sponsors<br />

like Consumers Credit Union and the Mary Free Bed<br />

YMCA. Both organizations have built bridges between the<br />

Institute’s mission and the people they serve and have<br />

amplified Purple Community’s message of hope to spirited<br />

new audiences.<br />

Lynne Jarman-Johnson, chief marketing officer for<br />

Consumers Credit Union, views the organization’s title<br />

sponsorship of the PC5K as an extension of the company’s<br />

corporate values and community-focused business model.<br />

Jarman-Johnson’s contagious enthusiasm for giving back,<br />

and the efforts of Consumers Credit Union, expanded the<br />

PC5K’s reach and developed it into a day of exceptional<br />

engagement and fundraising.<br />

“Since the beginning, helping our community has been<br />

part of our organization’s mission,” Jarman-Johnson said.<br />

“For us, it’s very personal — we are proud to be the title<br />

sponsor for this event and see it as a way to serve our<br />

Consumers family and our region as a whole. Giving back is<br />

part of our culture.”<br />

For Paul Petr, district executive director for the Mary Free<br />

Bed YMCA, working for the YMCA is not just a job, it’s a<br />

calling. The Y’s focus on the critical needs of the community<br />

and its roots in faith and human wellness are things Petr<br />

feels deeply passionate about. These values, integral to the<br />

Y’s mission, are some of the many reasons Petr believes<br />

the partnership with Purple Community is such a good fit.<br />

“Whether we are leading an initiative, convening an event<br />

or partnering with another organization, making our<br />

community healthier is one of our main goals,” Petr said.<br />

“I think our partnership with Purple Community is strong,<br />

and I think we can do more when we are working together.”<br />

By hosting the PC5K, the Mary Free Bed YMCA has given<br />

Purple Community members access to a beautiful course<br />

and top-tier facilities for the event and provided the Y’s<br />

members who have been impacted by cancer with a<br />

powerful way to connect and support one another.<br />

“Speaking through the lens of a husband who recently lost<br />

his wife to cancer, a framework of support is so critical, not<br />

only to those who are going through cancer treatment, but<br />

for those family members and friends who are there caring<br />

for them. This event is a way for us to come together as<br />

a community and say, ‘you’re not alone,’” Petr said. “I’ve<br />



always believed that people want to be involved with<br />

something that’s bigger than themselves, and I think the<br />

PC5K is an event that gives people that opportunity. It’s an<br />

event we are really proud to support.”<br />

Van Andel Institute’s (VAI) Purple Community Team<br />

Hope members had a busy year, competing in both the<br />

Bank of America Chicago Marathon and the TCS New York<br />

Marathon.<br />

The dedicated runners trained for months to get ready for<br />

the two races that collectively raised more than $90,000<br />

to support VAI’s cancer and Parkinson’s disease research.<br />

Team Hope’s ranks grew in <strong>2018</strong> to include more than 44<br />

participants, including runner Brenda Gardner who ran the<br />

Chicago Marathon in honor of her husband, Todd, who was<br />

diagnosed with Parkinson’s in 2004 at the age of 41.<br />

“To watch Todd’s internal and external struggles with<br />

Parkinson’s, I thought what better way to support him<br />

than by running in the <strong>2018</strong> Chicago Marathon, alongside<br />

my sister, Ann Schneider, and great friend, Tammy<br />

Anderson, in support of Making the Turn Against<br />

Parkinson’s and Van Andel Institute,” Gardner said.<br />

Team Hope runners come from all across West Michigan,<br />

but run together connected by their desire to give back<br />






and to make a difference for those affected by cancer<br />

and Parkinson’s. Runner Kenny Gildersleeve completed<br />

the 26.2 miles of the Chicago Marathon, motivated by a<br />

deep desire to support biomedical research and a strong<br />

connection to the Institute’s mission of health and hope.<br />

“I’ve seen cancer impact several friends and loved ones in<br />

my life, including my own mother, who was diagnosed with<br />

breast cancer my senior year in high school,” Gildersleeve<br />

said. “Today, I’m happy to say that she is a cancer survivor<br />

and has been cancer free for over ten years. I know<br />

that cancer research is the key to making the disease<br />

more preventable, more treatable and to creating more<br />

survivors.”<br />

Team Hope runners move together mile after mile,<br />

bonded by their shared desire to honor those affected<br />

by cancer and Parkinson’s, and to support research that<br />

might change the future of human health.<br />

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In <strong>2018</strong>, Purple Community broke their yearly record<br />

for fundraising. Grassroots events, volunteers, schools<br />

and community partners helped raise more than<br />

$700,000 that directly benefits Van Andel Institute’s<br />

(VAI) biomedical research and education initiatives.<br />

Founded in 2009, Purple Community has grown into a<br />

widespread fundraising force and has raised more than<br />

$3.4 million for Van Andel Institute.<br />

“In <strong>2018</strong>, we were able to work with more than 80<br />

volunteers and help grassroots fundraisers host 121<br />

events,” said Ashley Owen, Purple Community senior event<br />

coordinator. “This year was also really special because<br />

we had the opportunity to team up with 44 marathoners<br />

who participated in both the Chicago and New York races,<br />

raising over $88,000.”<br />

Purple Community began with West Michigan-based events<br />

— working primarily with local grade schools and high<br />

schools, but has steadily increased its reach — spreading<br />

hope across the state of Michigan and beyond.<br />

“We are really grateful to work with such amazing and<br />

dedicated community and media partners, schools and<br />

business leaders,” Owen said. “Everyone knows someone<br />

who has been affected by cancer or Parkinson’s disease,<br />

and Purple Community exists to give people touched<br />

by these diseases the chance to come together and do<br />

something extraordinary, and make a real contribution to<br />

the Institute’s research right here in Grand Rapids.”<br />

Events like the Consumers Credit Union Purple Community<br />

5K, the Bee Brave 5K, and collaborations with schools,<br />

entertainers, musicians and local sports teams have<br />

brought VAI’s mission to a wide variety of new audiences.<br />

“Purple Community is exactly that — a community of<br />

people connecting and reaching out to businesses,<br />

schools, family, friends and coworkers to create hope.<br />

Hope for their loved ones facing devastating diseases<br />

we research right here at VAI — and our job at Purple<br />

Community is to help these individuals who have a<br />

passion for our mission by giving them the resources to<br />

host successful fundraising events,” Owen said. “Whenever<br />

I meet an event organizer, volunteer or participant, and<br />

they share their stories with me, those stories drive<br />

me and the entire team here at VAI to make Purple<br />

Community the force it is today — I’m just so humbled<br />

and honored to be a part of it all.”<br />

To learn more about Purple Community and how you can get<br />

involved, visit purplecommunity.org.<br />


Duncan Lake Middle School in Caledonia, Michigan, sits<br />

tucked away between sprawling farmland and rolling<br />

country roads. From the outside, its brown brick building<br />

looks like an average middle school anywhere in the United<br />

States but inside, its students have achieved something<br />

extraordinary.<br />

For more than a decade, the school’s student council has<br />

planned and hosted an event that has inspired their quiet,<br />

rural community and raised more than $100,000 to benefit<br />

cancer research at Van Andel Institute (VAI). By working<br />

together and passing the torch to successive generations<br />

of students, Duncan Lake has redefined what young<br />

people can do when their hearts and minds are united by a<br />

common cause.<br />

Hannah Jablonski, a 23-year-old recent college graduate,<br />

remembers being a creative, expressive eighth-grader at<br />

Duncan Lake. As a member of the school’s student council,<br />

she worked with her classmates to plan and organize the<br />

very first Cancer Walk in 2008.<br />

“It all started because we wanted to do something to give<br />

back and support good causes and, because we knew a<br />

lot of people were affected by cancer, we decided to do<br />

the first Cancer Walk,” Jablonski said. “It was such a good<br />

experience. When you’re a student and you have the<br />

freedom to plan an event like this, and you know that you<br />

can make a difference in the world, it’s really impactful.”<br />




“This event really shows kids that they<br />

can give back to their community and that<br />

creating change is doable.”<br />

— Elizabeth Alexander<br />

“Every year, you can see the sixth-graders falling in love<br />

with the event and getting excited about how they can<br />

support cancer research and, the cool thing is, when those<br />

enthusiastic kids get to eighth-grade, they are the leaders<br />

taking charge,” Alexander said.<br />

Since the very first Cancer Walk was organized by Jablonski<br />

and her classmates, the event has become a source<br />

of fun, camaraderie and community that has unified<br />

students, teachers and their families and friends behind an<br />

important mission.<br />

“This event really shows kids that they can give back to<br />

their community and that creating change is doable,”<br />

Alexander said. “Personally, I lost two family members to<br />

cancer in the last few years, and this event is a source<br />

of hope — hope that the Institute’s researchers might<br />

one day find a treatment or cure that could help people<br />

survive.”<br />

Jablonski is proud that the Cancer Walk gives so many<br />

people hope for the future, and she continues to spread<br />

the message all these years later. While in college,<br />

Alexander surprised Jablonski by inviting her to speak<br />

at a pep rally to say a few words about the event she<br />

helped create. Jablonski was shocked that Alexander had<br />

remembered her after all these years and that the small<br />

event she and her classmates organized had raised more<br />

than six figures.<br />

“In <strong>2018</strong>, we were able to work with more than 80 volunteers and help grassroots fundraisers host 121 events.”<br />

— Ashley Owen<br />

Elizabeth Alexander, enrichment coordinator at Duncan<br />

Lake, has worked for the past decade with students like<br />

Jablonski to help them plan their Cancer Walk. Since the<br />

very first event, Alexander has been impressed with the<br />

students’ ability to take charge of their event and take pride<br />

in their work.<br />



“It’s really an inspiration to know that a few kids in middle<br />

school can organize an event, raise an impressive amount<br />

of money and make a difference in the lives of people<br />

living with cancer,” Jablonski said. “I have always believed<br />

that you get as much as you give into the world, and these<br />

kids are giving a lot.”<br />

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As the Purple Community Cabinet volunteer chair,<br />

Schaafsma also has the opportunity to share her<br />

professional work experience and mentor the team’s<br />

junior volunteers and interns.<br />

Memorials<br />

Society of Hope<br />

For Sally Schaafsma, volunteering isn’t a hobby or<br />

an occasional activity — it’s a full-time job. When<br />

Sally retired from a successful career as a teacher and<br />

businesswoman, she knew she wanted to spend her days<br />

helping others, giving back to her community and making<br />

the world a better place. Today, Schaafsma volunteers<br />

with a number of Grand Rapids-based charities and<br />

organizations, including Van Andel Institute’s (VAI) Purple<br />

Community.<br />


“I call myself a community volunteer, and I have always<br />

wanted to use my skills and abilities to help — wherever I<br />

could,” Schaafsma said.<br />

Working alongside Purple Community associates, interns<br />

and other volunteers, Schaafsma uses her organizational<br />

skills and leadership abilities to help the team prepare<br />

for the many grassroots fundraising events they organize<br />

throughout the year.<br />

“One of my favorite aspects of volunteering with Purple<br />

Community is working with people from all different age<br />

groups, and in particular with the younger people just<br />

starting their careers — I feel like I can really help them<br />

and share the knowledge that comes from my years of<br />

experience,” Schaafsma said. “It really gives me a great<br />

feeling to work with so many wonderful young people.”<br />

The Institute’s mission and work in biomedical research<br />

and science education drew Schaafsma to volunteer with<br />

Purple Community.<br />

“Like so many people, my family has been directly<br />

affected by the diseases VAI studies,” Schaafsma said.<br />

“It’s important to support scientists and organizations<br />

who are doing research that will help find new therapies<br />

and, ultimately, cures for these diseases. I love having the<br />

opportunity to share information about the Institute’s<br />

work with people at Purple Community events, and it’s<br />

even better when we get new people involved in our<br />

mission.”<br />

Schaafsma believes volunteering is one of the most<br />

meaningful things a person can do with their time, and<br />

she hopes others will join her in helping build the Purple<br />

Community volunteer program.<br />

“There are so many ways to volunteer,” Schaafsma said.<br />

“Everyone has skills they can give to an organization,<br />

whether it’s behind the scenes or working with the public.<br />

Every one of us can help our communities and the causes<br />

we believe in.”<br />

<strong>2018</strong> was a year of great loss for Van Andel<br />

Institute. We said farewell to longtime friends<br />

and supporters, Don Maine, Gordon Van Harn<br />

and John Canepa. They will remain forever in our<br />

hearts.<br />

Donald W. Maine<br />

A member of the Van Andel Education Institute Board<br />

of Trustees and Chair of the Finance and Compensation<br />

Committees for more than 11 years, Don was a devoted<br />

friend and enthusiastic champion of the Institute from our<br />

beginning.<br />

Don was a fixture on the educational scene in West<br />

Michigan. He was fascinated with entrepreneurial thinking,<br />

and his vision guided Davenport University from a small<br />

college into a fully accredited university. As the former<br />

president and chancellor, he was beloved at Davenport<br />

and throughout our community. A mentor to many, Don<br />

made people feel special in everything he did. He gave<br />

freely of his time and expertise, serving on multiple boards<br />

and receiving numerous accolades along the way.<br />

Gordon Van Harn<br />

An early leader of the Institute, Gordon Van Harn served<br />

with us for 18 years.<br />

Following a stellar academic career that included serving as<br />

Calvin College’s provost and academic dean for the natural<br />

sciences, Gordon joined the VAEI Board of Trustees in 2000<br />

and served with distinction as Director of VAEI from 2001<br />

to 2009. It was Gordon’s vision to create a Graduate<br />

School and he was instrumental, along with Dr. Steven J.<br />

Triezenberg, in securing the VAIGS charter from the<br />

state of Michigan to confer degrees. He was a passionate<br />

and creative leader who also brought great focus to the<br />

Institute’s efforts to impact K–12 science education.<br />

John Canepa<br />

A longtime friend and a dedicated supporter of the<br />

Institute, John founded the VAI Board of Governors and<br />

participated in governance for our Institute as a member of<br />

the Finance and Compensation Committees.<br />

John was a man of vision, talent and action. A gifted<br />

financial expert originally from Boston, he saw incredible<br />

possibility for Grand Rapids. He brought people and ideas<br />

together to infuse new life into our region. Through Grand<br />

Action, John was instrumental in revitalizing Grand Rapids,<br />

beginning with his support for the building of Van Andel<br />

Arena in 1996. Our community has been transformed by<br />

John’s belief in us.<br />

The Society of Hope recognizes individuals<br />

and couples who have notified us that they<br />

will include Van Andel Institute in their will<br />

or other deferred giving plan. Through our<br />

acknowledgment of and gratitude to these<br />

exceptional people, we hope that their<br />

generosity will inspire others.<br />

Vivian G. Anderson<br />

Stanley & Blanche Ash<br />

Kevin & Michelle Bassett<br />

Philip & Shirley Battershall<br />

John & Nancy Batts<br />

Fred & Julie Bogaert<br />

Bill & Marilyn Crawford<br />

Barbara Erhards<br />

J. Scott Grill<br />

Joan Hammersmith<br />

Arthur Joseph Jabury<br />

Ms. Maryanna Johnson<br />

Reneé Kuipers<br />

Mr. & Mrs. Timothy Long<br />

Jamie Mills & Jim Nichols<br />

LG & Helen Myers<br />

Jone E. Phillips<br />

Ronald Rutkowski<br />

Alan R. Ryan<br />

George Sietsema<br />

Eva Sonneville<br />

Fred L. Tape<br />

Hylda & Alvin Tuuk<br />

John E. VanFossen<br />

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We are grateful to have extraordinarily dedicated signature event sponsors.<br />

Thank you for partnering with us and supporting our mission throughout the year.<br />



Al & Robin Koop Foundation<br />

Alliance Beverage<br />

Amway<br />

Amway Grand Plaza Hotel<br />

Aon<br />

Aquinas College<br />

Artistry<br />

Autocam Medical<br />

B.D.’s BBQ<br />

Belwith Products<br />

Bengtson Center for Aesthetics<br />

& Plastic Surgery<br />

Betz Industries<br />

BHS Insurance<br />

Franco & Alessandra Bianchi<br />

David & Jill Bielema<br />

Blue Water Custom Homes<br />

Bluewater Technologies<br />

Chuck & Christine Boelkins<br />

Buist Electric<br />

Jerry & Suzanne Callahan<br />

Cancer & Hematology Centers<br />

of Western Michigan, P.C.<br />

Carnelian Energy Capital<br />

Cascade Rental<br />

Center for Physical<br />

Rehabilitation<br />

Chad Bassett<br />

Cheeky Strut<br />

The Chop House<br />

CityFlatsHotel<br />

CitySen<br />

Coldwell Banker<br />

Colliers International<br />

Comfort Research<br />

Consumers Credit Union<br />

Cork Wine & Grille/Vintage<br />

Prime & Seafood<br />

Cornerstone University<br />

Blake Crabb<br />

Crowe LLP<br />

Mimi Cummings<br />

Cumulus Media<br />

Tom & Tracy Curran<br />

The Currie Foundation<br />

Custer, Inc.<br />

CWD Real Estate Investment<br />

Czech Asset Management<br />

Davenport University<br />

David & Carol Van Andel<br />

Family Foundation<br />

Jerry & Karen DeBlaay<br />

Rachel Decker<br />

Deloitte<br />

Brian DeVries & Barbara Pugh<br />

Dick & Betsy DeVos Family<br />

Foundation<br />

Discovery Financial, LLC<br />

Divani<br />

Eastbrook Homes<br />

Edward Jones<br />

Eenhoorn, LLC<br />

Eileen DeVries Family<br />

Foundation<br />

Ellis Parking Company<br />

Emmanuel Hospice<br />

Erhardt Construction<br />

Eurest<br />

Everett’s Landscape<br />

Management Inc.<br />

Fifth Third Bank<br />

First National Bank of Michigan<br />

Foremost Insurance Group<br />

Fred L. Hansen Corporation<br />

Gallagher<br />

Grand Rapids Christian Schools<br />

Grand Rapids Griffins<br />

Grand Rapids Symphony<br />

Grand Valley State University<br />

Gravity Taphouse Grille<br />

Martin & Peggy Greydanus<br />

Dr. Jana Hall<br />

Paul & Sheryl Haverkate<br />

Harvey Automotive<br />

Kurt & Madelon Hassberger<br />

HealthBridge<br />

Ken Hoffman & Lisa Rose<br />

Hope College<br />

Howard Miller<br />

Huizenga Group<br />

Bill & Starr Humphries<br />

Ben & Molly Hunting<br />

Ice Sculptures, LTD<br />

iHeartMedia Inc.<br />

Integrated Architecture<br />

Iron<br />

Jandernoa Foundation<br />

Jeffery Roberts Design<br />

John Hancock Financial Services<br />

Dr. Peter A. & Veronica Jones<br />

K3NOW Neuroscience<br />

Optimized Wellness<br />

Kindel Grand Rapids<br />

King Street Capital Management<br />

Craig & Debra Kinney<br />

Kitchen 67<br />

Blake & Mary Krueger<br />

Lake Michigan Credit Union<br />

Lanning & Stafford Families<br />

Ray & Jeannine Lanning<br />

Leigh’s<br />

Leo’s<br />

Lighthouse Charitable Gift Fund<br />

Lighthouse Group<br />

Gary & Vicky Ludema<br />

Macatawa Bank<br />

Making the Turn Against<br />

Parkinson’s<br />

McAlvey Merchant & Associates<br />

McDonnell Investment<br />

Management<br />

McShane & Bowie, P.L.C.<br />

Media 3 Design<br />

MedNow<br />

Meijer Foundation<br />

Deborah Meijer<br />

Mercy Health<br />

Metro Health — University of<br />

Michigan Health<br />

MGD Technologies, Inc.<br />

Michigan State University<br />

College of Human Medicine<br />

MLive Media Group/The<br />

Grand Rapids Press<br />

Modern Day Events & Floral<br />

Neiman Marcus<br />

Norris, Perné & French LLP<br />

NorthStar Commercial<br />

Nothing Bundt Cakes<br />

Oppenheimer & Company Inc.<br />

— Michael J. Murdock, Director<br />

of Investments<br />

Orthopaedic Associates<br />

of Michigan<br />

Osteria Rossa<br />

Owen-Ames-Kimball Co.<br />

John & Kristine Palmer<br />

Lee & Alexandra Perez<br />

Perper Design<br />

Peter C. & Emajean Cook<br />

Foundation<br />

Pioneer Construction<br />

Pitsch Companies<br />

Plante Moran<br />

Plastic Surgery Associates &<br />

Grand Pearl Spa<br />

Preusser Jewelers<br />

Priority Health<br />

Reds at Thousand Oaks<br />

Regal Financial Group<br />

Renew Family Dental<br />

Res-Com Electric<br />

Reserve Wine & Food<br />

Tom & Brenda Rinks<br />

Robert DeNooyer Chevrolet<br />

Rocket Science<br />

Rockford Construction<br />

RoMan Manufacturing Inc.<br />

Rowerdink Inc.<br />

John & Therese Rowerdink<br />

Ruth’s Chris Steak House<br />

Rycenga Building Center<br />

SanChez Bistro<br />

The Sandi Gentry Team — Re/Max<br />

Lakeshore<br />

Scott & Jan Spoelhof Foundation<br />

Secrest Wardle<br />

Tony & Dawn Semple<br />

Dan Shapiro & Joe Mangini<br />

The Sharpe Collection<br />

six.one.six<br />

Slows Bar BQ<br />

Sobie Meats, LLC<br />

Dan & Carol Springer<br />

Rob & Susan Stafford<br />

Standard Lumber<br />

Steelcase<br />

Stephen Klotz Family Foundation<br />

The Steve & Amy Van Andel<br />

Foundation<br />

Tom & Mary Stuit<br />

Suburban Landscapes<br />

Sweetie-licious<br />

Taconic Charitable Foundation<br />

Thomas S. Fox Family<br />

Todd Wenzel Automotive<br />

Townsquare Media<br />

The Tupper Group of<br />

Merrill Lynch<br />

Uccello’s Ristorante<br />

US Bank<br />

US Signal<br />

Mike & Michelle Van Dyke<br />

Van Dellen Steel, Inc.<br />

Van Eerden Foodservice<br />

Dave & Beth Van Portfliet<br />

Brian & Lori Vander Baan<br />

Marc & Ashley Veenstra<br />

The Veldheer, Long, Mackay<br />

& Bernecker Group of Merrill<br />

Lynch<br />

Veolia North America<br />

Virginia Tile<br />

Warner Norcross + Judd LLP<br />

Wells Fargo<br />

West Michigan Woman<br />

Wheelhouse<br />

Dr. Bart & Wendy Williams<br />

Williams Kitchen & Bath<br />

Greg & Meg Willit<br />

Wolverine Worldwide<br />

Women’s LifeStyle Magazine<br />

Zip Xpress Inc.<br />

Jim & Jane Zwiers<br />

“Your belief in our work and your<br />

dedication, commitment and<br />

generosity have served as the<br />

Institute’s bedrock since it was<br />

founded in 1996. We are eternally<br />

grateful.”<br />

— David Van Andel<br />

David Van Andel<br />

Van Andel Institute Chairman & CEO<br />

David Van Andel is Chairman and CEO of Van Andel<br />

Institute in Grand Rapids, Michigan. He is also an<br />

entrepreneur involved in several other business interests<br />

in the natural and life science products industries.<br />

The son of Jay Van Andel, founder of Van Andel Institute<br />

and co-founder of Amway Corporation, David is currently<br />

a member of Amway’s Board of Directors and serves on<br />

its Executive, Governance and Audit committees. Before<br />

leading Van Andel Institute, he had held various positions<br />

at Amway since 1977, including chief operating officer<br />

of Amway’s Pyxis Innovations Business Unit, and was<br />

senior vice president — Americas and Europe, overseeing<br />

Amway business activities in North America and 22<br />

European and 11 Latin American affiliates.<br />

Jerry Callahan, Ph.D., M.B.A.<br />

Vice President, Innovation & Collaboration Officer<br />

Jana Hall, Ph.D., M.B.A.<br />

Chief Operations Officer<br />

Peter A. Jones, Ph.D., D.Sc. (hon)<br />

Chief Scientific Officer, Van Andel Research Institute<br />

Timothy Myers, M.B.A, C.P.A.<br />

Vice President & Chief Financial Officer<br />

Terra Tarango<br />

Director & Chief Education Officer, Van Andel Education Institute<br />

Steven J. Triezenberg, Ph.D.<br />

President & Dean, Van Andel Institute Graduate School<br />

Linda Zarzecki, M.B.A<br />

Vice President of Human Resources<br />

52 | VAN ANDEL INSTITUTE ANNUAL REPORT <strong>2018</strong><br />

VAN ANDEL INSTITUTE ANNUAL REPORT <strong>2018</strong> | 53



Van Andel Institute Trustees<br />

David Van Andel<br />

Chairman & Chief Executive Officer, Van Andel Institute<br />

Joan Budden<br />

President & CEO, Priority Health<br />

John Kennedy<br />

President & Chief Executive Officer, Autocam Medical<br />

Mark Meijer<br />

President, Life E.M.S. Ambulance<br />



Van Andel Research Institute Trustees<br />

David Van Andel<br />

Chairman & Chief Executive Officer, Van Andel Institute<br />

Tom R. DeMeester, M.D.<br />

Professor & Chairman Emeritus, Department<br />

of Surgery, Keck School of Medicine, University of<br />

Southern California<br />

James B. Fahner, M.D.<br />

Chief, Pediatric Hematology & Oncology; Senior<br />

Administrative Physician for Philanthropy & Community<br />

Relations, Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital<br />

Michelle Le Beau, Ph.D.<br />

Professor of Medicine, Section of Hematology/Oncology;<br />

Director, University of Chicago Comprehensive Cancer<br />

Center; Director, Cancer Cytogenetics Laboratory,<br />

University of Chicago<br />

George Vande Woude, Ph.D.<br />

Distinguished Scientific Fellow, Founding Research Director,<br />

Van Andel Research Institute<br />

Max S. Wicha, M.D.<br />

Distinguished Professor of Oncology; Professor,<br />

Department of Internal Medicine; Founding Director,<br />

University of Michigan Comprehensive Cancer Center<br />

Van Andel Education Institute Trustees<br />

David Van Andel<br />

Chairman & Chief Executive Officer, Van Andel Institute<br />

James E. Bultman, Ed.D.<br />

Former President, Hope College<br />

Susan Keipper Meell<br />

Chief Executive Officer, MMS Education<br />

Juan R. Olivarez, Ph.D.<br />

President Emeritus, Aquinas College; Past President &<br />

CEO of Kalamazoo Foundation & Grand Rapids Community<br />

College<br />

Teresa Weatherall Neal<br />

Superintendent of Schools, Grand Rapids Public Schools<br />

Van Andel Research Institute External<br />

Scientific Advisory Board<br />

Tony Hunter, Ph.D. (ESAB Chair)<br />

Professor, Molecular & Cell Biology Laboratory; American<br />

Cancer Society Professor; Renato Dulbecco Chair; Deputy<br />

Director, Salk Institute Cancer Center<br />

Marie-Francoise Chesselet, M.D., Ph.D.<br />

Distinguished Professor of Neurology & Neurobiology,<br />

Emerita, UCLA<br />

Van Andel Research Institute External Scientific Advisory Board (continued)<br />

Sharon Y.R. Dent, Ph.D.<br />

Professor & Chair, Department of Epigenetics & Molecular<br />

Carcinogenesis; Director, Science Part; Director, Center for<br />

Cancer Epigenetics, MD Anderson Cancer Center<br />

Howard J. Federoff, M.D., Ph.D.<br />

Chancellor, Health Affairs; Dean, School of Medicine,<br />

University of California Irvine School of Medicine;<br />

CEO, UC Irvine Health System<br />

Theresa Ann Guise, M.D.<br />

Jerry W. & Peg S. Throgmartin Professor of Oncology,<br />

Professor of Medicine; Professor of Pharmacology,<br />

Department of Medicine, Indiana University School<br />

of Medicine<br />

Arthur D. Riggs, Ph.D.<br />

Director, Diabetes & Metabolism Research Institute at City<br />

of Hope; Director Emeritus, Beckman Research Institute<br />

of City of Hope<br />

Max S. Wicha, M.D.<br />

Madeline & Sidney Forbes Professor of Oncology; Founding<br />

Director Emeritus; Director, Forbes Institute for Cancer<br />

Discovery, University of Michigan Comprehensive<br />

Cancer Center<br />

Van Andel Institute Graduate School<br />

Board of Directors<br />

James Fahner, M.D.<br />

Chief, Pediatric Hematology & Oncology; Senior<br />

Administrative Physician for Philanthropy & Community<br />

Relations, Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital<br />

Michael J. Imperiale, Ph.D.<br />

Vice President of Research — Policy & Compliance;<br />

Professor & Associate Chair, Department of Microbiology &<br />

Immunology, University of Michigan Medical School<br />

Peter A. Jones, Ph.D., D.Sc. (hon)<br />

Chief Scientific Officer, Van Andel Research Institute<br />

Pamela Kidd, M.D.<br />

Former Medical Director, Hematology & Flow Cytometry<br />

Laboratories of Spectrum Health & Helen DeVos Children’s<br />

Hospital<br />

Karen Klomparens, Ph.D.<br />

Former Dean of the Graduate School & Senior Advisor to<br />

the Provost, Michigan State University<br />

Juan R. Olivarez, Ph.D.<br />

President Emeritus, Aquinas College; Past President &<br />

CEO of Kalamazoo Foundation & Grand Rapids Community<br />

College<br />

Danny R. Welch, Ph.D.<br />

Founding Chair, Department of Cancer Biology, University<br />

of Kansas Cancer Center<br />

54 | VAN ANDEL INSTITUTE ANNUAL REPORT <strong>2018</strong><br />

VAN ANDEL INSTITUTE ANNUAL REPORT <strong>2018</strong> | 55

BOARD & COUNCIL MEMBERS (continued)<br />


Van Andel Institute Board of Governors<br />


JBoard Ambassadors<br />


Kurt Arvidson<br />

Tony & Kathleen Asselta<br />

Jeffrey Battershall<br />

Franco & Alessandra Bianchi<br />

David & Jill Bielema<br />

Chuck & Christine Boelkins<br />

Chuck & Sara Booth<br />

Patrick & Kristine Brady<br />

Joan Budden<br />

Jerry & Suzanne Callahan<br />

Tom & Tracy Curran<br />

Dave & Karen Custer<br />

Stephen J. Czech<br />

Thomas DeJonge<br />

Robert DeVilbiss<br />

Dick & Betsy DeVos<br />

Douglas & Maria DeVos<br />

Richard DeVos<br />

Mark Eastburg<br />

Michael & Lynette Ellis<br />

Mathew & Jennifer Fahrenkrug<br />

Thomas & Mickie Fox<br />

Dan & Lou Ann Gaydou<br />

Gary Granger<br />

Martin & Margaret Greydanus<br />

Jefra Groendyk<br />

Dr. Thomas J. Haas<br />

Dr. Jana Hall<br />

Tom Hammer<br />

Paul & Rosemary Heule<br />

Dirk & June Hoffius<br />

Earle & Kyle Irwin<br />

Mike & Sue Jandernoa<br />

Lynne Jarman-Johnson<br />

Dr. Peter A. & Veronica Jones<br />

John & Nancy Kennedy<br />

Craig & Debra Kinney<br />

Reneé Kuipers<br />

Raymond & Jeannine Lanning<br />

Kenneth Larm<br />

Wayne & Terry Lobdell<br />

Ray B. Loeschner<br />

Timothy & Kimberly Long<br />

Gary & Vicky Ludema<br />

David Madiol<br />

Michael R. McGraw<br />

Hank & Liesel Meijer<br />

Mark & Mary Beth Meijer<br />

Rusty & Jennifer Merchant<br />

Jack H. Miller<br />

Jamie Mills & Jim Nichols<br />

Mike & Rachel Mraz<br />

Dr. Juan & Mary Olivarez<br />

Garry & Pat Ringnalda<br />

Jeffery Roberts<br />

John & Therese Rowerdink<br />

H. Gideon Sanders<br />

Tim & Barbie Schowalter<br />

Peter & Joan Secchia<br />

Tony & Dawn Semple<br />

George & Missy Sharpe<br />

Kasie Smith<br />

John & Judy Spoelhof<br />

Robert & Susan Stafford<br />

Thomas & Mary Stuit<br />

Duke Suwyn<br />

Steve & Cheryl Timyan<br />

Dr. Steven & Laura Triezenberg<br />

Stephen & Anne Tuuk<br />

David & Carol Van Andel<br />

Steve & Amy Van Andel<br />

Maria Van Til<br />

Dr. George Vande Woude<br />

Brian & Lori Vander Baan<br />

Allen & Nancy VanderLaan<br />

Don VanDine<br />

David & Beth VanPortfliet<br />

Christopher & Dana Vinton<br />

Phillip & Kathleen Vogelsang<br />

Tom Welch<br />

Geoffrey & LeeAnne Widlak<br />

Scott & Rebecca Wierda<br />

James & Sue Williams<br />

Greg Willit & Meg Miller Willit<br />

Leslie & Jane Wong<br />

James & Jane Zwiers<br />

Dr. Dorothy C. Armstrong<br />

Keegan Balk<br />

Robert & Katie Barcelona<br />

Chad Bassett<br />

Lindsay Benedict<br />

Christopher Billmeier<br />

Paige Cornetet<br />

Blake Crabb<br />

Jenna DeBest<br />

Aaron & Afton DeVos<br />

Samuel DeVries<br />

Tad Dobre<br />

Alex Ehlert-VanBeveren<br />

Jennifer Fischer<br />

David Granger<br />

Mary Hilger<br />

April Hirdes<br />

Ken Hoffman & Lisa Rose<br />

Jordan Hoyer<br />

Jason & Brandi Huyser<br />

Eric Jones<br />

Alison Keutgen<br />

Kevin & Katie Kileen<br />

Eric Kovalak<br />

Michael & Andrea Leestma<br />

Michael Lomonaco<br />

Casey Lowery<br />

Geoff Ludema<br />

Peter Medema<br />

Elizabeth Mines<br />

Mike & Rachel Mraz<br />

Christopher & Alyssa Nance<br />

Dana Nicholson<br />

Kendra Osowski<br />

Matt & Beth Osterhaven<br />

Gregory Paplawsky<br />

Eric Payne<br />

Stacy Peck<br />

Leland & Alexandra Perez<br />

Justin Pinto<br />

Cody Pletcher<br />

Nicole Probst<br />

Jeff & Deidre Remtema<br />

Charlie & Tanya Rowerdink<br />

Alex Schrotenboer<br />

Lisa Schrotenboer<br />

Lindsay Slagboom<br />

Jon & Allison Sleight<br />

Meriden Smucker<br />

Joseph Spoelhof<br />

Timothy Streit<br />

Mark Stuit<br />

Elizabeth Terhorst<br />

Bob Tsironis<br />

Aaron & Hailey Van Andel<br />

Chris Van Andel<br />

Jesse & Heather Van Andel<br />

Kyle Van Andel<br />

Daniel VandenBosch<br />

Sarah Vander Baan<br />

David & Sarah Vanderveen<br />

Sydney Vinton<br />

Alison Waske Sutter<br />

Allie Wittenbach<br />

Aaron Wong<br />

Megan Zubrickas<br />

Thank you, Board of Governors.<br />

Thank you, JBoard Ambassadors.<br />

As members of the Van Andel Institute Board of Governors, you serve as ambassadors who help advance the Institute’s mission and vision in the local community.<br />

Thank you for being our partners and contributing significantly to our success.<br />

As JBoard Ambassadors, you are leaders who exhibit the power of young professionals to make a difference. We appreciate the energy and dedication you bring to the Institute.<br />

Thank you for your vision and your friendship in our efforts to improve the health and enhance the lives of current and future generations.<br />

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VAN ANDEL INSTITUTE ANNUAL REPORT <strong>2018</strong> | 57

333 Bostwick Ave. NE, Grand Rapids, MI 49503 | P 616.234.5000 | vai.org

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