2021 Annual Report

This is the 2021 Annual Report for Van Andel Institute.

This is the 2021 Annual Report for Van Andel Institute.


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Van Andel Institute began with a vision:

to improve human health.

A hub for ideas and advancements, the Institute is fueled by a

community of bright minds who share a relentless curiosity and

a deep commitment to make the world a better place through

biomedical research into diseases like cancer and Parkinson’s, as

well as K–12 and graduate education.

At Van Andel Institute, we do more than dream about improving

human health. We strive to make it a reality every day.

Table of Contents

2 A letter from David Van Andel

4 Research

6 Research highlights: Epigenetics

8 Research highlights: Neurodegenerative


10 Research highlights: Cell Biology

11 Van Andel Institute earns prestigious

grant to train the next generation of cancer

epigenetics experts

12 Research highlights: Structural Biology

13 VAI scientists recognized as highly

cited researchers

14 Research highlights: Metabolism and

Nutritional Programming

15 Translating impact from lab to clinic

16 VAI principal investigators

24 Van Andel Institute Graduate School:

An innovative approach to graduate


28 Education

30 Education highlights

34 Events and Philanthropy

36 Event photos

44 Signature special event sponsors

46 The Howard Miller Company: Community

support with global impact

48 Blake Crabb: Meet the newest JBoard

Ambassadors co-chair

50 Philanthropy highlights

52 Circle of Hope and by the numbers

53 Institute leadership team

54 Board Members

56 Board of Governors

57 JBoard Ambassadors


A letter from David Van Andel

Dear Friends and Supporters,

As Van Andel Institute concludes celebrating its first

25 years and embarks on the next quarter-century of

service to a world in need, we approach our mission

with a sense of humility and gratitude.

We trust you’ll find those feelings reflected in the

pages of this annual report — a chance for all of us at

the Institute to express how incredibly grateful we are

for the countless individuals and organizations who

support our ongoing efforts to distinguish ourselves as

a global player in biomedical research and education.

Arguably more than at any time in recent history, we

live in a state of constant flux, immersed in a world

becoming more connected and more complex by

the day. No matter how the world turns, however,

we remain committed to conducting cutting-edge

research into diseases like cancer, Parkinson’s,

Alzheimer’s, related dementias and more. We’ve also

cemented our place as a leader in scientific education,

serving students as young as 5 years old through Ph.D.


Dive into the world’s most prestigious journals, and

you’ll discover papers authored by our own scientists

— more evidence of our tireless quest to draw from the

best and brightest this planet has to offer.

Our roles as leaders and collaborators are becoming

well-known around the world. In 2021, five of our

scientists were named to the Clarivate Highly Cited

Researchers List — an honor bestowed on fewer than

1 in 1,000 scientists. We also earned record-breaking

funding support throughout 2021 and reacted swiftly

and with savvy to tailor our educational programs to

hybrid classrooms created to counter the effects of

the pandemic.

From humble beginnings, VAI has emerged as a

principal player on the world stage. But not a single

accomplishment could have been achieved without your

support. Community is the lifeblood of our existence,

and we are beyond grateful for all those who have

chosen to partner with us on our voyage of discovery.

From all of us at Van Andel Institute — and the millions

on whose behalf we work with such zeal — thank you,

and God bless you.


David Van Andel

Van Andel Institute Chairman & CEO













Department of Epigenetics

Scientists in Van Andel Institute’s Department of

Epigenetics seek to understand how epigenetic

changes may either protect us from or predispose us

to complex diseases such as cancer, Parkinson’s and

metabolic disorders. They do so by:

Building on the basics: From uncovering the

underpinnings of disease to understanding the

mechanisms that propel the spread of diseases like

cancer, VAI scientists are dedicated to revealing

the molecular machinery that underlies a variety of

complex disorders.

Translating discovery: Institute scientists are

committed to putting laboratory discoveries to work

in the real world by helping to translate them into

actionable new treatments that can better combat

disease and save lives.

Moving new therapies into the clinic: VAI works

closely with leading medical organizations in the U.S.

and abroad to take new therapies into the doctor’s

office through clinical trials, which are vital for

ensuring new treatments are safe and effective. The

Institute is home to the Van Andel Institute–Stand

Up To Cancer (VAI–SU2C) Epigenetics Dream Team,

a multi-institutional, collaborative effort that brings

together several of the world’s most respected

research and clinical organizations in an effort to

translate scientific discoveries into new standards of

patient care. The goal is simple — get new and more

effective cancer therapies to patients faster. For more

information on our clinical collaborations, please see

page 15.


Early study points to potential therapeutic

avenue for a pair of rare pediatric diseases

(Dr. Piroska Szabó) — VAI scientist Dr. Piroska

Szabó and colleagues have devised a new approach for

detecting and potentially heading off the effects of two

rare pediatric diseases before birth.

The study, performed in lab models of the diseases and

published in Cell Reports, represents an important step

toward much-needed early interventions for Beckwith-

Wiedemann syndrome and Silver-Russell syndrome.

Both diseases result in growth-related symptoms in

children and often lead to additional problems later

in life, such as increased cancer risk from Beckwith-

Wiedemann syndrome and increased metabolic disease

risk from Silver-Russell syndrome. 1

Study explores how environmental exposures

before conception may impact fetal

development (Dr. Peter A. Jones) — A report

published in Proceedings of the National Academy of

Sciences suggests older age and alcohol consumption

in the year leading up to conception may epigenetically

alter a specific gene during development of human eggs,

or oocytes.

Although the study did not determine the ultimate

physical effects of this change, it provides important

insights into the intricate relationship between

environmental exposures, genetic regulation and

human development. 2

Study reveals source of DNA mutations in

melanoma (Dr. Gerd Pfeifer) — The mutations

that give rise to melanoma result from a chemical

conversion in DNA fueled by sunlight — not just a

DNA copying error as previously believed, reports a

study by Van Andel Institute scientists published in

Science Advances.

The findings upend long-held beliefs about the

mechanisms underlying the disease, reinforce the

importance of prevention efforts and offer a path

forward for investigating the origins of other

cancer types. 3

Coriell Institute for Medical Research,

Van Andel Institute awarded estimated

$12.4 million SPORE grant from National

Cancer Institute (Dr. Peter A. Jones and

Dr. Stephen Baylin) — The Coriell Institute for

Medical Research and VAI were awarded a prestigious

Specialized Programs of Research Excellence (or

SPORE) grant from the National Cancer Institute

(award P50CA254897). The five-year grant valued

at an estimated $12.4 million supports nearly

20 scientists as they work to improve epigenetic

therapies for cancer. The project is co-led by Coriell’s

President and CEO Dr. Jean-Pierre Issa, VAI’s Chief

Scientific Officer Dr. Peter A. Jones and Johns Hopkins

University and VAI’s Dr. Stephen Baylin.



Van Andel Institute, Maine Medical Center

Research Institute scientists earn $9.6 million

Transformative Research Award from National

Institutes of Health (Dr. J. Andrew Pospisilik)

— VAI’s Dr. J. Andrew Pospisilik and Maine Medical

Center Research Institute’s Dr. Joseph Nadeau earned a

five-year, $9.6 million Transformative Research Award

from the National Institutes of Health to answer a set

of questions that could fundamentally transform our

understanding of health and disease: If you were born

multiple times under the exact same circumstances,

would you turn out to be the same person each time?

And if not, what implications could the differences

have for your health?

The answers could revolutionize our understanding

of how probabilistic variation influences health before

birth and throughout life — and provide insights into

new strategies for combating cancer, obesity and a

host of other health concerns and diseases.

This groundbreaking research is made possible by

a Transformative Research Award, part of the NIH

Common Fund’s High-Risk, High-Reward Research

Program. The award promotes cross-cutting,

interdisciplinary approaches to projects that have

potential to create new paradigms or challenge

existing ones, according to NIH. 4

American Cancer Society grant to support

Van Andel Institute research into anti-cancer

medications (Dr. Scott Rothbart) — Dr. Scott

Rothbart earned a four-year, $792,000 Research

Scholar’s Grant from the American Cancer Society to

investigate the mechanisms that power a promising

class of potent anti-cancer drugs.

The drugs, called EZH2 inhibitors, work by targeting

an enzyme called EZH2 that has long been of interest

to cancer researchers because it interacts with the

proteins that support DNA. As such, EZH2 plays a major

role in switching genes that regulate cell proliferation

“on” or “off” — a process that can lead to cancer if it

goes awry. It also helps tumors evade attack by the

immune system.

Because of their central role in all aspects of health

and disease, proteins and the molecules that interact

with them, such as EZH2, often are powerful targets

for therapeutic development. Currently, several EZH2

inhibitors are undergoing clinical trials in cancer. 5 7

Funding Acknowledgements

Research reported in this publication was funded by:


Van Andel Institute and the National Institute of General Medical Sciences of the National Institutes of Health under award no. R01GM064378 (Szabó).


Van Andel Institute and the National Institute of General Medical Sciences of the National Institutes of Health under award no. F32GM129987 (Carpenter).


Van Andel Institute and the National Cancer Institute of the National Institutes of Health under award no. R21CA228089 (Pfeifer).


The Office of the Director of the National Institutes of Health under award no. 1R01HG012444 (Pospisilik and Nadeau).


A Research Scholar Grant, RSG-21-031-01-DMC (Rothbart) from the American Cancer Society.

The content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of the National Institutes of Health or other granting organizations.

Department of Neurodegenerative Science

The Institute’s Department of Neurodegenerative

Science is home to experts in Parkinson’s disease

and other progressive neurological disorders such as

Alzheimer’s and related dementias, and depression.

Our goal is to improve quality of life for patients by:

Impeding disease progression: VAI scientists are

working to better understand the complex causes of

Parkinson’s in order to develop new treatments that

slow or stop the disease’s progression or even prevent

it altogether — something no current treatment

can do.

Developing ways to repair the brain: The

symptoms of Parkinson’s and other neurodegenerative

diseases occur when certain brain cells are damaged

or killed. At the Institute, scientists are exploring

innovative ways to repair this damage and restore

lost function.

Designing more definitive diagnostic methods:

There are currently no definitive diagnostic tests for

Parkinson’s, which complicates treatment decisions

and puts an undue burden on people with the disease.

Institute scientists are searching for biological

indicators called biomarkers, which can be assessed

objectively and used to improve diagnosis.

Investigating the underpinnings of Alzheimer’s

and other disorders: VAI’s research extends

beyond Parkinson’s into diseases like Alzheimer’s,

frontotemporal dementia, amyotrophic lateral

sclerosis, and depression and suicidality.


Blood markers can predict depression in pregnancy (Dr. Lena Brundin) — Signs of

inflammation in the blood reliably predict and identify severe depression in pregnancy, reported a study led

by Van Andel Institute’s Dr. Lena Brundin and Pine Rest Christian Mental Health Services’ Dr. Eric Achtyes.

The team’s analysis established a set of 15 biological markers found in the blood that can predict if pregnant

women will experience significant depressive symptoms with more than 80% accuracy. The findings could

give physicians a much-needed tool to identify women who may be at risk for depression and better tailor

their care throughout pregnancy. 1

Insights into a gene implicated in inherited Parkinson’s may shed light on the disease’s

broader underpinnings (Dr. Darren Moore) — Although we don’t yet know exactly what causes more

than 90% of Parkinson’s disease cases, the insights gleaned from the remaining 10% may help us better

understand — and one day better treat — all types of the disease. This small subset of cases is caused by

changes in certain genes that are passed down through families. Now, Dr. Darren Moore and his team have

found that one of these genes, VPS35, is a key player in the maintenance and survival of brain cells that

regulate movement. They also discovered that problems with this gene appear to interfere with cellular

housekeeping, allowing clumps of sticky proteins to form that damage brain cells. Their findings have

implications not only for Parkinson’s but also for diseases like amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). 2

‘Roadmaps’ of the brain reveal regions vulnerable to Alzheimer’s disease (Dr. Michael

Henderson) — Much like a supply truck crossing the countryside, the misfolded proteins that damage

neurons in Alzheimer’s disease travel the “roads” of the brain, sometimes stopping or even re-routing

to avoid roadblocks, reports a study by VAI’s Dr. Michael Henderson and collaborators at University of

Pennsylvania. Understanding how and why this happens could clear the way for the development of new

therapies to slow or stop disease progression. 3

Van Andel Institute scientists and collaborators receive more than $15 million in grants to

accelerate Parkinson’s disease research (Dr. Michael Henderson and Dr. Hong-yuan Chu)

— Two VAI scientists and their collaborators were awarded more than $15 million to advance Parkinson’s

disease research and accelerate development of new therapies.

This pair of awards, called Collaborative Research Network grants, comes from Aligning Science Across

Parkinson’s, a coordinated research initiative to accelerate the pace of discovery and inform the path to a

cure for Parkinson’s through collaboration, research-enabling resources and data sharing.



VAI’s Dr. Michael Henderson and colleagues at Yale University and University of Pennsylvania were awarded

$9 million to identify areas and cell types in the brain that may be particularly vulnerable to Parkinson’s disease. 4

VAI’s Dr. Hong-yuan Chu and colleagues at Emory University were awarded $6.3 million to investigate the brain’s

motor cortex — which helps manage movement — and its role in Parkinson’s. Changes to the cells that comprise

this critical brain region have long been implicated in the disease. They also will collaborate with scientists at

SUNY Downstate and INSCOPIX. 5

Understanding gut inflammation may hold clues to mitigating Parkinson’s onset (Dr. Patrik

Brundin) — Chronic inflammation in the gut may propel processes in the body that give rise to Parkinson’s

disease, according to a study by Dr. Patrik Brundin’s lab at VAI and colleagues at Roche. The findings add to a

growing list that links the gut and the immune system to Parkinson’s, and track with several large-scale studies

that show an association between Parkinson’s and inflammatory bowel diseases, such as ulcerative colitis and

Crohn’s disease. 6

Funding Acknowledgements

Research reported in this publication was supported by:


Van Andel Institute, Pine Rest Christian Mental Health Services and the National Institute of Mental Health of the National Institutes of Health under award no.

R01MH104622 (Brundin). The clinical trial identifier is NCT02566980.


National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke of the National Institutes of Health under award nos. R01NS105432 (Moore), R01NS117137 (Moore) and R01NS101958

(Cowell); American Parkinson Disease Association (Sargent); and Van Andel Institute.


The Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research award no. 16879 (Henderson); the National Institute on Aging of the National Institutes of Health under award nos.

T32AG000255 (Lee), P30AG010124 (Trojanowski) and U19AG062418 (Trojanowski); the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke of the National Institutes of

Health under award nos. P50-NS053488 (Trojanowski) and R01NS099348 (Bassett); the National Institute of Mental Health of the National Institutes of Health under award

no. F30MH118871-01 (Cornblath); and the National Science Foundation under award nos. PHY1554488 (Bassett) and BCS1631550 (to Bassett). Bassett also acknowledges support

from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, the ISI Foundation, the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, and the Paul G. Allen Foundation.


Funds from Yale University as part of an Aligning Science Across Parkinson’s Collaborative Research Network award.


Funds from Emory University as part of an Aligning Science Across Parkinson’s Collaborative Research Network award.


Van Andel Institute and Roche. Early work on this project was supported in part by the European Research Council.

The content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of the National Institutes of Health or other granting organizations.


Department of Cell Biology

Our health, and consequently our lives, depends on the coordinated activities of our individual cells;

diseases arise when the activities of these cells become derailed. Through combined expertise in different

cell types and communication mechanisms and using state-of-the-art approaches, scientists in VAI’s

Department of Cell Biology pursue fundamental research to understand how our cells grow, communicate,

survive, assemble into tissues and organs, respond to the environment, and change with age. This

transformative work will yield new diagnostic and treatment strategies to improve the quality of life for

people with cancer, bone diseases and rare disorders.

Studying how cells assemble and repair organs: VAI scientists are looking closely at how cells replicate

and gradually become specialized, particularly in the skeleton and the blood. The department’s labs focus on

understanding a host of cellular processes, including how cells sense the changes in the body, how cells adjust to

meet these needs, how cells talk to and work with each other, how the aging process damages cell integrity and

contributes to disease, and how to restore the proper cellular function in aging organs.

Understanding how derailed cells trigger cancers: Cancer can occur when cells get derailed during growth

or specialization. VAI scientists are investigating the genetic and molecular cues for abnormal cell activity in

the development of cancers, including leukemia, breast cancer, sarcomas and pancreatic cancer. They aim to

translate this knowledge into novel approaches for diagnosis and treatment.

Exploring how cellular processes change over time: As our cells age, changes arise that lead to dysfunction

and disease. VAI scientists are exploring how cellular processes that function seamlessly in healthy people can

fail as people age. This research may one day inform treatments to delay or prevent osteoarthritis, bone fragility

and cancer.


Van Andel Institute scientist earns

$2.4 million grant to investigate cellular

communication in development and disease

(Dr. Stephanie Grainger) — Dr. Stephanie Grainger

was awarded a $2,375,000, five-year Maximizing

Investigators’ Research Award from the National

Institute of General Medical Sciences of the National

Institutes of Health. This prestigious grant will support

Grainger’s exploration of a critical type of cellular

communication that drives healthy development and,

when disrupted, can spur cancer, osteoporosis, heart

conditions and other diseases. 1

VAI scientists sleuth out key differences

between tumors that may inform treatment

for a rare disease (Dr. Matt Steensma) —

Neurofibromatosis type 1 (NF1) is a rare disorder that

causes the growth of benign tumors on tissues, such

as skin, and on the protective sheath that covers nerve

cells. These tumors can be painful and debilitating,

especially if they put too much pressure on nerves. In

2021, the lab of Dr. Matt Steensma identified important

genetic and epigenetic differences between NF1-related

nerve and skin tumors, giving scientists a potential

path forward for developing more precise treatments

that target these tumors at their molecular roots. 2

Funding Acknowledgements

Research reported in this publication was supported by:


The National Institute of General Medical Sciences of the National Institutes of

Health under award no. R35GM142779 (Grainger).


The Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and the Neurofibromatosis

Therapeutics Acceleration Program (NTAP) (Steensma).

The content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily

represent the official views of the National Institutes of Health or other granting




Van Andel Institute earns prestigious grant to train the next generation of cancer epigenetics experts

The National Cancer Institute awarded Van Andel

Institute a five-year, $1.7 million grant to establish a

cutting-edge training program for postdoctoral fellows in

cancer epigenetics, a growing field with untold potential

to impact human health.

The Cancer Epigenetics Training Program combines

extensive professional development with comprehensive,

interdisciplinary research training by VAI’s internationally

recognized cadre of experts. Postdoctoral trainees

also have access to the Institute’s state-of-the-art

shared scientific resources and technologies as well as

opportunities to participate in established translational

research programs and partnerships led by VAI


Epigenetic abnormalities are universally found across

cancers and serve as major drivers for malignancy, making

them promising new targets for the development of novel

cancer therapies. As such, the field — and its capacity for

producing breakthroughs — is rapidly expanding.

“In the past few years, VAI has become a global

destination for groundbreaking, collaborative cancer

epigenetics research,” said VAI Chief Scientific Officer

Dr. Peter A. Jones. “Postdoctoral trainees will emerge

from our Cancer Epigenetics Training Program with

extensive, rigorous training and a solid foundation from

which to launch their independent research careers.”

Jones and VAI Associate Professor Dr. Scott Rothbart will

lead the program in collaboration with Dr. Erica Gobrogge,

program director of VAI’s Office of Postdoctoral Affairs.

The program also benefits from the guidance of its

advisory committee, which includes renowned scientists

from across the U.S.

The Cancer Epigenetics Training program is supported by a National Cancer Institute

T32 training grant (no. T32CA251066). The content is solely the responsibility of VAI and

does not necessarily represent the official views of the National Institutes of Health.

“In the past few years,

VAI has become a

global destination

for groundbreaking,

collaborative cancer

epigenetics research.”

Peter A. Jones, Ph.D., D.Sc. (hon)

VAI Chief Scientific Officer


Department of Structural Biology

Scientists in the Institute’s Department of Structural

Biology aim to understand the most basic building

blocks of biology to inform our understanding of

health and disease, and to aid in the development of

new, improved medications for an array of disorders.

Studying the foundations of life: VAI scientists

are investigating the mechanisms that allow our DNA

to replicate as well as the molecules at the core of

some of our most vital systems, such as temperature

regulation, communication between cells, and energy

production and regulation.

Turning weaknesses into strengths: VAI scientists

are investigating molecular vulnerabilities in bacteria,

such as those that cause tuberculosis and urinary tract

infections, and in diseases, such as cancer, to find ways

to leverage these weaknesses for treatment.

Aiding drug discovery: By better understanding

molecular structure and function, the work of VAI

scientists could aid in the development of more

targeted medications with fewer side effects.


A ‘tasty’ protein may lead to new ways to treat metabolic and immune diseases (Dr. Wei Lü and

Dr. Juan Du) — The same taste-sensing molecule that helps you enjoy a meal from your favorite restaurant may

one day lead to improved ways to treat diabetes and other metabolic and immune diseases. TRPM5 is a specialized

protein concentrated in the taste buds, where it helps relay messages to and from cells. It has long been of

interest to researchers due to its roles in taste perception and blood sugar regulation. VAI scientists

Dr. Wei Lü and Dr. Juan Du published the first-ever high-resolution images of TRPM5, which reveal two areas

that may serve as targets for new medications for diseases like diabetes. The structures also may aid in the

development of low-calorie alternative sweeteners that mimic sugar. 1

Fighting back against the bacteria that causes tuberculosis (Dr. Huilin Li) — Tuberculosis (TB) is

one of the top 10 causes of death worldwide, sickening 10 million people each year and claiming 1.5 million lives.

Although treatments exist, they can have side effects and must be taken consistently over several months.

VAI’s Dr. Huilin Li and his team are seeking out vulnerabilities in the bacteria that cause TB. They are studying the

microbes’ Pup-proteasome system, which the bacteria use to fend off attacks by the immune system so they can

survive inside immune cells and lie dormant for years.

Using the Institute’s powerful cryo-electron microscope (cryo-EM), Li and his team are developing detailed

blueprints of Pup-proteasome that can aid in the development of anti-TB medications. They also are investigating

several compounds that disable the bacterial Pup-proteasome system while sparing the infected person’s own

proteasome system, which plays crucial roles in health. 2,3

Funding Acknowledgements

Research reported in this publication was supported by:


Van Andel Institute; the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute of the National Institutes of Health under award nos. R56HL144929 (Lü) and R01HL153219 (Lü); a McKnight

Scholar Award (Du); a Klingenstein-Simons Scholar Award (Du); a Sloan Research Fellowship in neuroscience (Du); and a Pew Scholars in Biomedical Research Award from the

Pew Charitable Trusts (Du).

Lü also is supported by the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke of the National Institutes of Health under award no. R01NS112363 and by the National

Institute of General Medical Sciences of the National Institutes of Health under award no. R35GM138321. Du also is supported by the National Institute of Neurological

Disorders and Stroke of the National Institutes of Health under grant no. R01NS111031. Ruan is supported by an American Heart Association postdoctoral fellowship under

award no. 20POST35120556.


The National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases of the National Institutes of Health under award nos. R01AI143714 (Lin), R21144552 (Lin) and R01AI070285 (Li); the

Tri-Institutional Therapeutics Discovery Institute and Weill Cornell Medicine Matching Fund (Lin); and the Milstein Program in Translational Medicine. Kahne is supported

in part by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease under award no. T32AI007180.


The National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases of the National Institutes of Health under award nos. R01AI070285 (Li) and U19AI111143 (Glickman and Nathan); and

the National Cancer Institute under award no. P30CA008748 (Glickman).

The content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of the National Institutes of Health or other granting organizations.



VAI scientists recognized as highly

cited researchers

It’s no secret that VAI scientists are among the world’s

best. In 2021, five of our investigators were honored with

inclusion on the Clarivate Highly Cited Researchers List,

a distinction marking them as leaders in their fields.

• Peter A. Jones, Ph.D., D.Sc. (hon)

Chief Scientific Officer

• Patrik Brundin, M.D., Ph.D.

Deputy Chief Scientific Officer

• Russell Jones, Ph.D.

Chair, Department of Metabolism and

Nutritional Programming

• Peter W. Laird, Ph.D.

Professor, Department of Epigenetics

• X. Edward Zhou, Ph.D.

Senior Research Scientist, Li Lab,

Department of Structural Biology

The annual list identifies scientists from around the

world who demonstrate significant influence in their

area of study through the publication of multiple

highly cited papers during the last decade. Citations,

or references, to a scientist’s published work by other

researchers is universally considered to be a measure of

influence and impact in the scientific community. Only

about 1 in 1,000 scientists in the world make this elite

list, according to Clarivate.


Department of Metabolism and Nutritional Programming

By developing a detailed understanding of metabolism

and how it is impacted by nutrition, genetics and

epigenetics, VAI scientists aim to develop metabolismbased

therapies and interventions with the ultimate

goal of improving human health. Their areas of focus


Understanding metabolism in health and

designing preventative strategies: Metabolism is

a key part of virtually every aspect of human health.

By understanding its basic mechanics and how this

vast system is regulated, scientists hope to develop

strategies to maintain healthy function and prevent

diseases caused by metabolic breakdowns.

Determining how metabolic problems contribute

to disease and translating these findings into

new therapies: Some diseases, like diabetes, stem

almost entirely from metabolic dysfunction while

others, like cancer and Parkinson’s, are thought to be

at least partially fueled by problems with metabolism.

Determining how and why these problems occur will

give scientists the insights needed to design new, more

effective therapies for these tough-to-treat disorders.

Investigating the impacts of nutrition and

metabolism across generations: Can our diets

affect our children? Or their children? If so, can

we ensure a healthier future by mitigating what

we eat now? These are some of the questions the

Institute’s Department of Metabolism and Nutritional

Programming hopes to answer.


Study probes how diet and metabolism

influence the immune system (Dr. Russell

Jones) — A pair of scientists from VAI and the National

Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases were

granted a three-year, $1.5 million Allen Distinguished

Investigator award as recommended by The Paul G.

Allen Frontiers Group, a division of the Allen Institute,

to better understand how diet and metabolism

influence the immune system’s ability to fight off

threats such as infections.

By the end of the project, lead investigator Dr. Russell

Jones of VAI and co-investigator Dr. Yasmine Belkaid

of NIAID hope to find new therapeutic options for

boosting protective immunity while preventing

autoimmunity, which occurs when some immune cells

mistakenly attack the body.

An overactive sweet tooth may spell trouble

for our cellular powerplants (Dr. Ning Wu) —

Although we’ve long known that eating too much sugar

can contribute to Type 2 diabetes and other disorders,

the exact way this overconsumption sets the stage for

metabolic diseases on a cellular level has remained

elusive. But in 2021, a study led by VAI’s Dr. Ning Wu

showed that surplus sugar may cause our cellular

powerplants — called mitochondria — to become less

efficient, reducing their energy output. The findings

highlighted the cellular implications of excessive sugar

consumption and provide an important new model to

study the initial metabolic events that may contribute

to diabetes development. 1


Funding Acknowledgements


Research reported in this publication was supported by Van Andel Institute; the National Institute of General Medical Sciences of the National Institutes of Health under award no. R01GM120129 (Wu); and the National Institute on Aging of the National Institutes of

Health under award no. RF1AH061872 (Han). The content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of the National Institutes of Health.

Translating impact from lab to clinic

Established at Van Andel Institute in 2020, the VAI

Cancer Center and VAI Parkinson’s Disease Center

provide support and infrastructure for VAI scientists

seeking to develop and implement translational

cancer and Parkinson’s projects in Grand Rapids,

West Michigan and beyond.

Through clinical trials, like those supported by the

Institute’s Focal Centers, research breakthroughs in

the lab may become tangible treatments for those

facing diseases like cancer and Parkinson’s.

Cancer Center

The VAI Cancer Center supports projects and clinical

trials for several different types of cancer in partnership

with organizations in the U.S. and abroad.

Van Andel Institute-Stand Up To Cancer

Epigenetics Dream Team

The Institute is home to the Van Andel Institute–

Stand Up To Cancer (VAI–SU2C) Epigenetics Dream

Team, a multi-institutional, collaborative effort

that brings together several of the world’s most

respected research and clinical organizations in

an effort to translate scientific discoveries into new

standards of patient care. The goal is simple — get

new and more effective cancer therapies to

patients faster.

Research by the numbers

14 Trials launched

575+ Patients


Parkinson’s Disease Center

The VAI Parkinson’s Disease Center supports projects

and clinical trials that investigate potential therapies

to slow or stop Parkinson’s progression — a feat not

possible with existing treatments.

International Linked Clinical Trials (iLCT)

The Cure Parkinson’s–Van Andel Institute

International Linked Clinical Trials (iLCT) Initiative

identifies potential new therapies for Parkinson’s

from medications developed to treat other

diseases that also show potential for impeding

Parkinson’s progression. By doing so, iLCT aims

to significantly cut the amount of time it takes for

a potential treatment to move from the lab to

clinical trials and, ultimately, to the patient.

Research by the numbers

28 Trials launched

3,500+ Patients

Van Andel Institute for Research

Ranked in 2021 by Nature

Index as no. 24 in the Life

Sciences category out of the

top 100 nongovernmental/

nonprofits (up from 29)

39 faculty 8 cores

3 fellows of the

American Association

for the Advancement

of Science

2 fellows of the American

Association for Cancer

Research Academy

2 members of the

National Academy

of Sciences

1 member of the

American Academy of

Arts and Sciences

123 peer-reviewed

papers published

in 2021


Van Andel Institute Principal Investigators

Van Andel Institute for Research

is home to a team of scientists

dedicated to improving the health

and enhancing the lives of current

and future generations through

groundbreaking biomedical research.


Peter A. Jones, Ph.D., D.Sc. (hon)

Chief Scientific Officer; Director,

Cancer Center

Dr. Peter A. Jones is a pioneer in

epigenetics, a growing field that

explores how genes are regulated

and provides new avenues for

developing therapies for cancer and other diseases. His

discoveries have helped usher in an entirely new class

of drugs that have been approved to treat blood cancer

and are being investigated in other tumor types. Jones is

a past president of the American Association for Cancer

Research, a Fellow of the AACR Academy, a Fellow of the

American Association for the Advancement of Science,

a member of the National Academy of Sciences and a

fellow of the American Academy of Arts & Sciences.

Patrik Brundin, M.D., Ph.D.

Deputy Chief Scientific Officer;

Director, Parkinson’s Disease


Dr. Patrik Brundin investigates

molecular mechanisms in

Parkinson’s disease, with the

goal of developing new therapies aimed at slowing or

stopping disease progression or repairing damage.

He is one of the top-cited researchers in the field of

neurodegenerative disease and leads international

efforts to repurpose drugs to treat Parkinson’s.

Scott Jewell, Ph.D.

Director, Core Technologies and

Services; Director, Pathology

and Biorepository Core;

Professor, Department of Cell


Dr. Scott Jewell leads VAI’s

Core Technologies and Services, which provides

technology and specialized expertise for research

investigators. Services include bioinformatics and

biostatistics, cryo-EM, optical imaging, flow cytometry,

genomics, pathology and biorepository, metabolomics,

vivarium management, and transgenics. Jewell is a past

president of the International Society for Biological and

Environmental Repositories (ISBER).

Steven J. Triezenberg, Ph.D.

President and Dean, Van Andel

Institute Graduate School;

Professor, Department of


Dr. Steven J. Triezenberg is the

dean of Van Andel Institute

Graduate School. His lab, which closed in 2018 after

31 years of productive research, explored the genetic

and epigenetic control systems of viruses to understand

how infections progress and to reveal new ways

to stop them. His discoveries with herpes simplex

viruses opened up new possibilities for antiviral drug

development and revealed new insights into how human

cells control gene expression.


Department of


Virtually all 37.2 trillion cells in our bodies have the

same DNA, the spiraling molecule that contains the

genetic instructions required to make us who we are.

But if every cell works from the same playbook, how

and why does the human body have so many different

types of cells? Why do some become skin cells while

others become muscle cells, heart cells or brain cells?

The answer is epigenetics — a complex set of processes

that determine when and to what extent certain genetic

instructions are carried out. Epigenetic processes are

vital for healthy cellular function and, when things go

awry, they can play major roles in disease.

By investigating the epigenetic processes that fine-tune

DNA, Van Andel Institute scientists aim to pinpoint the

origins of complex diseases and determine how they

are impacted by our past and present, and how they

influence future generations.

J. Andrew Pospisilik, Ph.D.

Chair and Professor

Dr. J. Andrew Pospisilik seeks

to understand how we become

whom we become, and how our

disease susceptibility is defined

from early on in life, even before

conception, with the long-term goal of being able to

predict lifelong health outlook at birth.

Stephen B. Baylin, M.D.

Director’s Scholar; Professor

Dr. Stephen Baylin studies the

body’s genetic control systems —

called epigenetics — searching for

vulnerabilities in cancer. Baylin

is a pioneer in this field and was

among the first to trace epigenetic causes of cancer. His

studies have led to new therapies for breast, lung and

colorectal cancers, among others. He is co-leader of the

Van Andel Institute–Stand Up To Cancer Epigenetics

Dream Team, a Director’s Scholar at VAI and co-head of

Cancer Biology at Sidney Kimmel Comprehensive Cancer

Center at Johns Hopkins University.


Nick Burton, Ph.D.

Assistant Professor

Dr. Nick Burton explores how

our environment, especially

microbes, can impact our health

and the health of our offspring

— even before they are born. His

research has extensive implications for understanding

how epigenetics contributes to human disease and how

the environment we are exposed to today affects not

only our own health, but also our children’s.

Yvonne Fondufe-Mittendorf,



Dr. Yvonne Fondufe-Mittendorf

investigates how environmental

factors, such as toxicants, impact

our genetic code and contribute

to cancer. Her research is illuminating powerful new

insights that could influence our understanding of

health and disease, providing a path forward for new

strategies for cancer prevention and treatment.

In Memoriam

On April 13, 2021, the world lost Dr. George Vande Woude, Van Andel Institute’s founding research director and a world-renowned scientist

whose storied career revolutionized our understanding of cancer. His vast scientific contributions, exceptional vision and commitment to

building world-class research programs will galvanize discovery and scientific excellence for years to come.

George Vande Woude, Ph.D.

Founding Research Director;


Among Dr. Vande Woude’s most lauded breakthroughs is the 1984 discovery of the human MET oncogene, which is now a major target

for personalized cancer therapies. He was the first to determine the structure and enhancer function of long terminal repeats, specific

sequences of the DNA that govern gene expression. He also was the first to show that mutations can transform normal genes to cancerpromoting

genes, or oncogenes. These foundational discoveries — along with the findings detailed in more than 300 published,

peer-reviewed papers — will continue to shape cancer research and treatment now and into the future.

Over his career, Dr. Vande Woude accrued an impressive list of scientific accolades. He was elected to the National Academy of Sciences in

1993, and the American Association for Cancer Research Academy and the American Association for the Advancement of Science in 2013.


Van Andel Institute Principal Investigators


Peter W. Laird, Ph.D.


Dr. Peter W. Laird seeks a detailed

understanding of the molecular

foundations of cancer, with a

particular focus on identifying

crucial epigenetic alterations that

convert otherwise healthy cells into cancer cells. He

is an international leader in this effort and has helped

design some of the world’s state-of-the-art tools to

aid in epigenetics research. Laird also is a principal

investigator for the National Cancer Institute’s Genome

Data Analysis Network and played a leadership role in

The Cancer Genome Atlas, a multi-institutional effort to

molecularly map cancers.

Gerd Pfeifer, Ph.D.


Dr. Gerd Pfeifer studies how

the body switches genes on and

off, a biological process called

methylation that, when faulty, can

lead to cancer or other diseases.

His studies range from the effect

of tobacco smoke on genetic and epigenetic systems to

the discovery of a mechanism that may help protect the

brain from neurodegeneration.

Scott Rothbart, Ph.D.

Associate Professor

Dr. Scott Rothbart studies the

ways in which cells pack and

unpack DNA. This elegant process

twists and coils roughly 2 meters

of unwound DNA into a space less

than one-tenth the width of a human hair. Although this

process is impressive, it is also subject to errors that can

cause cancer and other disorders. Rothbart seeks new

targets for drug development in this process.

Hui Shen, Ph.D.

Associate Professor

Dr. Hui Shen develops new

approaches to cancer prevention,

detection and treatment by

studying the interaction between

genes and their control systems,

called epigenetics. Her research focuses on women’s

cancers, particularly ovarian cancer, and has shed new

light on the underlying mechanisms of other many

cancer types.

Xiaobing Shi, Ph.D.


Dr. Xiaobing Shi investigates the

mechanisms that regulate DNA

and gene expression to better

understand how they impact

cancer development. His research

has led to the discovery of several new “readers” of

epigenetic marks that may serve as targets for cancer


Piroska Szabó, Ph.D.

Associate Professor

Dr. Piroska Szabó studies the flow

of epigenetic information from

parents to their offspring, with a

focus on how epigenetic markers

are remodeled during egg and

sperm production, and how these markers are rewritten

after fertilization. These processes have profound

implications on fertility and embryo development.

Timothy J. Triche, Jr., Ph.D.

Assistant Professor

As a statistician and

computational biologist with an

interest in clonal evolution and

cancers of the blood, the work

of Dr. Tim Triche, Jr., focuses

on wedding data-intensive molecular phenotyping to

adaptive clinical trial designs in an effort to accelerate

the pace of drug targeting and development in rare or

refractory diseases.

Hong Wen, Ph.D.

Associate Professor

Dr. Hong Wen investigates the

molecular underpinnings of

pediatric cancers, with a focus

on how epigenetic dysregulation

impacts gene expression and

drives malignancy. Her work holds great promise

for developing new, improved therapies for these

devastating diseases.



Department of Neurodegenerative Science

Worldwide, between 7 million to 10 million people

have Parkinson’s disease, a progressive neurological

condition marked by tremor, rigidity and the gradual

loss of voluntary movement, along with a host of other

symptoms such as loss of sense of smell, cognitive issues,

constipation, trouble sleeping and pain. Additionally,

more than 30 million people have Alzheimer’s disease and

related dementias.

Currently, there is no cure and no effective way to slow or

stop disease progression in Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s.

VAI scientists aim to change that by investigating the

complex factors that give rise to neurodegenerative and

psychiatric disorders, from genetics and epigenetics to

aging, inflammation and the structure of the brain itself —

even the role of the gut and the immune system.

With the exception of a small number of people whose

Parkinson’s is directly linked to family genetic inheritance,

most cases are sporadic, meaning they have no known

cause. A growing body of evidence suggests that genetic

and epigenetic predisposition coupled with environmental

factors, such as exposure to certain inflammatory agents,

may trigger the disease, which progresses for years or

even decades before the onset of its signature movementrelated


With an aging global population, the number of people

with Parkinson’s or Alzheimer’s is expected to significantly

increase in the coming years, underscoring the importance

and urgency of developing improved treatment

strategies. By leveraging discoveries made in VAI’s labs

and collaborating with researchers around the world, our

scientists are working to translate breakthroughs into lifechanging

new treatments.

Darren Moore, Ph.D.

Chair and Professor

Dr. Darren Moore seeks new

diagnostic and treatment

approaches for Parkinson’s

by investigating the inherited

form of the disease, which

comprises 5% to 10% of cases. He aims to translate the

understanding of these genetic mutations into better

treatments and new diagnostic tools for Parkinson’s,

both inherited and non-inherited. Discoveries from

Moore’s lab routinely elucidate the faulty molecular

interactions that transform healthy, functioning neurons

into diseased ones.

José Brás, Ph.D.

Associate Professor

Dr. José Brás investigates how

variations in our genes impact

the onset and progression of

neurodegenerative diseases

such as Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s

and dementia with Lewy bodies.

Using cutting-edge technologies and bioinformatic

approaches, he has identified new genetic mutations that

impact disease risk.

Lena Brundin, M.D., Ph.D.


As a psychiatrist and a scientist,

Dr. Lena Brundin seeks ways to

diagnose and treat depression

and suicidality by studying

inflammation of the nervous

system. Her findings may lead to earlier interventions for

depressive patients and to development of a new class

of antidepressants that targets the immune system. She

also investigates how inflammatory mechanisms can

damage nerve cells in Parkinson’s disease.

Hong-yuan Chu, Ph.D.

Assistant Professor

Dr. Hong-yuan Chu investigates

how and why dopamineproducing

cells die off in

Parkinson’s, a process that

underlies many of the disease’s

hallmark symptoms. He plans to leverage this new

knowledge to develop new, more precise ways to slow or

stop disease progression.

Gerhard Coetzee, Ph.D.


Dr. Gerhard Coetzee searches

the human genome for minuscule

changes that contribute to the

onset, progression and drug

resistance of many diseases,

including cancer and Parkinson’s. His team deploys

genome sequencing technologies and high-powered

computational arrays to tease out patterns and

interactions of markers and treatment targets from

among the human genome’s more than three billion DNA

base pairs.


Van Andel Institute Principal Investigators




Rita Guerreiro, Ph.D.

Associate Professor

Dr. Rita Guerreiro parses the

genetic variations that contribute

to neurodegenerative diseases

such as Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s,

dementia with Lewy bodies and

frontotemporal dementia. Her research has led to new

insights into the genetic contributors to these diseases,

which currently have no cure and no treatments that

slow progression.

Michael Henderson, Ph.D.

Assistant Professor

Dr. Michael Henderson

investigates the causes of

neurodegenerative diseases like

Parkinson’s and dementia with

Lewy bodies, and the factors

that control disease progression. He hopes to translate

his findings into new therapies that slow or stop this


Qiang Zhu, Ph.D.

Assistant Professor

Dr. Qiang Zhu investigates

the genetic, epigenetic and

cellular factors that lead to

neurodegenerative diseases

such as ALS and frontotemporal

dementia. To date, his work has revealed the complex

mechanisms underlying the most common genetic cause

for both of these diseases — an insight that has provided

novel targets for the development of new therapies.

Department of

Cell Biology

Our health, and consequently our lives, depend on the

coordinated activities of our individual cells; diseases

arise when the activities of these individual cells become

derailed. Through combined expertise in different cell

types and communication mechanisms and using stateof-the-art

approaches, scientists in VAI’s Department of

Cell Biology pursue fundamental research to understand

how our cells grow, communicate, survive, assemble into

tissues and organs, respond to the environment, and

change with age. This transformative work will yield new

diagnostic and treatment strategies to improve the quality

of life for people with cancer, bone diseases and rare


Tao Yang, Ph.D.

Interim Chair and Associate


Dr. Tao Yang studies the signaling

systems that govern skeletal stem

cells and the role they play in

diseases such as osteoarthritis

and osteoporosis. Bones are the largest producer of

adult stem cells, which mature into cartilage, fat or bone

tissue — a process that falters with age. Yang seeks a

better understanding of these systems in search of new

treatments for degenerative bone disorders and other

skeletal aging.

Stephanie Grainger, Ph.D.

Assistant Professor

Stem cells give rise to every cell

type in the human body and play

important roles in health and

disease. Dr. Stephanie Grainger

seeks to understand how these

special cells develop, how they are maintained, and how

they can become cancerous, with the goal of developing

new strategies for combating cancer.


Brian Haab, Ph.D.

Professor; Associate Dean,

VAI Graduate School

Dr. Brian Haab searches for new

ways to diagnose and stratify

pancreatic cancers based on the

chemical fingerprints tumors

leave behind. Part of the problem Dr. Haab aims to solve

is that cancers often look and behave normally — until

after they’ve started making people sick. Dr. Haab is

sleuthing out clues to build a library of diagnostic tools

that will help providers diagnose tumors earlier and

optimize treatment.

Stefan Jovinge, M.D., Ph.D.

Professor, VAI; Director, DeVos

Cardiovascular Research

Program (a joint effort between

VAI and Spectrum Health);

Medical Director of Research,

Frederik Meijer Heart and

Vascular Institute, Spectrum Health

Dr. Stefan Jovinge develops ways to help the heart heal

itself and has led dozens of clinical trials in regenerative

medicine. As a critical care cardiologist and scientist,

he uses a bench-to-bedside approach in an effort to

give patients with serious heart conditions longer,

healthier lives.

Matt Steensma, M.D.

Associate Professor

Dr. Matt Steensma studies the

genetic and molecular factors

that cause benign tumors to

become cancers, in search

of vulnerabilities that may

be targeted for treatment. As a scientist at VAI and

practicing surgeon at Spectrum Health Helen DeVos

Children’s Hospital, he is committed to translating

scientific discoveries into treatments that improve

patients’ lives.

Bart Williams, Ph.D.


Dr. Bart Williams studies the

building blocks of bone growth

on behalf of the millions

suffering from diseases such as

osteoporosis. He seeks new ways

of altering cell signaling pathways to encourage healthy

bone development and deter cancer spread to the





Awards breakdown

Total of active

awards (all):

$139.5 million

Total of active

awards (all):


Total new

awards 2021:



Van Andel Institute Principal Investigators

Department of

Structural Biology

Imagine standing on the moon and having eyes so

powerful that you can clearly watch a tennis match on

Earth. Now imagine that same visual power packed

into a high-tech microscope, and you have cryo-EM — a

groundbreaking technology that allows scientists to study

the smallest components of life in exquisite detail.

Determining the shape of these critical molecules is

vital for understanding their function in health and

disease. Scientists in Van Andel Institute’s Department of

Structural Biology harness cryo-EM and other state-ofthe-art

techniques to visualize molecules that may serve

as treatment targets for cancer, neurological disorders,

metabolic diseases, infectious diseases and more.

They’re revealing groundbreaking new insights into the

most fundamental aspects of biology, from parsing the

ways cells sense and respond to the environment to

illuminating the intricacies of DNA replication. And they’re

laying the foundations for new therapies by revealing how

a drug molecule disables its target protein.

Huilin Li, Ph.D.

Chair and Professor; Director,

Cryo-EM Core

Dr. Huilin Li uses cryo-electron

microscopy (cryo-EM) to reveal

the most basic building blocks

of DNA replication and other

systems vital for life. He has been at the vanguard of

cryo-EM for more than 20 years, and his research has

implications for some of the world’s most critical public

health concerns, including tuberculosis, cancer, mental

illness, and many more.

Juan Du, Ph.D.

Associate Professor

Dr. Juan Du seeks to

understand the brain’s intricate

communication systems using

state-of-the-art structural

biology approaches, such as cryo-

EM. Her work has revealed new insights into critical

processes such as temperature regulation in the human

body, which has implications for development of new

medications for neurological disorders.

Wei Lü, Ph.D.

Associate Professor

Dr. Wei Lü is working to unravel

how brain cells communicate

with each other. Using techniques

such as cryo-EM, his work

has contributed to the field’s

understanding of molecules that play crucial roles in the

development and function of the nervous system.

Evan Worden, Ph.D.

Assistant Professor

Dr. Evan Worden leverages VAI’s

powerful suite of cryo-electron

microscopes to explore the

complex molecular interactions

that give rise to cancer. To date,

his research has revealed novel insights into poorly

understood regulatory elements in the genetic code

and illuminated how aberrations in these processes can

transform healthy cells into malignant ones.




of Metabolism

and Nutritional


For the human body to function properly, it must have the

right amount of energy and resources in the right place at

the right time. Every aspect of life is fueled by metabolism,

a constant cascade of chemical reactions that ensure we

have the energy to survive and thrive. But sometimes

things go wrong, depriving our cells of the energy and

resources required for healthy function.

When energy production or distribution breaks down, the

results can be catastrophic — diseases such as cancer,

Parkinson’s and diabetes are all known to have varying

degrees of metabolic involvement.

Scientists in Van Andel Institute’s Department of

Metabolism and Nutritional Programming explore the

intricate mechanics of cellular metabolism and their

implications for health and in disease. Using cuttingedge

techniques, they are investigating metabolism’s

interaction with other critical systems, such as the immune

system, and revealing how environmental exposures and

metabolic dysfunction contribute to diseases such as

diabetes, autoimmunity, cancer and neurodegeneration.

Our scientists are also parsing the ripple effect that

nutrition may have through the generations, exploring

how our diets could lay the epigenetic foundations for the

health of our descendants.

Russell Jones, Ph.D.

Chair and Professor

Dr. Russell Jones investigates

metabolism at the cellular level

to understand how it affects

cell behavior and health, with

a specific eye on cancer and

the immune system. By revealing how cancer cells use

metabolic processes to fuel their growth and spread, he

hopes to develop new treatments that help patients by

changing the standard of care for cancer.

Connie Krawczyk, Ph.D.

Associate Professor

Dr. Connie Krawczyk investigates

the links between metabolism,

epigenetics and the immune

system, with the goal of

understanding how they work

together to keep us healthy and, when things go wrong,

to promote disease.

Adelheid Lempradl, Ph.D.

Assistant Professor

Dr. Adelheid Lempradl is

investigating how the dietary

choices of parents may impact

the health of their offspring

in the hopes of translating her

findings into new ways to prevent disease and create a

healthier future.

Sara Nowinski, Ph.D.

Assistant Professor

Dr. Sara Nowinski investigates

how cells determine the amount

of energy needed for everyday

life and how they adjust to meet

those requirements. Her research

has uncovered new insights into the intricate balance

between nutrient availability and cellular respiration —

both critical components to maintaining health.

Ning Wu, Ph.D.

Assistant Professor

Dr. Ning Wu investigates the

interface between cellular

metabolism and cellular

signaling, particularly as

they relate to cancer. On the

most basic level, cancer is fundamentally a disease

of uncontrolled cell growth, and Dr. Wu believes

that understanding a tumor’s voracious energy

requirements and altered signaling pathways will lead

to new treatments that optimize existing combination

therapies and identify novel therapeutic targets.


Van Andel Institute Graduate School

Van Andel Institute Graduate School prepares students for outstanding careers

as independent scientists who are not only experts in their area of study, but

also in the business of science.

Our students receive a rigorous educational foundation and intense training

in cutting-edge techniques and approaches that prepare them to tackle some

of science’s biggest questions. By the end of their studies at the Institute,

students graduate not only with a Ph.D. in molecular and cellular biology, but

also with the tools required to build a strong career as a biomedical scientist

and research leader.

Using an innovative, problem-based learning approach, graduate students

learn to conduct high-caliber science focused on understanding the

underpinnings of human disease, as well as prevention, detection and

treatment — blending discovery with invention and insight with application.

In spring 2021, the Graduate School moved into its new home at 234 N Division

Ave., directly across from the Institute’s main building and next to

Van Andel Institute for Education. The renovated space includes classrooms

and workstations; quiet spaces for students to read, think and study; shared

space where students can interact and collaborate; kitchen and lounge areas;

and a reading room.

The new space allows the Graduate School to comfortably grow into its next

chapter while maintaining the characteristics that have long made it attractive

to students: innovative approaches to teaching, intimate cohort sizes, access

to cutting-edge technology, and guidance by faculty mentors at the top of their

research fields.





Thirteen new students joined the Graduate School as part of the fall

2021 cohort — our largest cohort to date. As of September 2021, 44 students

were enrolled in our Ph.D. program. The student body included 28 women (64%),

13 international students (30%), two students from populations underrepresented

in the biomedical workforce by National Institutes of Health standards, and four

students enrolled in dual-degree (M.D.-Ph.D.) programs. The Graduate School set a

goal of 15 new students for the incoming fall 2022 cohort.

To date, 34 students have graduated from the Graduate School —

30 Ph.D. and four M.S. Of the 30 Ph.D. graduates, about 70% have gone to

postdoctoral or research associate positions, and 20% have taken positions in


In fall 2021, the Graduate School implemented a significantly

restructured core curriculum for first-year students. The curriculum

retains the problem-based learning approach, supplemented with courses focused

on experimental design and biostatistics, data analysis and bioinformatics, scientific

communication, and experimental skills.


Taylor Boyd joined Graduate School leadership. The Institute’s commitment

to training the scientific leaders of tomorrow leapt forward in October 2021 with the

hire of Taylor Boyd as director of assessment and professional development. Boyd,

who previously served in the Office of the Provost at Grand Valley State University,

is responsible for assessing the Graduate School’s curriculum and co-curricular

activities. He also assists VAI faculty in enhancing their teaching and mentoring

skills and is monitoring the progress of student learning, while also leading efforts to

sustain the Graduate School’s accreditation.

The 2021 Origins of Cancer symposium probed the intersection

of cancer and neuroscience, an area that holds great promise for better

understanding the complex biological interactions that give rise to disease. Students

and scientists joined together for the virtual conference, held in July, to discuss how

the future of cancer research may combine two discrete areas of study by exploring

the common threads that unite them. This annual event, organized and hosted by

VAI Graduate School students, serves as a shining example of collaboration — a value

that is at the heart of VAI’s ethos.

Graduate School students and alumni contributed 24 authorships on 17 research

publications in 2020, and 12 authorships on 11 publications in 2021.

Applicant Pool

Academic Year 2019 2020 2021

Applicants 68 82 110

Admits 23 25 16

Admit Rate 34% 30% 15%

Number of Graduate

School student

applications, by year:

2021 — 110

2020 — 82

2019 — 68


An innovative approach to graduate education

Fall 2021 Cohort

6 Domestic 7 International

Ph.D. Career Outcomes by Career Type

Not related to science 5%

(current position, numbers current as of Sept. 1, 2021)

Further training or education


5.5 Median years to Ph.D.

Primarily teaching

Science related



70% Completion rate for Ph.D.

Primarily research


0 10 20 30 40 50 60

76% Completion rate for M.S. and Ph.D.

Ph.D. Career Outcomes by Job Sector

(current position, numbers current as of Sept. 1, 2021)







0 10 20 30 40 50 60 70 80















Creating classrooms where curiosity, creativity

and critical thinking thrive

Van Andel Institute for Education is dedicated to

creating classrooms where curiosity, creativity

and critical thinking thrive. Our educators develop

inquiry-based approaches for K–12 education to help

students and teachers prepare the next generation of


VAI for Education offers engaging programs for

students, as well as transformative professional

development and instructional tools for teachers.

Our team is committed to promoting a high-quality

education for all children.

Through our programs, students engage in authentic

learning experiences and inquiry-based education,

during which they solve real-world problems. Our

educators work diligently to make the classroom a

place where both students and teachers want to be.


Flex PD: VAI’s popular Flex PD is a comprehensive,

affordable professional development model that

promotes tangible shifts in instruction for teachers

and administrators. Our plans are customizable to fit

educators’ individual needs, and include immersive

workshops, learning sessions and coaching.

Science on the Grand: Science on the Grand: A

STEAM Conference for Inquiry-based Educators brings

teachers and administrators to the Institute for two

days of professional development breakout sessions.

The conference is designed to provide research-based

and classroom-tested content that supports educators.

After a two-year hiatus due to the pandemic, Science

on the Grand returns in summer 2022.


Blue Apple TM : Blue Apple project-based learning units

launched in 2019. These ready-made lessons for K–8

teachers bring project-based learning to life in the


Project-based learning is a proven educational model

that applies a problem-focused, multidisciplinary

approach to learning. One project can develop

students’ skills in science, math, English language

arts and social studies, as well as skills like social and

emotional learning.

Each Blue Apple project includes engaging lessons

designed to make learning memorable, meaningful and

fun. Educators are provided with supplies, access to a

Project Coach (to ask questions and share ideas), links

to online resources and the opportunity to connect

with other classrooms doing the same projects.

Example projects include “Prevent the Spread,” “What’s

In Your Water?” and “High Energy.”

Blue Apple Timely Topics: In addition to the main

catalog of Blue Apple projects, VAI rolled out a series

of free, 15-minute mini-lessons called Timely Topics.

These lessons are designed to help teachers bring

relevant content to the classroom.

In 2021, topics included “Celebrating Black History

Month,” “Respectful Debate” and “Spooktacular


NexGen Inquiry Quests: New for 2021, NexGen Inquiry

Quests are story-driven video lessons that capture

student interest by introducing them to real-world

problems they can solve with hands-on, scientific


Each Quest includes three inquiry-based investigations

that help students exercise critical and creative

thinking, collaboration with peers, and the application

of solutions that will make the world a better place.

In one Quest, students play the role of an electrical

engineer who is troubleshooting a power outage.

In another, students learn “crime scene” forensics

to locate a reptile that’s gone “missing” from VAI’s






Transforming instruction for 140,000+ students

in 50 states and 33 countries

Professional development services

provided to 1,673 educators

Inquiry-based learning experiences

provided to 1,566 students

8,000+ educator subscribers

receive instructional resources monthly


Creating classrooms where curiosity, creativity

and critical thinking thrive (continued)


Classroom Field Trips: As each school year begins,

Education offers more than two dozen field trip

experiences for students and teachers.

The Institute was thrilled to welcome students and

teachers back to educational labs in-person in fall

2021, with appropriate safety measures in place. Topics

include “Uncovering Our Past,” “Robots and Coding:

The Basics” and “Engineering Design Challenge:

Showering on Mars.”

Curiosity on Wheels: VAI’s Curiosity on Wheels brings

hands-on, inquiry-based STEM opportunities to all

schools. Whether the schools are in a rural area or

local, VAI’s team will come to them and bring the

science, the materials, and the opportunity to create a

memorable, educational experience.

This program, designed for a minimum of 30 students,

is ideal for science across the grades during the school

day or for a lively afterschool event for students and

their families. A variety of investigation stations are set

up and customized for participants, and include topics

such as “Power Up!”, “Amazing Animals,” “Seismic Shake

Up,” and more.

High School Journal Club: High School Journal Club

is a process for scientific discourse that provides

participants with the opportunity to hone scientific

research and communication skills while reviewing

current research.

It brings Grand Rapids students, their teachers and VAI

scientists together in a forum for scientific discourse.

Emulating the practice of VAI scientists, participants

learn to collaborate and read, analyze, present, and

discuss scientific journal articles in a format that is

easily applied in the classroom.


Summer Camps: In 2021, Education hosted 10 summer

camps, including five new ones. All were sold out, with

240 students participating. Eight of the camps were

geared toward elementary and middle school students,

with two for high school students. Summer camp

learning experiences included “Hogwarts in Grand

Rapids,” “Can You Dig It?” and “Mission to Mars.”

Afterschool Cohort: Afterschool Cohort inspires

groups of students to think and act like scientists

and engineers over the course of one semester.

Through hands-on investigations in two categories —

biodiversity, and human health and human innovation

— students ask questions, investigate hypotheses and

discover answers using scientific tools and resources.

There is no cost to participate in this program; tuition

is underwritten by VAI.


VAI offers free project to educate students on

vaccinations — As teachers continue to press forward

through the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s important that we

equip our students with the knowledge and resources

they need to stay informed. To that end, Van Andel

Institute for Education launched VacciNation — a virtual

Blue Apple project designed to teach students about the

science and history of vaccines.

VacciNation comprises five unique, inquiry-based

lessons for teachers to utilize. Through a series of

engaging activities that include captivating games,

students are given a crash course on vaccines that will

stretch their curiosity and critical thinking skills.

VAI for Education serves more than 3,200

students and educators — During the 2020–2021

school year, VAI for Education served 1,566 students

and 1,673 educators — the latter a 27% increase over the

prior year.

VAI for Education takes on the challenge of

learning loss — To combat learning loss, VAI hosted

several networking events for K–12 administrators

to help address concerns related to the pandemic.

More than 350 administrators from 20 states and two

continents registered for Better Together events, and

these events and high participation helped support

the creation of “Beyond Learning Loss: 2020–2021

Education Recovery Plan,” a comprehensive suite of VAI

services that help schools accelerate learning.

All resources mentioned here can be found at vaei.org.
















Design & Discovery

All events followed health and safety protocols related to the

COVID-19 pandemic in place at the time of occurrence.

The inaugural Design & Discovery

was held in 2021 at the legendary

Haworth headquarters and showroom

in Holland, Michigan. Merging the

inspiration of modernist furniture

design with the elegant shapes and

colors of contemporary fashion,

Design & Discovery seeks to excite the

imagination and showcase the power

of the creative spirit while raising

philanthropic support for the Institute.

Thank you to our Presenting Sponsors,

Haworth and Leigh’s.










JBoard Mixer


VAI’s JBoard Ambassadors are a group

of vibrant young professionals in West

Michigan who seek to stay current with

and support our work at the Institute.

Members are invited to health-science

forums, luncheons and mixers — like this

one, held in summer 2021 — throughout

the year, where they can hear about

the latest research and educational

innovations at VAI straight from those

who are making it happen.








VAI Golf Outing

In September 2021, golfers gathered at

the majestic Wuskowhan Players Club

in West Olive, Michigan, for the 14th

annual VAI Golf Outing. The 2021 event

featured a scramble tournament, lunch,

dinner and a brief award presentation.

For nearly 15 years, the VAI Golf Outing

has brought the golf community of

West Michigan together in support of

the Institute’s biomedical research and

educational programs.

Thank you to our Title Sponsor, the

Veldheer, Long, Mackay & Bernecker

Group of Merrill Lynch.











Couture for a Cure


Back live and in action, Couture for a Cure

brought glitz, glam and generosity

together at the Institute for a 16th year.

The event featured a New York-style

runway show by Leigh’s and highlighted

the fall 2021 collection of designer

Veronica Beard. Co-founders of the

eponymous brand — Veronica Miele Beard

and Veronica Swanson Beard — shared a

special virtual message with the evening’s

guests, who also enjoyed a seated dinner,

table service and fabulous musical stylings

from AB. Guests also learned more about

VAI’s work into ovarian cancer research.

New products and on-trend looks from

Artistry appeared on the runway, and

all guests took home swag bags of

exclusive gifts, treats and Artistry TM


Thank you to our Presenting Sponsor,

Leigh’s, and our Title Sponsor, Amway.









Hope on the Hill Gala — Mission: Made Possible

As the culminating event of our 25th

anniversary, the 21st annual Hope on the

Hill Gala marked a quarter century of

progress at the Institute with a night of

glamour, mystery and support of VAI’s

mission. Guests broke out their best

black-tie attire to celebrate those who,

for the past 25 years, have helped make

great strides at the Institute: our donors,

our community, and the scientists and

educators they support. The event

included a seated dinner of delectable

cuisine and artisan cocktails, live

entertainment from AB and world-class

electroviolinist Svet, and presentations

from Institute leaders on VAI’s history,

breakthroughs and dreams for the


Thank you to our Title Sponsor, Fifth

Third Private Bank.













A Conversation About Pancreatic Cancer

Hosted By Carol Van Andel

Despite incredible advances in cancer

detection and treatment, pancreatic

cancer continues to pose a particular

challenge to physicians and patients

because it often lacks obvious early

symptoms. By the time the disease is

found, it is typically quite advanced,

complicating treatment and leading to

poorer patient outcomes.

But thanks to new breakthroughs,

there is hope. In November, guests at A

Conversation About Pancreatic Cancer —

Hosted by Carol Van Andel learned about

the latest advances in pancreatic cancer

research, with a focus on promising

opportunities for early detection.

Speakers included pancreatic cancer

experts Dr. Brian Haab, a VAI professor

whose lab is at the forefront of new

diagnostic efforts, and Dr. J. Bradley

Morrow, director of endoscopy at Mercy

Health St. Mary’s. For the past five years,

Drs. Haab and Morrow have collaborated

on developing new diagnostics for

pancreatic cancer.

Thank you to our Presenting Sponsor,

The Howard Miller Company.







Gaming for Hope


In 2021, VAI hosted our inaugural

Gaming for Hope, a fully online,

24-hour gaming marathon that

blended a passion for online gaming

and streaming with raising funds to

support the Institute’s work. Streamers

of all ages and experience levels played

numerous games over the course of

the day, including single-player FIFA 21,

Super Smash Bros. Ultimate, League of

Legends, and Counter-Strike: Global

Offensive. Featured streamers joined

in on the action, and giveaways and

prizes were up for grabs for those who

fundraised for the Institute.

Thank you to our Presenting Sponsor,

Element Four.







Signature special event sponsors

We are grateful to have extraordinarily dedicated signature event sponsors. Thank you for partnering with us and supporting

our mission throughout the year.

Advantage Commercial Real Estate

Alpine Events

Al & Robin Koop Foundation


Andy J. Egan Company


Applied Imaging

Aquinas College

Rob & Dawn Arnoys


Autocam Medical

James & Shirley Balk

Steven & Amanda Barbour

John & Ginny Baysore

Jeff & Meg Bennett

Betz Industries

BHS Insurance

Franco & Alessandra Bianchi

Dave & Jill Bielema

Bluewater Technologies

Chuck & Christine Boelkins

Robert & Sandra Borsos

Bouma Corporation

The Brooks Family

Buist Electric

Byrne Electrical Specialists

Caledonia Dental Group

Jerry & Suzanne Callahan

Cancer & Hematology Centers of

Western Michigan, P.C.

Cascade Engineering

Cauley Ferrari of Detroit

Cheeky Strut

Consumers Credit Union

Ryan & Jessica Cook

Cornerstone University

Cottage Home

Crowe LLP

Mimi Cummings

Tom & Tracy Curran

The Currie Foundation

Custer Inc.

CWD Real Estate Investment

Czech Asset Management

Randy Damstra & Julie Duisterhof

Davenport University

David & Carol Van Andel Family



Dominique & Julie DeNooyer

Mike & Jean Dery

Dick & Betsy DeVos Family Foundation

The Douglas & Maria DeVos Foundation

Brian DeVries & Barbara Pugh

Dunn & Laug Wealth Management at

Morgan Stanley

Edge Natural Resources


Eileen DeVries Family Foundation

Mike & Barb Ellis

Pete & LeAnn Engles

Erhardt Construction

Ernst & Young


EV Construction

Fifth Third Private Bank

First National Bank of Michigan


Geerlings Development Company/

Midwest Construction Group

Grand Rapids Christian Schools

Grand Valley State University

Greenridge Realty, Inc.

Martin & Peggy Greydanus

Jana Hall

Jeff & Ann Harten

Kurt & Madelon Hassberger

Paul & Sheryl Haverkate

Matthew & Jennifer Haworth

HB Wealth Management

The Hilldore Group — Baird

Hines Corporation

Holland Hospital

Hope College

Howard Miller Company

Heidi Huizenga

J.C. & Tammy Huizenga

Huizenga Group

Ben & Molly Hunting

Bill & Starr Humphries

ICN Foundation


James Group

Jandernoa Foundation

Jeffery Roberts Design

John Hancock Financial Services

Matt & Sarah Jones

Dr. Peter & Veronica Jones

Craig & Debra Kinney

Kool Auto Group

Blake & Mary Krueger

John & Katie Kuiper

Kyle Geenen Group

Lake Michigan Credit Union

Al & Linda Lanning

Ray & Jeannine Lanning


Loomis, Sayles & Company, L.P.

Gary & Vicky Ludema

Dr. Jurgen & Becky Luders

Macatawa Bank

McAlvey Merchant & Associates

McShane & Bowie PLC


The Meijer Foundation

Mercy Health

Merrill Lynch — The Veldheer, Long,

Mackay & Bernecker Group

Michigan Homes & Cottages

Michigan State University College of

Human Medicine

Midwest Capital Advisors

Mike Schaap Builders, Inc.

Bill & Pat Mills



MMS Education

Mike & Rachel Mraz

Mike & Sally Murdock

Paul & Anne Nemschoff

New Holland Brewing Co.

Nicolai North America

Northern Jet Management

NPF Investment Advisors

Owen-Ames-Kimball Co.



Peter C. & Emajean Cook Foundation

The Peter F. Secchia Family

Pine Rest Christian Mental Health Services

P.L. Capital

Lee & Alexandra Perez

Pioneer Construction

Pitsch Companies

Plastic Surgery Associates, PC

Priority Health

Progressive AE

Quality Air Service

Red Glasses Movement

Rockford Construction

Eve Rogus & Paul Becker

Lisa M. Rose & Dr. Ken Hoffman

Rowerdink Inc.

John & Therese Rowerdink

Marc & Jeanne Schupan

Secrest Wardle

Tony & Dawn Semple




Spectrum Health

David & Linda Spencer

Craig & Wendy Spoelhof

John & Judy Spoelhof

Scott & Jan Spoelhof

Rob & Susan Stafford

Standard Lumber

Steelcase Inc.

Stephen Klotz Family Foundation

The Steve & Amy Van Andel Foundation

Kathleen Steward Ponitz

Thomas & Mary Stuit

Summit Point Roofing


Kenneth & Nancy Teutsch

Thomas S. Fox Family

Truscott Rossman

University of Michigan Health-West

US Signal

Brian & Lori Vander Baan

Mike & Michelle Van Dyke

Dan & Ann Van Eerden

Dave & Beth VanPortfliet

Christian & Kara VerMeulen

Visbeen Architects Inc.

Russ & Chris Visner

Warner Norcross + Judd LLP

Wells Fargo

West Michigan Woman

Geoff & LeeAnne Widlak

Williams Kitchen & Bath

Bart & Wendy Williams

Greg & Meg Willit

Wolverine Worldwide

Woodways International

YMCA of Greater Grand Rapids

Zip Xpress, Inc.

Jim & Jane Zwiers

Thank you to all donors and guests

who supported us through our virtual

events in 2021, including:

• Winterfest Celebration

• VAI Forum on Depression &


• Carol Van Andel Angel of

Excellence Virtual Dinner & Award


• Grand Rapids Griffins VAI Purple

Community Game

• Board of Governors Annual Dinner

• Around the World

• VAI Virtual Public Lecture Series

• Virtual Coffee Connection Events

While we wish we could have seen

more of you in person in 2021, we

are so happy you were able to join us

in some capacity to celebrate VAI’s

research and education efforts from

the last year — and the last quarter



The Howard Miller Company:

Community support with global impact

When the Miller family learned that Jay and Betty

Van Andel planned to establish a biomedical research

and science education facility in Grand Rapids, they

immediately saw the potential for it to have a global

impact on human health.

“My father, Jack H. Miller, knew and respected Jay and

Betty,” recalled Howard “Buzz” Miller, chairman and

CEO of the Zeeland-based Howard Miller Company,

which specializes in heirloom clocks, cabinets and a

variety of furnishings. “He believed in their vision

for Van Andel Institute, and our company quickly

re-directed our philanthropic donations from an

out-of-state research facility to the Institute.”

Twenty-five years later, the Howard Miller Company

and the Miller family continue to be among VAI’s most

ardent supporters. Their annual gifts help the Institute

fulfill its mission of enhancing the lives of current and

future generations through inspired science education

and innovative research programs into diseases like

cancer and Parkinson’s.


“Part of our company’s legacy is how we share our

resources with others. We’re both humbled and proud to

help Van Andel Institute continue to make its mark on

our world.” Howard “Buzz” Miller

Howard Miller Company’s values are deeply aligned

with VAI’s. Both share a passion for community, so it

was a natural fit for the company to support publicfacing

events that help community members learn

more about the work happening in VAI’s labs and


“Not every research facility opens its doors and

allows audiences to get up-close and personal with

its scientists and educators,” Miller said, noting that

this chance to learn first-hand about VAI’s work allows

people to learn and grow personally, and brings a layer

of transparency to the research process.



“I know my father is gratified to see the progress made

not only at VAI, but also along the entire Medical Mile,”

Miller said. “Grand Rapids has a great deal to be proud

of, and the Institute’s research has far-reaching, global

impact. For those of us who are always seeking ways

to make a change, that’s the best of both worlds — to

make a difference in West Michigan, and at the same

time, to create dynamic changes across the world in

the battle against disease.”

Pillars of the community, the Howard Miller Company

and the Miller family have a long history of giving back.

We are grateful they have been at our side over the last

quarter-century, helping us transform lives through

discovery and provide hope for a healthier future.


Blake Crabb: Meet the newest JBoard Ambassadors co-chair

Van Andel Institute’s JBoard Ambassadors are a group of vibrant young professionals

in West Michigan who seek to stay current with and support our work at the Institute.

Members are invited to health-science forums, luncheons and mixers throughout the

year, where they hear about the latest research and educational innovations at VAI,

straight from those who are making it happen.

In 2021, VAI’s JBoard welcomed Blake Crabb as co-chair. Crabb is manager of field sales

training — oncology at Amgen, and serves alongside long-time co-chair Rachel Mraz in

providing leadership to the JBoard.

Let’s get to know our newest JBoard co-chair:

How did you first become involved with Van Andel Institute?

In 2012, my mom was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. A friend invited me to an event

where I learned about the research being conducted at VAI. It was at this event that I met

my friend — and now my fellow JBoard Co-Chair — Rachel Mraz.

What influenced your decision to become a member of the VAI JBoard?

I appreciated the tangible ability to make a difference and knowing my involvement

would help raise awareness and funds for research that I believe in my heart will lead us

to life-changing treatments.

What do you hope to accomplish as a JBoard co-chair?

I have many goals I would like to accomplish as co-chair. Most importantly, though, is

expansion. Expanding our membership will allow us to increase awareness of the work

being done at VAI, ultimately leading to more funding for groundbreaking research being

done in the labs.

The Grand Rapids Metro area is growing, and we have a great opportunity to attract

more members along with their positive energy and ideas. In addition to bringing in

more young professionals from Grand Rapids, we hope to make more connections on the

lakeshore, in places like Grand Haven, Muskegon and Holland.




What does VAI’s work mean to you?

The work being done at VAI gives me hope. Losing a parent to cancer — especially one

as aggressive as pancreatic cancer — is something I don’t want anyone to experience.

Knowing that every day there are scientists focused on finding ways to treat pancreatic

cancer earlier and more effectively means that, one day, fewer people will have to say

goodbye to a loved one.

What would you say to someone on the fence about joining VAI’s JBoard?

What are you waiting for?! Get involved! Unfortunately, most of us know someone that has

faced cancer, Parkinson’s or another devastating disease. Getting involved with the JBoard

means you get the opportunity to help raise awareness and funds for the research being

done at VAI, and we have a lot of fun doing it with events throughout the year!

What is your favorite event hosted by or in support of VAI?

All of the VAI events are awesome and unique. There’s such a talented team behind the

scenes that makes every event a memorable occasion. Hope on the Hill is my favorite, and

I look forward to it every year! Over the years we’ve had so many creative and fun themes,

and I love seeing what’s next.

Is there anything else you’d like to share about your experience on the JBoard or with

the Institute?

VAI has taken hope from concept to reality. The feeling of hope we all have is shared by the

dedicated scientists that have come from all over the world to study and work right here in

Grand Rapids. Every time I walk into VAI, hope is palpable and thriving!

For more information about VAI’s JBoard Ambassadors, including how to get involved,

visit bit.ly/VAIJBoard.





VAI Marathon Team ready to get back to it

After two years of waiting and a smaller-than-usual

number of runners in the 2021 races — both due to

the COVID-19 pandemic — the VAI Marathon Team is

coming back strong in 2022, with a limited number

of complimentary entries to four races for runners

fundraising on behalf of the Institute:

• BMW Berlin Marathon: Sept. 25

• TCS London Marathon: Oct. 2

• Bank of America Chicago Marathon: Oct. 9

• TCS New York City Marathon: Nov. 6

Each year, dedicated runners train for these grueling

races while raising funds for the Institute. They

have each been touched by the diseases studied by

VAI scientists (including cancer, Parkinson’s, and

Alzheimer’s and related dementias), whether through

a loved one’s diagnosis or even their own. They also

understand the immeasurable value of the Institute’s

K–12 and graduate education programs in training the

next generation of scientific leaders, and they want to

do their part to make sure VAI’s efforts can continue to

improve health and enhance lives for years to come.

Bee Brave beats pandemic odds to support VAI

Organizers of the annual Bee Brave 5K overcame

obstacles created by the pandemic to host a fun, safe

event Oct. 9, 2021. The race, held every fall at Shagbark

Farm in Caledonia, Michigan, directly benefits

Van Andel Institute’s breast cancer research. The race

raised more than $56,000 in 2020, and more than

$81,000 in 2021.







VAI Purple Community school partners show unwavering support for

the Institute

Like Van Andel Institute, our incredible community and school partners deeply value

collaboration and hard work. They work directly with the grassroots fundraising

program VAI Purple Community to use their valuable time, effort and connections to

support VAI’s research and education programs.

In 2021, VAI Purple Community programs raised more than $380,000, which — as is

true for all funds raised through VAI events — goes directly to the work happening at

the Institute.

A few highlights from last year’s VAI Purple Community events include:

• West Ottawa Public Schools, which hosts fundraisers all year long in support

of VAI. The girls’ soccer team was able to hold their Purple Game at the end of the

2020–21 school year. The players wore specially made jerseys featuring the names

of people dear to them who have been affected by cancer, Parkinson’s or another


• Otsego Public Schools, which hold a huge football game in support of VAI

every other year, thanks in large part to Holly McCaw, Otsego’s director of

communications and a 2020 recipient of the Carol Van Andel Angel of Excellence

Award. In 2021, they postponed their VAI Purple Community event to the spring,

which transformed into the first-ever VAI Purple Community Otsego 5K.

• Duncan Lake Middle School, which has partnered with VAI for many years for its

annual cancer walk. In 2021, the walk was held outside in the spring. Attendees

could donate to dunk a teacher in a dunk tank, participate in a silent auction

online, or purchase a variety of popsicles, ice cream and other cool treats, with all

funds going directly to cancer research at the Institute.

With year-end fundraiser, VAI Student Ambassadors illustrate it’s

what you do that defines you

Van Andel Institute’s Student Ambassador Program emphasizes and accentuates the

power and passion exuded by the younger generations. Twenty-eight students came

together virtually for the 2021–22 school year to form the program’s third cohort.

Each group of Student Ambassadors meets once a month throughout the school year

to connect with Institute scientists, educators and staff and learn how their efforts

make a concrete difference to VAI’s work. They also meet with Institute staff to

explore topics such as crafting a communications plan and garnering support from

business sponsors.

VAI Student Ambassadors combine everything they learn in the program

to launch a fundraiser on behalf of the Institute, with 100% of proceeds going

directly to VAI research and education programs. They also receive exclusive

mentorship from the Institute’s heart and soul: Carol Van Andel, executive director

of The David and Carol Van Andel Family Foundation and wife of VAI Chairman and

CEO David Van Andel.

The 2021–22 VAI Student Ambassadors hosted their culminating fundraiser — a

movie night at Celebration Cinema featuring the highly anticipated film “The

Batman” — on March 5, and succeeded in selling out the 300-person theater and

raising more than $3,200.

To learn more about Philanthropy at VAI and how you can get involved,

visit vai.org/help-donate.



Circle of Hope

The Jay and Betty Van Andel Circle of Hope

recognizes those who have included

Van Andel Institute in their will, trust or other

estate plans. Through our acknowledgment of

and gratitude to these exceptional people, we

hope that their generosity will inspire others.

By the numbers


VAI VAI Operating Revenues








Investment return


Grant & contract



Other revenues

Anonymous (2)

Gasper Amodeo*

Vivian Anderson*

Blanche Ash*

Kevin & Michelle Bassett

Philip* & Shirley


John* & Nancy Batts

Fred & Julie* Bogaert

John* & Sharon* Bouma

William & Marilyn



Dr. Glenn & Patrice Deibert

Barbara Erhards

J. Scott Grill*

Joan Hammersmith*

Terry & Jackie Hickman

Arthur Jabury*

Maryanna Johnson

Dennis* & Joanne* Kozarek

Renee Kuipers*

Timothy & Kimberly Long

Don* & Kathleen Maine

Jamie Mills & Jim Nichols

Operating VAI Operating Expenses Expenses



$66,100K Research




general & other


LG* & Helen* Myers

Robert* & Lorraine*


Jone Phillips*

Donna Rosa

Ronald & Mary Rutkowski

Alan Ryan*

Ralph Siegel*

George Sietsema*

Eva Sonneville*

Alvin* & Hylda* Tuuk

John Van Fossen

John Visser*

Greta Wellington*

Carol Winton*

John Wisneski*

*Indicates deceased

Circle of Hope member

Designated Gifts | $4,418K Total



















Internship Program



Internship program





Other (includes scientific event

sponsorships & Metabolism



Institute Leadership Team


David Van Andel

Chairman & Chief Executive Officer, Van Andel Institute

David Van Andel is Chairman and CEO of Van Andel Institute in Grand

Rapids, Michigan. He is also an entrepreneur involved in several other

business interests in the natural and life science products industries.

The son of Jay Van Andel, founder of Van Andel Institute and co-founder

of Amway Corporation, David is currently a member of Amway’s Board of

Directors and serves on its Executive, Governance and Audit committees.

Before leading Van Andel Institute, he had held various positions at Amway

since 1977, including chief operating officer of Amway’s Pyxis Innovations

Business Unit, and was senior vice president — Americas and Europe,

overseeing Amway business activities in North America and 22 European

and 11 Latin American affiliates.

Peter A. Jones, Ph.D., D.Sc. (hon)

Chief Scientific Officer

Patrik Brundin, M.D., Ph.D.

Deputy Chief Scientific Officer

Jerry Callahan, Ph.D., MBA

Chief Strategic Officer

Thomas R. Curran, Jr., J.D.

General Counsel

Jana Hall, Ph.D., MBA

Chief Operations Officer

Timothy Myers, MBA, CPA

Vice President & Chief Financial Officer

Sam Pinto

Vice President & Chief Facilities Officer

Terra Tarango

Director & Chief Education Officer,

Van Andel Institute for Education

Steven J. Triezenberg, Ph.D.

President & Dean, Van Andel Institute

Graduate School

Kathleen Vogelsang, CFA, MBA

Chief Investment Officer

Linda Zarzecki

Vice President of Human Resources


Van Andel Institute Board Members

Van Andel Institute


David Van Andel

Chairman & Chief Executive Officer,

Van Andel Institute

Joan Budden

Former President & Chief Executive Officer,

Priority Health

John Kennedy

President & Chief Executive Officer, Autocam Medical

Mark Meijer

Founder & President, Life E.M.S. Ambulance

Van Andel Research

Institute Trustees

David Van Andel

Chairman & Chief Executive Officer,

Van Andel Institute

Tom R. DeMeester, M.D.

Professor & Chairman Emeritus, Department of

Surgery, Keck School of Medicine, University of

Southern California

James B. Fahner, M.D.

Division Chief of Pediatric Hematology/Oncology

& Senior Administrative Physician for Philanthropy

& Community Relations at Helen DeVos Children’s


Michelle Le Beau, Ph.D.

Professor of Medicine, Section of Hematology/

Oncology; Director, University of Chicago

Comprehensive Cancer Center; Director, Cancer

Cytogenetics Laboratory, University of Chicago

Max S. Wicha, M.D.

Madeline & Sidney Forbes Professor of Oncology;

Director, Forbes Institute for Cancer Discovery;

Founding Director Emeritus, University of Michigan

Rogel Cancer Center

Van Andel Education

Institute Trustees

David Van Andel

Chairman & Chief Executive Officer,

Van Andel Institute

James E. Bultman, Ed.D.

President Emeritus, Hope College

Susan Keipper Meell

Chief Executive Officer, MMS Education

Juan R. Olivarez, Ph.D.

Distinguished Scholar in Residence for Diversity,

Equity & Inclusion, Dorothy A. Johnson Center for

Philanthropy, Grand Valley State University; President

Emeritus, Aquinas College

Teresa Weatherall Neal, Ed.D. (hon)

Former Superintendent, Grand Rapids Public Schools





Van Andel Institute Graduate

School Board of Directors

James B. Fahner, M.D.

Division Chief of Pediatric Hematology/Oncology

& Senior Administrative Physician for Philanthropy

& Community Relations at Helen DeVos Children’s


Peter A. Jones, Ph.D., D.Sc. (hon)

Chief Scientific Officer, Van Andel Institute

Karen Klomparens, Ph.D.

Vice Chair of the Board; Former Dean of the Graduate

School & Associate Provost for Graduate Education,

Michigan State University

Juan R. Olivarez, Ph.D.

Chairman of the Board; Distinguished Scholar in

Residence for Diversity, Equity & Inclusion, Dorothy A.

Johnson Center for Philanthropy, Grand Valley State

University; President Emeritus, Aquinas College

Mary O’Riordan, Ph.D.

Associate Dean of Graduate & Postdoctoral Studies

and Frederick C. Neidhardt Collegiate Professor of

Microbiology and Immunology, University of Michigan

Medical School

Candace T. Smith-King, M.D.

Vice President, Spectrum Health Academic Affairs,

Spectrum Health System; Pediatric Specialist, Helen

DeVos Children’s Hospital

Danny R. Welch, Ph.D.

Founding Chair, Department of Cancer Biology,

University of Kansas Cancer Center

Van Andel Research Institute

External Scientific Advisory Board

Sharon Y.R. Dent, Ph.D. (ESAB Chair)

Professor & Chair, Department of Epigenetics &

Molecular Carcinogenesis; Director, Science Park;

Director, Center for Cancer Epigenetics, MD Anderson

Cancer Center

Xiaodong Cheng, Ph.D.

Professor, Department of Epigenetics & Molecular

Carcinogenesis, Division of Basic Sciences, The

University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center

Joseph Ecker, Ph.D.

Professor, Plant Molecular & Cellular Biology

Laboratory; Director, Genomic Analysis Laboratory,

Salk Institute; Howard Hughes Medical Institute

Investigator; Salk International Council Chair

in Genetics

Theresa Guise, M.D.

Professor, Department of Endocrine Neoplasia &

Hormonal Disorders; Chief, Section of Bone & Mineral

Disorders at The University of Texas MD Anderson

Cancer Center; Cancer Prevention Research Institute

of Texas (CPRIT) Scholar; Co-Director, The Rolanette

& Berdon Lawrence Bone Disease Program of Texas;

Co-Leader, Tumor Microenvironment & Metastasis

program of the IU Simon Cancer Center, NCI

Comprehensive Cancer Center

Tony Hunter, Ph.D.

Professor, Molecular & Cell Biology Laboratory;

American Cancer Society Professor; Renato Dulbecco

Chair; Deputy Director, Salk Institute Cancer Center

Anthony E. Lang, M.D.

Senior Scientist, Krembil Research Institute

Director & Professor, Division of Neurology, University

of Toronto; Lily Safra Chair in Movement Disorders,

University Health Network; Director, Edmond J. Safra

Program in Parkinson’s Disease, University Health

Network & University of Toronto; Senior Scientist,

Division of Patient Based Clinical Research, Toronto

Western Research Institute (TWRI); Jack Clark Chair for

Parkinson’s Disease Research, University of Toronto

Mitchell Lazar, M.D., Ph.D.

Willard & Rhoda Ware Professor of Diabetes &

Metabolic Diseases; Director, Institute for Diabetes,

Obesity, & Metabolism; University of Pennsylvania

Perelman School of Medicine

Thomas J. Montine, M.D., Ph.D.

Chair & Stanford Medicine Endowed Professor of

Pathology, Stanford University

Max S. Wicha, M.D.

Madeline & Sidney Forbes Professor of Oncology;

Director, Forbes Institute for Cancer Discovery;

Founding Director Emeritus, University of Michigan

Rogel Cancer Center


Van Andel Institute Board of Governors


Tim Long

Vicky Ludema


Dennis & Barbara Adama

Rosemary Anderson

Walter & Sally Andreatta

Roy Aneed

Rob & Dawn Arnoys

Kurt Arvidson

Heidi Auman

Jeffrey & Cheryl Baker

James & Shirley Balk

Jean Bassett

Jeff & Stephanie Battershall

Stacie Behler

Brian & Tami Jo Beltman

Matthew & Shari Berger

Gregory & Rajene Betz

Franco & Alessandra Bianchi

Dave & Jill Bielema

Dan & Anne Bitzer

Ted & Betsy Boelema

Chuck & Chris Boelkins

Dave & Carrie Boer

Fred Bogaert

Brian Bosgraaf

Jeremy Bouwhuis

Brent & Rachael Brinks

Lenny & Laura Brucato

Douglas & Joan Budden

Jim & Martie Bultman

William & Jackie Bylenga

Carol Bylsma

Jerry & Suzanne Callahan

Scott & Heidi Campbell

Josh & Linda Jo Carron

Randy & Amy Chambers

Peter & Soonmee Cha-Stamos

Tom & Nancy Claus

Steven & Diane Colvin

Charles & Laura Cox

Bill & Marilyn Crawford

Mimi Cummings

Tom & Tracy Curran

Bill Currie

Dave & Karen Custer

Randy & Julie Damstra

Thomas & Jacquie DeJonge

Doug & Sandy Dekock

Mike & Jean Dery

Robert & Allison DeVilbiss

Dick & Betsy DeVos

Douglas & Maria DeVos

Brian & Barbara DeVries

Arlin & Emma Disselkoen

John & Michele Dykema

Mark Eastburg

Mike & Lynette Ellis

Mike & Barb Ellis

Henry & Anne Emrich

Diego Filippi

Tom & Mickie Fox

Michelle Frasier

Tina Freese-Decker

José Pedro Freitas

Todd & Brenda Gardner

Dan & Lou Ann Gaydou

Scott & Jaclyn Geerlings

Mary Glidden

Daniel Goodman

Martin & Peggy Greydanus

Jefra Groendyk

Ron Haan

Peter Hahn

Jana Hall

Tom & Lynn Hammer

Jeff & Ann Harten

Kurt & Madelon Hassberger

Paul & Sheryl Haverkate

Tom Helmstetter

Paulus & Rosemary Heule

Dave & Donna Hockstra

Steve Hodges

Matt & Lynn Hoeksema

Philip & Sharon Hoekstra

J.C. & Tammy Huizenga

Bill & Starr Humphries

Ben & Molly Hunting

John & Laura Hurley

Carl & Kelly Jandernoa

Mike & Sue Jandernoa

Sidney & Cate Jansma

Robert & Lynne Jarman-Johnson

Kurt & Lynn Jekkals

Robert Johnson

Byran Jones

Dr. Peter & Veronica Jones

David & Nancy Kammeraad

Brenda Kastner

John & Nancy Kennedy

Craig & Deb Kinney

Linda Klein

Brian & Terri Kloostra

Steve Klotz

Jerry & Maribeth Kooiman

Al & Robin Koop

Blake & Mary Krueger

Greg & Maureen Kuhl

John & Katie Kuiper

Raymond & Jeannine Lanning

Ken & Bertil Larm

Timothy & Kimberly Long

Steve & Mary Longstreet

Gary & Vicky Ludema

Michael & Suzanne Lunn

David & Cynthia Madiol

Philomena Mantella

Mary Beth Martin

Tom & Jackie McGovern

Michael & Jen McGraw

Mike & Dina McKnight-Dargis

Deb Meijer

Lena Meijer

Mark & Mary Beth Meijer

Rusty & Jenn Merchant

Buzz & Lisa Miller

Jack Miller

Scott Miller

David & Kim Moorhead

Mike & Rachel Mraz

Paul & Anne Nemschoff

Laurie-Ann Netto

Tom & Greta Newhof

Jack Nichols

John Norton

Mike & Liz Novakoski

Juan & Mary Olivarez

Steve & Beth Olson

Rick Pappas

Ken & Jill Peirce

Richard Postma

Jay Preston

John Purcell

Todd Rempe

Garry & Pat Ringnalda

Tom & Brenda Rinks

Jeffery Roberts

Eve Rogus & Paul Becker

Thank you, Board of Governors.

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.

Thank you for being our partners and contributing significantly to our success.



Elaine Rongey

Doug Rottman

John & Therese Rowerdink

Gideon Sanders

Mark Satkoski

Michael & Cynthia Schaap

Timothy & Barbara Schowalter

Matt & Sarah Scogin

Tony & Dawn Semple

George & Missy Sharpe

George & Linda Sharpe

Mike & Meredith Slobodnik

John & Judy Spoelhof

Scott & Jan Spoelhof

Robert & Susan Stafford

Frank & Dana Stanek

James & Dolly Strikwerda

Tom & Mary Stuit

Theresa Sullivan

Duke Suwyn

Praveen Thadani

Dr. Steven & Laura Triezenberg

David & Sandy Turner

David & Carol Van Andel

Steve & Amy Van Andel

Sharon Van Dellen

Dan Van Dyck

Michael & Michelle Van Dyke

Daniel & Ann Marie Van Eerden

Donna Van Haren

Maria Van Til

John Van Wylen

Brian & Lori Vander Baan

Allen & Nancy VanderLaan

Patti Vandort

Michael & Gayle VanGessel

David & Beth VanPortfliet

Peter & Denise Versluis

Christopher & Dana Vinton

Wayne & Angela Visbeen

Phil & Kathy Vogelsang

Tom & Laurie Welch

Joe Westra

Ben & Jennifer Wickstrom

Scott & Rebecca Wierda

Greg & Meg Willit

Kris Wohlart

Les & Jane Wong

Jim & Mary Workman

John & Kathy Workman

Jim & Jane Zwiers



AND DEC. 31, 2020.

Van Andel Institute JBoard Ambassadors

Co-Chairs: Blake Crabb & Rachel Mraz

Peter & Paige Afendoulis

Keegan Balk

Robert & Kathryn Barcelona

Chad Bassett

Christopher Billmeier

Hannah Blackwell

Blake Crabb

Jenna DeBest

Aaron & Afton DeVos

Samuel DeVries & Lily Powers

Benjamin Eastburg

Alex Ehlert-VanBeveren & Brian


Jennifer Fischer

Dana Friis-Hansen & Mark


Meghan Gartman

Zachary Gebben

Nate Harris

Mary Hilger

Ken Hoffman & Lisa Rose

Jordan Hoyer

Jason & Brandi Huyser

Matt & Sarah Jones

John Kailunas

Margaret Kennedy

Kevin & Kathryn Kileen

Kaleb Kimble

Michael & Andrea Leestma

Kimberly Livingston

Casey Lowery

Mike & Rachel Mraz

Thomas Murray

Christopher & Alyssa Nance

Kendra Osowski

Gregory Paplawsky

Eric Payne

Leland & Alexandra Perez

Justin Pinto

Cody Pletcher

Nicole Probst

Thomas & Kenda Ralston

Sara Ross

Richard Schrotenboer

Kelsey Schweibert

Allison Sleight


Jonathan Sleight

Riley Smith

Joseph Spoelhof

Timothy Streit

Mark Stuit

Aaron & Hailey Van Andel

Chris Van Andel

Jesse & Heather Van Andel

Kyle Van Andel

Daniel VandenBosch

Sarah Vander Baan

Tripp & Katie VanderWal

Samuel & Sydney Vucelich

Justin Welker

Cameron Young

Thank you, JBoard Ambassadors.

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. Thank you for your vision and your friendship in our efforts to improve the health and enhance the lives of current and future generations.


333 Bostwick Ave. NE, Grand Rapids, MI 49503 | 616.234.5000 | vai.org

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