2023 VAI Annual Report

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<strong>2023</strong><br />

ANNUAL<br />


Van Andel Institute began with<br />

a vision: to improve human health.<br />

The Institute is fueled by a community of bright minds who share a<br />

relentless curiosity and deep commitment to make the world a better<br />

place through groundbreaking biomedical research and inspired K-12<br />

and graduate education.<br />

At Van Andel Institute, we do more than dream about improving<br />

human health. We strive to make it a reality.<br />

Laurie-Ann Netto<br />

Jack Nichols<br />

Shawn Norden<br />

Dr. Juan & Mary Olivarez<br />

Thomas Ozinga & Phong Hoang<br />

Mitchell Padnos<br />

Milind Pant<br />

Richard Pappas<br />

Lee & Alexandra Perez<br />

Lewis Pitsch<br />

Shawn & Sarah Platt<br />

James Preston<br />

Elsa Prince Broekhuizen<br />

Dr. Suresh & Dr. Sarla Puri<br />

Todd Rempe<br />

Dr. John Renucci<br />

Pat Ringnalda<br />

Brenda Rinks<br />

Jeffery Roberts<br />

Hilary Roelofs<br />

Dr. Jack & Lija Romence<br />

Robert Roth<br />

Doug Rottman<br />

John & Therese Rowerdink<br />

Joseph Sanda<br />

Gideon Sanders<br />

Mark Satkoski<br />

Mike & Cynthia Schaap<br />

Timothy Schowalter<br />

Mary Schregardus<br />

Marc & Jeanne Schupan<br />

Matthew Scogin<br />

Charlie Secchia<br />

Tony & Dawn Semple<br />

George & Linda Sharpe<br />

George & Missy Sharpe<br />

Tom & Barb Shaw<br />

Dr. Chris & Kara VerMeulen John & Vicky Weller Greg Willit & Meg Miller Willit<br />

Jeremy Shoemaker<br />

Peter Versluis<br />

Benjamin Wickstrom Bob & Karen Wiltz<br />

John & Judy Spoelhof<br />

Chris Vinton<br />

Chris Wierda<br />

Jim & Mary Workman<br />

Scott & Jan Spoelhof<br />

Angela Visbeen<br />

Scott & Rebecca Wierda John & Kathy Workman<br />

Robert & Susan Stafford<br />

Phil & Kathy Vogelsang<br />

Julie Wiersema<br />

Jim & Jane Zwiers<br />

Peter Stamos & Soonmee Cha- James & Cassandra Ward<br />

Greg Williams<br />

Jason Zylstra<br />

Stamos<br />

Tom Welch<br />

Jim & Sue Williams<br />

Frank Stanek Table of Contents<br />

Anne Stephens<br />

This list reflects gifts received between Jan. 1 and Dec 31, 2022.<br />

Leanne Stoll<br />

Tom & Mary Stuit 2 A letter from David Van Andel<br />

40 Events and Philanthropy<br />

Duwane Suwyn<br />

Van Andel Institute JBoard Ambassadors<br />

Dr. Kathryn Swanson 4 Research<br />

42 Event galleries<br />

Praveen Thadani<br />

Bradley Thomas 6<br />

Co-Chairs<br />

Research Blake highlights: Crabb Epigenetics<br />

Matt & Sarah Jones<br />

Trey Kailunas54 Patrick & Jenna Riley<br />

Signature event Nicole sponsors Rodammer<br />

P.J. Thompson<br />

Rachel Mraz<br />

Andrew Kapanowski<br />

Sara Ross<br />

Dr. Steve & Laura Triezenberg 8 Research highlights:<br />

Margaret Kennedy 56 Donor spotlight: Alex Bea Schrotenboer<br />

Aldrink Idema<br />

John Truscott<br />

Neurodegenerative Members Science<br />

Kaleb Kimble Foundation Allison Sleight<br />

David & Sandy Turner<br />

Rueben Antonio<br />

Michael & Andrea Leestma Dr. Josh & Mollie Smith<br />

David & Carol Van Andel 10 Research Blake highlights: Crabb Cell Biology Kimberly Livingston 58 Donor spotlight: Timothy Matt Cook Streit<br />

Steve & Amy Van Andel<br />

Jordan Custer<br />

Diana Longstreet<br />

Mark Stuit<br />

Sharon Van Dellen 12 Research Aaron highlights: & Afton DeVos Structural BiologyKathleen Martin 60 Donor spotlight: Aaron Matt & Hailey Sarah Van Jones Andel<br />

Michael & Michelle Van Dyke Sam DeVries<br />

Rob & Kati Missman<br />

Chris Van Andel<br />

Daniel & Ann Marie Van Eerden 14 Research Ben Eastburg highlights:<br />

Mike & Rachel 62 MrazDonor spotlight: Jesse Jim & Cvelbar Heather Van Andel<br />

Douglas & Sandra Van Essen Metabolism Jennifer & Fischer Nutritional ProgrammingThomas Murray<br />

Kyle Van Andel<br />

Donna Van Haren<br />

Evan Frick<br />

Nathan & Erin 64 Nartker Circle of Hope Dan VandenBosch<br />

Maria Van Til 16 Core Technologies James Frieling and Services Jon & Elle Oberdick<br />

Tripp & Katie VanderWal<br />

John Van Wylen<br />

Meghan Gartman<br />

John O’Neill 64 <strong>VAI</strong> by the numbers Samuel & Sydney Vucelich<br />

Dr. Doug Vander Woude 17<br />

Allen & Nancy VanderLaan<br />

Translating Erik & Victoria impact from Hansen lab to clinic<br />

Nate Harris<br />

Kendra Osowski<br />

Greg Paplawsky 65<br />

Cameron Young<br />

Leadership teamMegan Zubrickas<br />

Patti Vandort 18 <strong>VAI</strong> principal Mike Hemmingsen investigators<br />

Lee & Alexandra Perez<br />

Michael & Gayle VanGessel Jason & Brandi Huyser<br />

Justin Pinto 66 Board members<br />

David & Beth VanPortfliet 26 <strong>VAI</strong> Scientists Nate Johnson team up with high school Alexandra Price<br />

Dr. John R. & Grace students to solve the challenge of insulin 68 Board of Governors<br />

VanTimmeren<br />

resistance This list includes members active any time between Jan. 1 and Dec. 31, <strong>2023</strong>.<br />

Jim & Wanda Veld<br />

69 JBoard Ambassadors<br />

30 Van Andel Institute Graduate School<br />


Thank you, JBoard Ambassadors.<br />

34 Education<br />

As JBoard Ambassadors, you are leaders who exhibit the power of early and mid-career professionals to make a difference. We appreciate the energy and dedication<br />

you bring to the Institute. Thank you for your vision and your 36 friendship Education in our highlights efforts to improve the health and enhance the lives of current and future generations.<br />


A letter from<br />

David Van Andel<br />

Dear friends and supporters,<br />

Just over 27 years ago, Van Andel Institute opened its<br />

doors, welcoming the challenges of biomedical research<br />

and committing to unraveling the mysteries of the<br />

diseases affecting millions across the globe. As we<br />

charge forth into our second quarter-century of service,<br />

I’m proud to say we do so with passion and humility,<br />

values instilled in the Institute by my parents, and values<br />

you’ll see reflected throughout this annual report and in<br />

the work of our scientists and educators.<br />

<strong>VAI</strong> continues to thrive, with long-term plans underway<br />

to continue the Institute’s purposeful growth.<br />

Exceptional research takes time, and our commitment<br />

to excellence has helped us earn a positive reputation<br />

among our peers. I’m proud to say the Institute has<br />

become a premier destination for scientists, attracting<br />

the talent necessary to create a thriving scientific<br />

community.<br />

Thanks to our scientists, we’re one step closer to<br />

understanding cancer, Parkinson’s and metabolic<br />

disorders. Their cutting-edge research is making an<br />

impact today, building the foundation for a healthier<br />

world tomorrow. It’s a privilege to share these<br />

discoveries — many of which will reach far beyond<br />

West Michigan.<br />

academic officer. Under his leadership, the Graduate<br />

School is poised to enable even more students to<br />

enter areas ripe for groundbreaking scientific advances,<br />

creating leaders with the ability to make an impact<br />

across the industry. And our K–12 initiatives are being<br />

extended in wider arcs than ever before to those eager<br />

to embrace curiosity, creativity and critical thinking.<br />

More than 500 scientists, educators and staff work daily<br />

to enable the achievements highlighted in this report,<br />

but none of it would be possible without passionate<br />

<strong>VAI</strong> supporters. Every year, a network of organizations,<br />

individuals, businesses, volunteers, sponsors and<br />

philanthropists support the Institute. Every year, I can’t<br />

overstate my gratitude: It’s your generosity that fuels our<br />

discoveries, and the impact of your gifts will be felt by<br />

countless generations.<br />

To our supporters, scientists, educators and<br />

collaborators, we extend our deepest gratitude. We<br />

invite you to join us as we move ever forward on our<br />

voyage of discovery for a world in need.<br />

Sincerely,<br />

“I’m proud to say the Institute<br />

is becoming a premier<br />

destination for scientists,<br />

attracting the talent necessary<br />

to create a thriving scientific<br />

community.”<br />

— David Van Andel<br />

Van Andel Institute Chairman & CEO<br />

Our mission continues to manifest itself in so many<br />

important ways, including training the scientific<br />

leaders of tomorrow. Van Andel Institute Graduate<br />

School welcomed Dr. Eric C. Swindell as dean and chief<br />

David Van Andel<br />

Van Andel Institute Chairman & CEO<br />

2 3

Van Andel Institute<br />

for Research<br />








Department of Epigenetics<br />

Virtually all 37.2 trillion cells in our bodies have the<br />

same DNA, the spiraling molecule that contains the<br />

genetic instructions required to make us who we<br />

are. But if every cell works from the same playbook,<br />

how and why does the human body have so many<br />

different types of cells? Why do some become skin<br />

cells while others become muscle cells, heart cells or<br />

brain cells?<br />

The answer is epigenetics — a complex set of processes<br />

that determine when and to what extent genetic<br />

instructions are carried out. Epigenetic processes are<br />

vital for healthy cellular function and, when things go<br />

awry, they can play major roles in disease.<br />

By investigating the epigenetic processes that finetune<br />

DNA, our scientists aim to pinpoint the origins of<br />

complex diseases and determine how they are impacted<br />

by our past and present, and how they influence future<br />

generations.<br />

6<br />

<strong>2023</strong> HIGHLIGHTS<br />

<strong>VAI</strong> chief scientist earns prestigious grant to<br />

support cancer research<br />

Chief Scientific Officer Dr. Peter A. Jones received a<br />

seven-year, nearly $7.9 million grant from the National<br />

Cancer Institute’s Outstanding Investigator Award<br />

program. The funding will fuel his research into the<br />

epigenetic errors that drive cancer development — and<br />

help him find ways to fix them. The award is a renewal<br />

of an earlier seven-year, $7.8 million Outstanding<br />

Investigator Award granted to Jones in 2017. 1<br />

<strong>VAI</strong>, Washington University School of Medicine<br />

in St. Louis to lead genome center under $140M<br />

NIH initiative<br />

<strong>VAI</strong>’s Dr. Hui Shen and Washington University School<br />

of Medicine in St. Louis’s Dr. Ting Wang will co-lead<br />

a collaborative project supported by the Somatic<br />

Mosaicism across Human Tissues (SMaHT) Network,<br />

a $140 million National Institutes of Health-led effort<br />

to better understand the genetic differences between<br />

individual cells and tissues in the body. Together, <strong>VAI</strong><br />

and Washington University will be one of five SMaHTsupported<br />

Genome Characterization Centers, which will<br />

conduct leading-edge genomic analysis for the network.<br />

Wang will serve as the project’s director; Shen will serve<br />

as co-director. The project is supported by a $15 million<br />

grant from the NIH Common Fund as part of SMaHT. 2<br />

Breakdown of ‘protective mechanisms’ can<br />

drive lung cancer development<br />

Loss of two key “protector” proteins initiates epigenetic<br />

changes that transform healthy lung cells into cancerous<br />

ones, according to research from Dr. Gerd Pfeifer<br />

and colleagues. The findings were among the first to<br />

demonstrate a wholly epigenetic origin for cancer cells<br />

and may have implications for future cancer treatment<br />

and prevention strategies. Going forward, Pfeifer<br />

plans to explore this process in other cancer types to<br />

investigate whether it’s a phenomenon restricted to lung<br />

cells or if it has wider applicability — findings that could<br />

have broad implications for our understanding of cancer<br />

and the development of new therapies. 3<br />

Researchers discover two subtypes of insulinproducing<br />

cells<br />

A team led by <strong>VAI</strong> and Max Planck Institute of<br />

Immunobiology and Epigenetics scientists identified<br />

two distinct subtypes of insulin-producing beta cells,<br />

or ß cells, each with crucial characteristics that may<br />

be leveraged to better understand and treat Type 1 and<br />

Type 2 diabetes. ß cells are critical guardians of the<br />

body’s metabolic balance. They are the only cells capable<br />

of producing insulin, which regulates blood sugar<br />

levels by designating dietary sugar for immediate use<br />

or storage. Scientists have long recognized differences<br />

among ß cells, but this study is the first to clearly<br />

delineate specific cell subtypes. <strong>VAI</strong>’s Dr. J. Andrew<br />

Pospisilik is the study’s senior author. 4<br />

Study illuminates mechanism that annotates<br />

genetic information passed from fathers to<br />

offspring<br />

Dr. Piroska Szabó and collaborators have identified a key<br />

part of a mechanism that annotates genetic information<br />

before it is passed from fathers to their offspring. The<br />

findings, published in Science Advances, shed new light<br />

on genomic imprinting, a fundamental biological process<br />

in which a gene from one parent is switched off while<br />

the copy from the other parent remains active. Errors in<br />

imprinting are linked to a host of diseases, such as the<br />

rare disease Silver-Russell syndrome, along with certain<br />

cancers and diabetes. 5<br />

Study reveals drivers of metastatic breast<br />

cancer<br />

Cancers that metastasize — meaning they spread<br />

from their original site to new areas of the body — are<br />

particularly challenging to treat and are a main cause<br />

of cancer death. A study by a multi-institutional team<br />

of scientists has revealed key differences between<br />

primary breast cancers and their metastases. The<br />

findings offer fresh insights into how metastatic breast<br />

cancer develops and progresses — and provide vital<br />

opportunities for new therapeutic approaches. Dr. Peter<br />

W. Laird was a senior author of the study. 6<br />

Funding Acknowledgements<br />

Research reported in this publication was supported by:<br />

1<br />

The National Cancer Institute of the National Institutes of Health under award no.<br />

R35CA209859 (Jones).<br />

2<br />

The NIH Common Fund under award no. UM1DA058219 (Wang, Shen, Fulton).<br />

3<br />

Van Andel Institute and the National Cancer Institute of the National Institutes of<br />

Health under award no. R01CA234595 (Pfeifer).<br />

4<br />

Van Andel Institute; Max Planck Gesellschaft; the European Research Council<br />

under award nos. ERC-StG-281641 and ERC-CoG-682679 (Pospisilik); the European<br />

Foundation for the Study of Diabetes/Eli Lilly (Dror); the National Human Genome<br />

Research Institute of the National Institutes of Health under award no. R21HG011964<br />

(Pospisilik); and the NIH Common Fund, through the Office of the NIH Director (OD),<br />

and the National Human Genome Research Institute of the National Institutes of<br />

Health under award no. R01HG012444 (Pospisilik and Nadeau).<br />

5<br />

Van Andel Institute and the National Institute of General Medical Sciences of the<br />

National Institutes of Health under award no. R01GM064378 (Szabó).<br />

6<br />

The Breast Cancer Research Foundation under award no. ELFF-14-002 through<br />

the Evelyn H. Lauder Founder’s Fund for Metastatic Breast Cancer Research (Wolff;<br />

subaward to Laird); Vanderbilt-Ingram Cancer Center Support Grant P30CA68485<br />

and National Cancer Institute SPORE 2P50CA098131-17 (Balko); Lineberger<br />

Comprehensive Cancer Center Grant P30-CA016086-45 and NCI Breast SPORE<br />

Program P50-CA058223 (Perou and Carey). The results published here are in whole or<br />

part based upon data from the Cancer Genome Atlas managed by the NCI and NHGRI<br />

(dbGaP accession phs000178). The RedCap instance used to capture clinical data<br />

in this project was supported by the National Center for Advancing Translational<br />

Sciences of the National Institutes of Health under award no. UL1TR002489.<br />

The content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily<br />

represent the official views of the National Institutes of Health or other funding<br />

organizations.<br />



Department of Neurodegenerative Science<br />

Worldwide, 7 million to 10 million people have<br />

Parkinson’s disease and more than 30 million<br />

have dementia. Currently, there is no cure and no<br />

effective way to slow or stop disease progression.<br />

<strong>VAI</strong> scientists aim to change that by investigating the<br />

complex factors that give rise to neurodegenerative and<br />

psychiatric disorders, from genetics and epigenetics to<br />

aging, inflammation and the structure of the brain itself<br />

— even the roles of the gut and the immune system.<br />

By leveraging discoveries made in <strong>VAI</strong>’s labs and<br />

collaborating with researchers around the world, our<br />

scientists are working to translate breakthroughs into<br />

life-changing new treatments for Parkinson’s, dementias<br />

and depression.<br />

Funding Acknowledgements<br />

Research reported in this publication was supported by:<br />

1<br />

Van Andel Institute; Van Andel Institute Graduate School; and the National Institute<br />

on Aging of the National Institutes of Health under multi-PI award no. R56AG074473<br />

(Keith A. Vossel, Ph.D. [University of California, Los Angeles]; Darren Moore, Ph.D.<br />

[<strong>VAI</strong>]; and Michael K. Lee, Ph.D. [University of Minnesota]).<br />

2<br />

The National Institute of Mental Health of the National Institutes of Health under<br />

award no. R01MH118211 (Brundin, Mann and Achtyes).<br />

3<br />

Lund University; MultiPark at Lund University; the Joint Programme for<br />

Neurodegenerative Disease (MADGIC) research co-funded by the European Union<br />

Research and Innovation Programme Horizon 2020 through the ERA-NET co-funding<br />

scheme under award no. VR 2015–07798 (Roybon) and no. VR 2015–06797 (Gouras);<br />

The Crafoord Foundation (Roybon); The Åhlens Foundation (Roybon); The Dementia<br />

Foundation Sweden (Demensfonden) (Roybon); The Olle Engkvist Byggmästare<br />

Foundation (Roybon); the Royal Physiographic Society of Lund (Pomeshchik); The<br />

Ragnhild och Einar Lundströms Minne Foundation (Pomeshchik); and the Swedish<br />

Alzheimer Foundation (Alzheimerfonden) (Roybon and Pomeshchik).<br />

4<br />

The National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke of the National<br />

Institutes of Health under award no. R01NS121371 (Chu) and Aligning Science Across<br />

Parkinson’s under award no. ASAP-020572 (granted to Emory University [PI: Thomas<br />

Wichmann, Ph.D.]; subaward to Hong-yuan Chu , Ph.D.).<br />

The content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily<br />

represent the official views of the National Institutes of Health or other funding<br />

organizations.<br />

8<br />

<strong>2023</strong> HIGHLIGHTS<br />

Study offers insights into development of<br />

cognitive symptoms in Parkinson’s<br />

In addition to movement-related symptoms, many<br />

people with Parkinson’s disease also experience<br />

cognitive symptoms such as dementia. In a study<br />

published in the journal npj Parkinson’s Disease,<br />

Dr. Darren Moore and colleagues revealed new insights<br />

into how and why these cognitive symptoms arise. They<br />

found that clumps of disease-associated proteins, which<br />

have long been linked to motor symptoms, also precede<br />

the onset of cognitive symptoms. The findings offer an<br />

important window into disease development and could<br />

offer new treatment targets. 1<br />

<strong>VAI</strong> appoints neurobiologist Dr. Laurent Roybon<br />

as associate professor<br />

<strong>VAI</strong> has appointed Dr. Laurent Roybon as an associate<br />

professor in its Department of Neurodegenerative<br />

Science. Roybon is a neurobiologist and stem cell<br />

expert who studies the mechanisms that give rise<br />

to neurodegenerative disorders such as Parkinson’s<br />

disease. His research seeks to identify improved<br />

treatments that impede disease progression —<br />

something not possible with current therapies.<br />

Discovery offers new insights into the link<br />

between inflammation and suicide risk<br />

A first-of-its-kind study has identified overactive<br />

inflammation and loss of critical protection mechanisms<br />

in the brain as potential contributors to suicide risk.<br />

The findings support further exploration of antiinflammatory<br />

medications to reduce risk, especially in<br />

situations where suicidal ideation can be ascertained<br />

early. The work was led by Dr. Lena Brundin in<br />

collaboration with colleagues at Columbia University<br />

and Western Michigan University Homer Stryker M.D.<br />

School of Medicine. The study was published in the<br />

journal Molecular Psychiatry. 2<br />

New model provides window into Alzheimer’s<br />

development<br />

A new model developed by <strong>VAI</strong>’s Dr. Laurent Roybon<br />

and colleagues at Lund University and University of<br />

Florence will enable researchers to better understand<br />

how Alzheimer’s disease progresses in the brain. Like<br />

other neurodegenerative diseases, Alzheimer’s is<br />

challenging to study due to its complexity and lack of<br />

tools to study the disease in the human brain. Instead,<br />

scientists often rely on models that mimic the disease.<br />

The new model successfully replicated critical changes<br />

in brain pathways that could later lead to the formation<br />

of amyloid plaques and tau tangles — hallmarks of<br />

Alzheimer’s — as well as disease-associated changes in<br />

neighboring cells, a sign that disease pathology may be<br />

spreading from cell to cell. The findings were published<br />

in the journal Acta Neuropathologica Communications. 3<br />

Repairing broken brain circuits may offer path<br />

to new Parkinson’s treatments<br />

Dr. Hong-yuan Chu and his lab have identified a series of<br />

processes that help the brain adapt to damage caused by<br />

breakdowns in circuits that govern movement, cognition<br />

and sensory perception. Because such breakdowns<br />

contribute to Parkinson’s disease, the findings may<br />

one day help researchers optimize current treatments<br />

or develop new ones that repair or bypass the broken<br />

circuits. The findings were published in Science Advances. 4<br />



Department of Cell Biology<br />

Our health, and consequently our lives, depend on the coordinated activities of<br />

our individual cells. Scientists in <strong>VAI</strong>’s Department of Cell Biology investigate<br />

how these cells grow, communicate, survive, assemble into tissues, respond to<br />

the environment and change with age.<br />

Their transformative work aims to yield new diagnostic and treatment strategies to<br />

improve the quality of life for people with cancer, bone diseases and rare disorders.<br />

<strong>2023</strong> HIGHLIGHTS<br />

New treatment target pinpointed in rare disease<br />

Robinow syndrome is a rare disease that often results in shortened arm and leg bones,<br />

along with crowded teeth, cleft palate and a broad forehead. There are no known<br />

treatments. However, a study by <strong>VAI</strong> scientists and collaborators offers new hope.<br />

Using mouse models of the disease, the team was able to prevent the limb shortening<br />

that occurs in Robinow syndrome by targeting an important part of a cellular pathway<br />

called Wnt. The findings could inform potential future treatments and shed light on<br />

other conditions linked to Wnt. 1<br />

New model offers powerful tool for studying endometrial cancer<br />

A new laboratory model will better enable scientists to study the development of<br />

endometrial cancer, the most common gynecological cancer in the U.S. The model was<br />

developed by <strong>VAI</strong> and Michigan State University College of Human Medicine scientists<br />

and allows researchers to see how healthy cells in the lining of the uterus transform<br />

into malignant ones — something not possible with previous models. The research<br />

was started in the lab of late <strong>VAI</strong> Professor Dr. Art Alberts and carried on by Senior<br />

Research Associate Susan Kitchen-Goosen (Russell Jones Lab), <strong>VAI</strong> Core Technologies<br />

and Services Director Dr. Bart Williams and MSU Professor Dr. Jose Teixeira. 2<br />

Funding Acknowledgements<br />

Research reported in this publication was supported by:<br />

1<br />

The National Institute of Dental & Craniofacial Research of the National Institutes of Health under award nos. R01DE027091<br />

(Stottmann) and K08DE031039 (Michalski); Van Andel Institute; Cincinnati Children’s Research Foundation; and Cincinnati<br />

Children’s Hospital Medical Center for Pediatric Genomics.<br />

2<br />

Van Andel Institute and the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development under award no.<br />

R01HD096259 (Teixeira).<br />

The content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of the National<br />

Institutes of Health or other funding organizations.<br />

Generosity of <strong>VAI</strong> employees empowers osteoporosis discovery<br />

What started as a question about an odd bone could one day lead to new ways<br />

to treat osteoporosis with fewer side effects, thanks to a collaborative team of<br />

inquisitive scientists fueled by philanthropic funding from <strong>VAI</strong> employees.<br />

The discovery, published in the journal Science Advances, identified a protein called<br />

KDM5C as a potential treatment target for osteoporosis. It also shed new light on<br />

how and why women lose bone mass as they age, a process that results in nearly<br />

1 in 5 women facing osteoporosis after age 50.<br />

The findings offer new hope for improved osteoporosis treatments<br />

and underscore the importance of innovation, a shared spirit of<br />

collaboration and the value of asking a simple question: why?<br />

Funny bones and curious questions<br />

Postdoctoral fellow Dr. Lukai Zhai couldn’t shake the feeling that<br />

something was off about the tiny piece of bone he was studying in<br />

the lab. It appeared denser than it should.<br />

Zhai was intrigued, so he reached out to Dr. Huadie Liu, a postdoctoral<br />

fellow who studies bone diseases. Together with their mentors — Dr. Connie<br />

Krawczyk and Dr. Tao Yang — they came up with an idea.<br />

What if the protein Zhai studied, KDM5C, had something to do with the bone<br />

changes?<br />

The prospect was an exciting one.<br />

KDM5C is an epigenetic modulator — a fancy term for a molecular helper that<br />

ensures the instructions in DNA are carried out correctly. It works by altering<br />

epigenetic marks, which are akin to “on” and “off” switches that enable our genetic<br />

instructions to be used at the right time and in the right place.<br />

KDM5C also is associated with X chromosomes, meaning it is more active in women<br />

than men. Because of this, disorders linked to KDM5C are much more prevalent in<br />

women — a common thread with osteoporosis. This connection offered a tantalizing<br />

clue that the team was on the right track.<br />

The Krawczyk and Yang labs had a compelling question. Now, they needed support<br />

to make the project happen.<br />

A team effort<br />

Enter <strong>VAI</strong> employees, who have the option to generously support Institute projects.<br />

Once a year, <strong>VAI</strong> scientists and educators pitch their ideas to employee-donors,<br />

who then vote on which projects to support.<br />

The funds give fledgling research projects the springboard they need to get<br />

projects off the ground and gather the early data required to secure subsequent<br />

grant funding.<br />

Around<br />

the<br />

Institute<br />

Funding Acknowledgements<br />

In 2021, <strong>VAI</strong> employees voted to award Yang and Krawczyk nearly<br />

$73,000 for the project. This funding enabled their teams to<br />

investigate differences in the way bone is regulated in male and<br />

female mice, which share many similarities with humans and are<br />

important models for studying health and disease.<br />

“Employee support fosters collaborative research across disciplines<br />

and enables research that couldn’t happen in just one lab,” Yang said.<br />

“It’s a tremendous program that allows everyone to contribute to<br />

science, no matter their role at <strong>VAI</strong>. We are so grateful to our colleagues<br />

for supporting our work.”<br />

As part of their project, the Krawczyk and Yang labs focused on specialized cells<br />

called osteoclasts, which help maintain skeletal health by breaking down and<br />

recycling old bone. They discovered that reducing KDM5C disrupted cellular<br />

energy production in osteoclasts, which slowed down the recycling process and<br />

preserved bone mass.<br />

“Lowering KDM5C levels is like flipping a switch to stop an overactive recycling<br />

process. The result is greater bone density, which ultimately means stronger<br />

bones,” Krawczyk said. “We’re very excited about this work and look forward to<br />

carrying out future studies to refine our findings. At the end of the day, we hope<br />

these insights make a difference for people with osteoporosis.”<br />

Research reported in this publication was supported by Van Andel Institute; Van Andel Institute’s Employee Impact Campaign;<br />

and the National Institute on Aging of the National Institutes of Health under award no. R01AG061086 (Yang).<br />

The content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of the National<br />

Institutes of Health or other funding organizations.<br />


10<br />


Department of Structural Biology<br />

Imagine standing on the moon and having eyes so<br />

powerful that you can clearly watch a tennis match<br />

on Earth. Now imagine using that same visual<br />

power to see down to the molecular level, and<br />

you have structural biology — a field that allows<br />

scientists to study the smallest components of life<br />

in exquisite detail.<br />

Determining the shape of these critical molecules is<br />

vital for understanding their function in health and<br />

disease. Scientists in Van Andel Institute’s Department<br />

of Structural Biology harness state-of-the-art<br />

techniques to visualize molecules that may serve as<br />

treatment targets for cancer, neurological disorders,<br />

metabolic diseases, infectious diseases and more.<br />

They’re revealing groundbreaking insights into the<br />

most fundamental aspects of biology, from parsing<br />

the ways cells sense and respond to the environment<br />

to illuminating the intricacies of DNA replication.<br />

And they’re laying the foundations for new therapies<br />

by revealing how a drug molecule disables its target<br />

protein.<br />

<strong>2023</strong> HIGHLIGHTS<br />

Study zooms in on critical molecule<br />

Heparan sulfate is a complex sugar that provides strength and elasticity to the body’s tissues. To better understand<br />

this critical molecule, Dr. Huilin Li and collaborators conducted a comprehensive study on the enzymes EXT1 and<br />

EXT2, which synthesize the backbone of heparan sulfate. Their findings offer new insights into how heparan sulfate<br />

carries out its roles, which include cellular communication, cell survival and cell development. 1<br />

Cryo-EM sheds light on key part of our ‘cellular network’<br />

Our cells sense shifts in their environments through a network of chemical messengers that flow into and out of<br />

specialized molecular gates called ion channels. Thanks to a discovery by Dr. Wei Lü and collaborators, we now<br />

better understand how one of these channels, called PAC, maintains pH balance in brain cells, a critical function<br />

that keeps cells alive and helps prevent stroke and other injuries. Their research provides a detailed look at PAC<br />

interacting with another molecule called PIP 2<br />

, which could one day inform development of new treatments for brain<br />

injury. 2<br />

Study points the way to better malaria drugs<br />

Structural insights into a potent antimalarial drug candidate’s interaction with the malaria parasite Plasmodium<br />

falciparum have paved the way for drug-resistant malaria therapies, according to a study led by Van Andel Institute’s<br />

Dr. Huilin Li and Weill Cornell Medicine’s Dr. Gang Lin. Malaria is a life-threatening disease that infects nearly<br />

250 million people and causes more than 600,000 deaths each year, with most cases occurring in sub-Saharan<br />

Africa. In the study, published in Nature Communications, the researchers used cryo-EM to create a high-resolution<br />

map that depicts the antimalarial drug candidate TDI-8304 as it fastens to its target in the malaria parasite, a key<br />

part of developing better therapies that delay drug resistance. 3<br />

Funding Acknowledgements<br />

Research reported in this publication was supported by:<br />

1<br />

The National Institute of General Medical Sciences of the National Institutes of Health under award nos. R01GM130915 (Moreman) and P41GM103390 (Moreman); the National<br />

Cancer Institute of the National Institutes of Health under award no. R01CA231466 (Li); Van Andel Institute; and the U.S. Department of Energy, Office of Science, Basic Energy<br />

Sciences, Chemical Sciences, Geosciences and Biosciences Division under award no. DE-SC0015662 (Amos).<br />

2<br />

Boehringer Ingelheim Fonds (BIF) (Mihaljevic); National Institute of General Medical Sciences of the National Institutes of Health under award nos. T32GM007445 (BCMB<br />

Graduate Training Program) and R35GM124824 (Qiu); the American Heart Association under award nos. 20POST35120556 (Ruan) and 18PRE34060025 (Osei-Owusu); the<br />

National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke of the National Institutes of Health under award nos. K99NS128258 (Ruan), R01NS112363 (Lü) and R01NS118014 (Qiu); a<br />

McKnight Scholar Award (Qiu); a Klingenstein-Simon Scholar Award (Qiu); and a Sloan Research Fellowship in Neuroscience (Qiu). A portion of this research was supported by<br />

National Institute of General Medical Sciences of the National Institutes of Health under award no. U24GM129547 and performed at the PNCC at OHSU and accessed through<br />

EMSL (grid.436923.9), a DOE Office of Science User Facility sponsored by the Office of Biological and Environmental Research.<br />

3<br />

National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases of the National Institutes of Health under award nos. R01AI143714 (Lin) and R01AI070285 (Li). Alison Roth acknowledges<br />

funding in part from the Congressionally Directed Medical Research Programs (W81XWH-WH2210520; PIs D. Fidock and M. Bogyo).<br />

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 funding organizations.<br />

Funding<br />

<strong>VAI</strong> scientists have 116 active<br />

awards totaling $176.9 million.<br />

In <strong>2023</strong>, <strong>VAI</strong> scientists earned 30<br />

new awards totaling $36.2 million.<br />

Publications<br />

In <strong>2023</strong>, <strong>VAI</strong> scientists published<br />

123 peer-reviewed papers. Of<br />

these, 62 were in high-impact<br />

journals.<br />

Nature Index<br />

The Nature Index, which measures<br />

institutional scientific output,<br />

ranks <strong>VAI</strong> no. 27 in the Biological<br />

Sciences category out of the top<br />

100 nongovernmental/nonprofits.<br />

<strong>VAI</strong> ranks no. 46 overall.<br />

Figures current as of December <strong>2023</strong>.<br />


12<br />


Department of<br />

Metabolism & Nutritional Programming<br />

Every aspect of life is fueled by metabolism, a<br />

constant cascade of chemical reactions that<br />

ensure we have the energy to survive and thrive.<br />

But sometimes things go wrong, depriving our cells<br />

of the energy and resources required for healthy<br />

function.<br />

When energy production or distribution breaks down,<br />

the results can be catastrophic — diseases such as<br />

cancer, Parkinson’s and diabetes are all known to have<br />

varying degrees of metabolic involvement.<br />

Scientists in <strong>VAI</strong>’s Department of Metabolism and<br />

Nutritional Programming explore the intricate<br />

mechanics of cellular metabolism and their<br />

implications for health and in disease. Using cuttingedge<br />

techniques, they’re investigating metabolism’s<br />

interaction with other critical systems, such as the<br />

immune system, and revealing how environmental<br />

exposures and metabolic dysfunction contribute to<br />

diseases such as diabetes, autoimmunity, cancer and<br />

neurodegeneration. They’re also parsing the ripple<br />

effect that nutrition may have through the generations,<br />

exploring how our diets could lay the epigenetic<br />

foundations for the health of our descendants.<br />

14<br />

<strong>2023</strong> HIGHLIGHTS<br />

Celebrating 5 years of metabolism research<br />

Metabolism fuels our day-to-day lives, from ensuring<br />

we have enough energy to function to keeping our<br />

immune systems up and running. That’s why in 2018,<br />

<strong>VAI</strong> established its Department of Metabolism and<br />

Nutritional Programming, which brought together a<br />

team of expert scientists to explore the countless ways<br />

metabolism impacts health and disease.<br />

Their goal is ambitious — to make discoveries that can<br />

be transformed into scientifically sound strategies for<br />

improving well-being, treating metabolic diseases and<br />

augmenting existing treatments for cancer and other<br />

chronic disorders. In the past five years, the department<br />

has developed into a metabolism research powerhouse,<br />

fueled by scientists who routinely publish breakthrough<br />

discoveries and earn external recognition for their work.<br />

Targeting uncontrolled inflammation may hold<br />

the key to treating therapy-resistant cancers<br />

<strong>VAI</strong> scientists have determined how a specific gene<br />

mutation triggers inflammation that may drive<br />

development of treatment-resistant cancers. The<br />

findings reveal for the first time the molecular<br />

circuitry by which mutations in the gene STK11 cause<br />

inflammation to spiral out of control. The resulting<br />

chemical firestorm damages healthy cells and can<br />

enable cancer development. Tumors that lose the STK11<br />

gene are tough to treat because they resist traditional<br />

chemotherapy and many of the latest immunotherapies.<br />

The study, which was led by the Department of<br />

Metabolism and Nutritional Programming Chair<br />

Dr. Russell Jones, may inform new treatments for cancer<br />

and the rare disease Peutz-Jeghers Syndrome. 1<br />

$2.4 million award fuels study of ‘cellular<br />

powerhouses’<br />

Our cells are powered by tiny “powerplants” called<br />

mitochondria, which transform nutrients into the<br />

fuel that sustains life. But there’s more to the story<br />

of mitochondria, says Dr. Sara Nowinski. Thanks to a<br />

five-year, nearly $2.4 million Maximizing Investigators’<br />

Research Award from the National Institute of General<br />

Medical Sciences of the National Institutes of Health,<br />

Nowinski will have additional resources to explore the<br />

inner workings of these crucial cellular components<br />

and usher in a new understanding of how mitochondria<br />

function and power the body. 2<br />

Fruit flies offer window into early development<br />

Fruit flies are best known for annoying people seeking<br />

out a banana for breakfast or an apple for an afternoon<br />

snack. For scientists, though, fruit flies are unsung<br />

heroes whose contributions have reshaped much of<br />

what is known about human health and disease. That’s<br />

because, despite being vastly different on the outside,<br />

fruit flies and humans share many genetic similarities.<br />

Dr. Heidi Lempradl and collaborators have developed<br />

a powerful new technique to study this vital model<br />

organism and shed new light on their earliest stages of<br />

development — knowledge that may deeply impact our<br />

understanding of human health. 3<br />

Alternative cellular ‘fuels’ may boost immunity<br />

A metabolic byproduct that is more prevalent during<br />

fasting may supercharge immune cells as they fight<br />

infection and disease, according to an early-stage study<br />

by Dr. Russell Jones and collaborators. The findings,<br />

published in the journal Immunity, may pave the way<br />

for future personalized dietary recommendations to<br />

augment treatments for infection, cancer and other<br />

diseases. 4<br />

<strong>VAI</strong> postdoc awarded prestigious Damon<br />

Runyon Fellowship<br />

In January <strong>2023</strong>, Dr. McLane Watson was named a<br />

Damon Runyon Fellow by the Damon Runyon Cancer<br />

Research Foundation, an honor that places him among<br />

the most promising early career scientists in the nation.<br />

The four-year, $252,000 fellowship will support Watson<br />

as he investigates new ways to supercharge cancer<br />

immunotherapies by identifying how metabolism fuels<br />

immune cells. He was one of only 14 awardees in the<br />

<strong>2023</strong> class of Damon Runyon Fellows. 5<br />

<strong>VAI</strong> scientist awarded $2.9 million to tackle key<br />

driver of diabetes<br />

Dr. Nick Burton earned a five-year, nearly $2.9 million<br />

New Innovator Award from the National Institutes of<br />

Health Common Fund to find new ways to fix or prevent<br />

insulin resistance, a key driver of Type 2 diabetes.<br />

Burton and his team are employing an innovative<br />

approach — seeking out naturally occurring bacteria<br />

that can influence insulin production and signaling.<br />

Once identified, Burton hopes these microbes will offer<br />

new paths toward breakthrough treatments. 6<br />

Funding Acknowledgements<br />

Research reported in this publication was supported by:<br />

¹ Van Andel Institute.<br />

2<br />

The National Institute of General Medical Sciences of the National Institutes of<br />

Health under award no. R35GM151245 (Nowinski).<br />

3<br />

Van Andel Institute.<br />

4<br />

Van Andel Institute and the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases of<br />

the National Institutes of Health under award no. R01AI165722 (Jones).<br />

5<br />

McLane Watson is a Damon Runyon Fellow supported by the Damon Runyon Cancer<br />

Research Foundation (DRG-2495-23).<br />

6<br />

The NIH Common Fund and administered by the National Institute of Diabetes and<br />

Digestive and Kidney Diseases of the National Institutes of Health under award no.<br />

DP2DK139569 (Burton).<br />

The content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily<br />

represent the official views of the National Institutes of Health or other funding<br />

organizations.<br />



Core Technologies & Services<br />

Van Andel Institute’s Core Technologies and<br />

Services offer a comprehensive range of advanced<br />

technologies and expertise to support and enhance<br />

research at the Institute and at collaborating<br />

organizations. Staffed by highly qualified<br />

professionals with an acute understanding of their<br />

respective fields, the Core team is committed<br />

to providing superior service and conducting<br />

exceptional science to further the Institute’s goal<br />

of improving human health through basic and<br />

translational research.<br />

<strong>2023</strong> HIGHLIGHTS<br />

<strong>VAI</strong> scientists develop improved method for<br />

studying metabolism<br />

Groundbreaking research is fueled by advances in<br />

technology and techniques. Thanks to a collaboration<br />

between <strong>VAI</strong>’s Core Technologies and Services<br />

and Department of Metabolism and Nutritional<br />

Programming, scientists at the Institute and beyond<br />

can more efficiently investigate the role of metabolism<br />

in health and disease. They developed and validated a<br />

new protocol for a commonly used test that reduces<br />

variation, improves efficiency, maintains data fidelity<br />

and maximizes use of precious samples — key<br />

developments that will streamline workflows and<br />

empower discovery.<br />

Funding Acknowledgement<br />

Research reported in this publication was supported by Van Andel Institute.<br />

16<br />

3 <strong>VAI</strong> scientists named to elite<br />

Highly Cited Researchers list<br />

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

Russell Jones, Ph.D.<br />

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

Drs. Peter A. Jones, Russell Jones and Peter W. Laird<br />

were included in the <strong>2023</strong> Clarivate Highly Cited<br />

Researchers list, a distinction marking them as leaders<br />

in their fields.<br />

The greatly anticipated annual list identifies researchers who<br />

demonstrated significant influence in their<br />

chosen area or areas of study through<br />

the publication of multiple highly cited<br />

papers during the last decade. Only<br />

1 in 1,000 scientists are included on<br />

the <strong>2023</strong> list.<br />

Citations, or references to a<br />

scientist’s published work by<br />

other researchers, are universally<br />

considered to be a measure of<br />

influence and impact in the scientific<br />

community. Jones, Jones and Laird have<br />

appeared on the list in previous years.<br />

Around<br />

the<br />

Institute<br />

Translating impact from<br />

the lab to the clinic<br />

Van Andel Institute-Stand Up To<br />

Cancer © (SU2C) Epigenetics<br />

Dream Team<br />

The Institute is home to the <strong>VAI</strong>–SU2C<br />

Epigenetics Dream Team, a multiinstitutional,<br />

collaborative effort that<br />

brings together several of the world’s<br />

most respected research and clinical<br />

organizations to translate scientific<br />

discoveries into improved patient care.<br />

The goal is simple — get new, more<br />

effective cancer therapies to patients<br />

faster.<br />

International Linked Clinical<br />

Trials Program<br />

The Cure Parkinson’s–Van Andel Institute<br />

International Linked Clinical Trials<br />

(iLCT) Program identifies potential<br />

new therapies for Parkinson’s from<br />

medications developed to treat other<br />

diseases that also show potential<br />

for impeding Parkinson’s disease<br />

progression. By doing so, iLCT aims to<br />

significantly cut the amount of time<br />

it takes for a potential treatment to<br />

move from the lab to clinical trials and,<br />

ultimately, to patients.<br />

<strong>VAI</strong>-SU2C Epigenetics<br />

Dream Team by the<br />

numbers<br />

4 clinical trials ongoing<br />

(enrolling patients)<br />

6 clinical trials in<br />

correlative analyses<br />

(enrollment closed)<br />

6 clinical trials completed<br />

over the life of the<br />

program<br />

Numbers current as of December <strong>2023</strong><br />

iLCT by the numbers<br />

21 clinical trials ongoing<br />

20 clinical trials completed<br />

over the life of the<br />

program<br />

Numbers current as of December <strong>2023</strong><br />



Van Andel Institute Principal Investigators<br />

Department of<br />

Epigenetics<br />

Virtually all 37.2 trillion cells in our bodies have the same<br />

DNA, the spiraling molecule that contains the genetic<br />

instructions required to make us who we are. But if every<br />

cell works from the same playbook, how and why does the<br />

human body have so many different types of cells? Why<br />

do some become skin cells while others become muscle<br />

cells, heart cells or brain cells?<br />

The answer is epigenetics — a complex set of processes<br />

that determine when and to what extent certain genetic<br />

instructions are carried out. Epigenetic processes are<br />

vital for healthy cellular function and, when things go<br />

awry, they can play major roles in disease.<br />

By investigating the epigenetic processes that finetune<br />

DNA, our scientists aim to pinpoint the origins of<br />

complex diseases and determine how they are impacted<br />

by our past and present, and how they influence future<br />

generations.<br />

Bios current as of December <strong>2023</strong>.<br />

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

(hon)<br />

Chief Scientific Officer; Director,<br />

Cancer Center; Professor, Department<br />

of Epigenetics<br />

Dr. Peter A. Jones is a pioneer<br />

in epigenetics, a growing field<br />

that explores how genes are regulated and provides<br />

new avenues for developing therapies for cancer and<br />

other diseases. His discoveries have helped usher in an<br />

entirely new class of drugs that have been approved to<br />

treat blood cancer and are being investigated in other<br />

tumor types. Jones is a past president of the American<br />

Association for Cancer Research, a Fellow of the AACR<br />

Academy, a Fellow of the American Association for the<br />

Advancement of Science, a member of the National<br />

Academy of Sciences and a fellow of the American<br />

Academy of Arts & Sciences.<br />

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

Chair (December <strong>2023</strong> to present)<br />

and Professor<br />

Dr. J. Andrew Pospisilik seeks<br />

to understand how we become<br />

whom we become, and how our<br />

disease susceptibility is defined<br />

from early on in life, even before conception, with the<br />

long-term goal of being able to predict lifelong health<br />

outlook at birth.<br />

Xiaobing Shi, Ph.D.<br />

Interim Chair (December 2022 to<br />

December <strong>2023</strong>) and Professor<br />

Dr. Xiaobing Shi investigates<br />

the mechanisms that regulate<br />

DNA and gene expression to<br />

better understand how they<br />

impact cancer development. His research has led to the<br />

discovery of several new “readers” of epigenetic marks<br />

that may serve as targets for cancer treatment.<br />

Stephen B. Baylin, M.D.<br />

Director’s Scholar; Professor<br />

Dr. Stephen Baylin studies the<br />

body’s genetic control systems —<br />

called epigenetics — searching<br />

for vulnerabilities in cancer.<br />

Dr. Baylin is a pioneer in this field<br />

and was among the first to trace epigenetic causes of<br />

cancer. His studies have led to new therapies for breast,<br />

lung and colorectal cancers, among others. He is coleader<br />

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

Epigenetics Dream Team, a Director’s Scholar at <strong>VAI</strong><br />

and the Virginia and D.K. Ludwig Professor for Cancer<br />

Research at Sidney Kimmel Comprehensive Cancer<br />

Center at Johns Hopkins University.<br />

Yvonne Fondufe-Mittendorf,<br />

Ph.D.<br />

Professor<br />

Dr. Yvonne Fondufe-Mittendorf<br />

investigates how environmental<br />

factors, such as toxicants, impact<br />

our genetic code and contribute<br />

to cancer. Her research is illuminating powerful new<br />

insights that could influence our understanding of<br />

health and disease, providing a path forward for new<br />

strategies for cancer prevention and treatment.<br />

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

Professor<br />

Dr. Peter W. Laird explores the<br />

origins of epigenetic mistakes in<br />

cancer, which can provide insight<br />

into how cancer arises. Dr. Laird<br />

has developed several cuttingedge<br />

technologies that he leverages to identify crucial<br />

epigenetic alterations that convert otherwise healthy<br />

cells into cancer cells. He is a principal investigator for<br />

the National Cancer Institute’s Genome Data Analysis<br />

Network and served in a leadership role for The Cancer<br />

Genome Atlas, a now-completed multi-institutional<br />

effort to molecularly map 33 different types of cancer.<br />

Gerd Pfeifer, Ph.D.<br />

Professor<br />

Dr. Gerd Pfeifer studies how<br />

the body switches genes on<br />

and off, a biological process<br />

called methylation that, when<br />

faulty, can lead to cancer or<br />

other diseases. His studies range from the effect of<br />

tobacco smoke on genetic and epigenetic systems to<br />

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

brain from neurodegeneration.<br />

Scott Rothbart, Ph.D.<br />

Professor<br />

Dr. Scott Rothbart studies<br />

the ways in which cells pack<br />

and unpack DNA. This elegant<br />

process twists and coils roughly<br />

two meters of unwound DNA into<br />

a space less than one-tenth the width of a human hair.<br />

Although this process is impressive, it is also subject to<br />

errors that can cause cancer and other disorders.<br />

Dr. Rothbart seeks new targets for drug development in<br />

this process.<br />

Hui Shen, Ph.D.<br />

Professor<br />

Dr. Hui Shen develops new<br />

approaches to cancer prevention,<br />

detection and treatment by<br />

studying the interaction between<br />

genes and their control systems,<br />

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

cancers, particularly ovarian cancer, and has shed new<br />

light on the underlying mechanisms of many other<br />

cancer types.<br />

Piroska Szabó, Ph.D.<br />

Associate Professor<br />

Dr. Piroska Szabó studies the flow<br />

of epigenetic information from<br />

parents to their offspring, with a<br />

focus on how epigenetic markers<br />

are remodeled during egg and<br />

sperm production, and how these markers are rewritten<br />

after fertilization. These processes have profound<br />

implications on fertility and embryo development.<br />

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

Associate Professor<br />

As a statistician and<br />

computational biologist with an<br />

interest in clonal evolution and<br />

cancers of the blood, the work<br />

of Dr. Tim Triche, Jr., focuses<br />

on wedding data-intensive molecular phenotyping to<br />

adaptive clinical trial designs in an effort to accelerate<br />

the pace of drug targeting and development in rare or<br />

refractory diseases.<br />

Hong Wen, Ph.D.<br />

Professor<br />

Dr. Hong Wen investigates the<br />

molecular underpinnings of<br />

pediatric cancers, with a focus<br />

on how epigenetic dysregulation<br />

impacts gene expression and<br />

drives malignancy. Her work holds great promise<br />

for developing new, improved therapies for these<br />

devastating diseases.<br />


18<br />


Van Andel Institute Principal Investigators<br />

Department of<br />

Neurodegenerative<br />

Science<br />

Between 7 million and 10 million people have Parkinson’s<br />

disease, a progressive neurological condition marked<br />

by tremor, rigidity and the gradual loss of voluntary<br />

movement, along with a host of other symptoms such<br />

as loss of sense of smell, cognitive issues, constipation,<br />

trouble sleeping and pain. Additionally, more than<br />

30 million people have Alzheimer’s disease and<br />

related dementias.<br />

Currently, there are no cures and no effective ways<br />

to slow or stop disease progression in Parkinson’s<br />

and Alzheimer’s. Our scientists aim to change that<br />

by investigating the complex factors that give rise to<br />

neurodegenerative and psychiatric disorders, from<br />

genetics and epigenetics to aging, inflammation and the<br />

structure of the brain itself — even the role of the gut and<br />

the immune system.<br />

By leveraging discoveries made in <strong>VAI</strong>’s labs and<br />

collaborating with researchers around the world, our<br />

scientists are working to translate breakthroughs into<br />

life-changing new treatments.<br />

Darren Moore, Ph.D.<br />

Chair and Professor<br />

Dr. Darren Moore seeks new<br />

diagnostic and treatment<br />

approaches for Parkinson’s by<br />

investigating the inherited form<br />

of the disease, which comprises<br />

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

understanding of these genetic mutations into better<br />

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

both inherited and non-inherited. Discoveries from<br />

Dr. Moore’s lab routinely elucidate the faulty molecular<br />

interactions that transform healthy, functioning neurons<br />

into diseased ones.<br />

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

Professor<br />

As a psychiatrist and a scientist,<br />

Dr. Lena Brundin seeks<br />

ways to diagnose and treat<br />

depression and suicidality by<br />

studying inflammation of the<br />

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

interventions for depressive patients and to development<br />

of a new class of antidepressants that target the<br />

immune system. She also investigates how inflammatory<br />

mechanisms can damage nerve cells in Parkinson’s<br />

disease.<br />

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

Assistant Professor<br />

Dr. Hong-yuan Chu investigates<br />

how and why dopamineproducing<br />

cells die off in<br />

Parkinson’s, a process that<br />

underlies many of the disease’s<br />

hallmark symptoms. He plans to leverage this new<br />

knowledge to develop new, more precise ways to slow or<br />

stop disease progression.<br />

Gerhard Coetzee, Ph.D.<br />

Interim Dean, Van Andel Institute<br />

Graduate School (June <strong>2023</strong> to<br />

December <strong>2023</strong>) and Professor<br />

Dr. Gerhard Coetzee searches<br />

the human genome for minuscule<br />

changes that contribute to<br />

the onset, progression and drug resistance of many<br />

diseases, including cancer and Parkinson’s. His team<br />

deploys genome sequencing technologies and highpowered<br />

computational arrays to tease out patterns<br />

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

among the human genome’s more than three billion<br />

DNA base pairs.<br />

Michael Henderson, Ph.D.<br />

Assistant Professor<br />

Dr. Michael Henderson<br />

investigates the causes of<br />

neurodegenerative diseases like<br />

Parkinson’s and dementia with<br />

Lewy bodies, and the factors<br />

that control disease progression. He hopes to translate<br />

his findings into new therapies that slow or stop this<br />

progression.<br />

Laurent Roybon, Ph.D.<br />

Associate Professor<br />

Studying complex diseases<br />

requires equally sophisticated<br />

tools. Dr. Laurent Roybon’s<br />

team develops robust cell-based<br />

models to enable breakthroughs<br />

in Parkinson’s and other age-related neurodegenerative<br />

diseases.<br />

Qiang Zhu, Ph.D.<br />

Assistant Professor<br />

Dr. Qiang Zhu investigates<br />

the genetic, epigenetic and<br />

cellular factors that lead to<br />

neurodegenerative diseases<br />

such as ALS and frontotemporal<br />

dementia. To date, his work has revealed the complex<br />

mechanisms underlying the most common genetic<br />

cause for both these diseases — an insight that has<br />

provided novel targets for the development of new<br />

therapies.<br />


20<br />


Van Andel Institute Principal Investigators<br />

Department of<br />

Cell Biology<br />

Our health, and consequently our lives, depend on the<br />

coordinated activities of our individual cells. Scientists in<br />

<strong>VAI</strong>’s Department of Cell Biology investigate how these<br />

cells grow, communicate, survive, assemble into tissues,<br />

respond to the environment, and change with age. Their<br />

transformative work aims to yield new diagnostic and<br />

treatment strategies to improve the quality of life for<br />

people with cancer, bone diseases and rare disorders.<br />

Tao Yang, Ph.D.<br />

Interim Chair and Associate Professor<br />

Dr. Tao Yang studies the signaling<br />

systems that govern skeletal stem<br />

cells and the role they play in<br />

diseases such as osteoarthritis<br />

and osteoporosis. Bones are<br />

the body’s largest producer of adult stem cells, which<br />

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

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

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

degenerative bone disorders and other skeletal aging.<br />

Matt Steensma, M.D.<br />

Associate Professor<br />

Dr. Matt Steensma studies the<br />

genetic and molecular factors<br />

that cause benign tumors to<br />

become cancers, in search<br />

of vulnerabilities that may<br />

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

practicing surgeon at Corewell Health Helen DeVos<br />

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

scientific discoveries into treatments that improve<br />

patients’ lives.<br />


22<br />

Stephanie Grainger, Ph.D.<br />

Assistant Professor<br />

Stem cells give rise to every cell<br />

type in the human body and play<br />

important roles in health and<br />

disease. Dr. Stephanie Grainger<br />

seeks to understand how these<br />

special cells develop, how they are maintained, and how<br />

they can become cancerous, with the goal of developing<br />

new strategies for combating cancer.<br />

Brian Haab, Ph.D.<br />

Professor<br />

Dr. Brian Haab searches for new<br />

ways to diagnose and stratify<br />

pancreatic cancers based on the<br />

chemical fingerprints tumors<br />

leave behind. Part of the problem<br />

Dr. Haab aims to solve is that cancers often look and<br />

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

people sick. Dr. Haab is sleuthing out clues to build<br />

a library of diagnostic tools that will help providers<br />

diagnose tumors earlier and optimize treatment.<br />

Bart Williams, Ph.D.<br />

Professor; Director, Core Technologies<br />

and Services<br />

Dr. Bart Williams studies the<br />

building blocks of bone growth<br />

on behalf of the millions<br />

suffering from diseases such<br />

as osteoporosis. He seeks new ways of altering<br />

cell signaling pathways to encourage healthy bone<br />

development and deter cancer spread to the skeleton.<br />

Dr. Williams also serves as director of <strong>VAI</strong>’s Core<br />

Technologies and Services, which provide technology<br />

and specialized expertise to Institute scientists and<br />

collaborators.<br />


Van Andel Institute Principal Investigators<br />

Department of<br />

Structural Biology<br />

Imagine standing on the moon and having eyes so<br />

powerful that you can clearly watch a tennis match on<br />

Earth. Now imagine using that same visual power to see<br />

down to the molecular level, and you have structural<br />

biology — a field that allows scientists to study the<br />

smallest components of life in exquisite detail.<br />

Determining the shape of these critical molecules is<br />

vital for understanding their function in health and<br />

disease. Scientists in Van Andel Institute’s Department of<br />

Structural Biology harness state-of-the-art techniques to<br />

visualize molecules that may serve as treatment targets<br />

for cancer, neurological disorders, metabolic diseases,<br />

infectious diseases and more.<br />

They’re revealing groundbreaking new insights into the<br />

most fundamental aspects of biology, from parsing the<br />

ways cells sense and respond to the environment to<br />

illuminating the intricacies of DNA replication. And they’re<br />

laying the foundations for new therapies by revealing how<br />

a drug molecule disables its target protein.<br />

Huilin Li, Ph.D.<br />

Chair and Professor<br />

Dr. Huilin Li uses cryo-electron<br />

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

the most basic building blocks<br />

of DNA replication and other<br />

systems vital for life. He has<br />

been at the vanguard of cryo-EM for more than<br />

20 years, and his research has implications for some<br />

of the world’s most critical public health concerns,<br />

including tuberculosis, cancer, mental illness, and<br />

many more.<br />

Juan Du, Ph.D.<br />

Associate Professor<br />

Dr. Juan Du seeks to<br />

understand the brain’s intricate<br />

communication systems using<br />

state-of-the-art structural<br />

biology approaches, such as cryo-<br />

EM. Her work has revealed new insights into critical<br />

processes such as temperature regulation in the human<br />

body, which has implications for development of new<br />

medications for neurological disorders.<br />

Wei Lü, Ph.D.<br />

Associate Professor<br />

Dr. Wei Lü is working to unravel<br />

how brain cells communicate<br />

with each other. Using techniques<br />

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

has contributed to the field’s<br />

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

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

Evan Worden, Ph.D.<br />

Assistant Professor<br />

Dr. Evan Worden leverages <strong>VAI</strong>’s<br />

powerful suite of cryo-electron<br />

microscopes to explore the<br />

complex molecular interactions<br />

that give rise to cancer. To date,<br />

his research has revealed novel insights into poorly<br />

understood regulatory elements in the genetic code<br />

and illuminated how aberrations in these processes can<br />

transform healthy cells into malignant ones.<br />

Department<br />

of Metabolism<br />

and Nutritional<br />

Programming<br />

For the human body to function properly, it must have the<br />

right amount of energy and resources in the right place at<br />

the right time. Every aspect of life is fueled by metabolism,<br />

a constant cascade of chemical reactions that ensure<br />

we have the energy to survive and thrive. But sometimes<br />

things go wrong, depriving our cells of the energy and<br />

resources required for healthy function.<br />

When energy production or distribution breaks down, the<br />

results can be catastrophic — diseases such as cancer,<br />

Parkinson’s and diabetes are all known to have varying<br />

degrees of metabolic involvement.<br />

Scientists in <strong>VAI</strong>’s Department of Metabolism and<br />

Nutritional Programming explore the intricate mechanics<br />

of cellular metabolism and their implications for health<br />

and in disease. Using cutting-edge techniques, they’re<br />

investigating metabolism’s interaction with other critical<br />

systems, such as the immune system, and revealing how<br />

environmental exposures and metabolic dysfunction<br />

contribute to diseases such as diabetes, autoimmunity,<br />

cancer and neurodegeneration. They’re also parsing<br />

the ripple effect that nutrition may have through the<br />

generations, exploring how our diets could lay the<br />

epigenetic foundations for the health of our descendants.<br />

Russell Jones, Ph.D.<br />

Chair and Professor<br />

Dr. Russell Jones investigates<br />

metabolism at the cellular level<br />

to understand how it affects<br />

cell behavior and health, with a<br />

specific eye on cancer and the<br />

immune system. By revealing how cancer cells use<br />

metabolic processes to fuel their growth and spread, he<br />

hopes to develop new treatments that help patients by<br />

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

Nick Burton, Ph.D.<br />

Assistant Professor<br />

Dr. Nick Burton explores how our<br />

environment, especially microbes,<br />

can impact our health and the<br />

health of our offspring — even<br />

before they are born. His research<br />

has extensive implications for understanding how<br />

epigenetics contributes to human disease and how the<br />

environment we are exposed to today affects not only<br />

our own health, but also our children’s.<br />

Connie Krawczyk, Ph.D.<br />

Associate Professor<br />

Dr. Connie Krawczyk investigates<br />

the links between metabolism,<br />

epigenetics and the immune<br />

system, with the goal of<br />

understanding how they work<br />

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

to promote disease.<br />

Adelheid Lempradl, Ph.D.<br />

Assistant Professor<br />

Dr. Adelheid Lempradl<br />

investigates how the dietary<br />

choices of parents may impact<br />

the health of their offspring<br />

in the hopes of translating her<br />

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

a healthier future.<br />

Evan Lien, Ph.D.<br />

Assistant Professor<br />

Cancer cells have voracious<br />

appetites for nutrients and<br />

energy, which they use to<br />

grow and spread. Dr. Evan<br />

Lien searches for ways to<br />

deprive tumors of their fuel sources by exploring the<br />

molecular and biochemical interactions between diet,<br />

metabolism and cancer with the goal of developing<br />

breakthrough prevention and treatment strategies.<br />

Sara Nowinski, Ph.D.<br />

Assistant Professor<br />

Dr. Sara Nowinski investigates<br />

how cells determine the<br />

amount of energy needed<br />

for everyday life and how<br />

they adjust to meet those<br />

requirements. Her research has uncovered new<br />

insights into the intricate balance between nutrient<br />

availability and cellular respiration — both critical<br />

components to maintaining health.<br />


24<br />


<strong>VAI</strong> scientists team up with high school students<br />

to solve the challenge of insulin resistance<br />

Dr. Nick Burton and his team are<br />

hunting for a Type 2 diabetes cure in<br />

their own backyards.<br />

And in parks.<br />

And in compost piles.<br />

Anywhere with soil, really.<br />

Why? Because the earth beneath our<br />

feet is a fertile hunting ground for<br />

undiscovered microbes, one of which<br />

may hold the key to combating a driving<br />

cause behind Type 2 diabetes — insulin<br />

resistance.<br />

The Burton Lab isn’t tackling this<br />

project alone. They enlisted the help<br />

of a passionate local science teacher<br />

and a trio of tenacious high school<br />

students, bringing together the potential<br />

of scientific discovery with real-world<br />

research experience.<br />

A growing challenge<br />

More than 35 million people in the<br />

U.S. — roughly 10% of the population<br />

— have Type 2 diabetes, according to<br />

the U.S. Centers for Disease Control<br />

and Prevention. 1 Another 96 million —<br />

or 38% — of people aged 18 and older<br />

have higher-than-normal blood sugar<br />

levels that put them at risk of developing<br />

diabetes. 1 The long-term consequences<br />

can be devastating; unless properly<br />

managed, diabetes can cause heart<br />

26<br />

disease, kidney failure, vision loss and<br />

mobility challenges. 2<br />

Type 2 diabetes arises when the body<br />

faces an influx of sugar over a long period<br />

of time. High blood sugar levels are<br />

dangerous and damaging, so the body<br />

compensates by pushing the pancreas to<br />

produce excess insulin, a hormone that<br />

keeps blood sugar in check. Much like a<br />

biological shepherd, insulin corrals sugar<br />

into cells for immediate use or to be<br />

stored until needed.<br />

After enough time under these<br />

conditions, cells can become insulin<br />

resistant — they no longer respond when<br />

insulin knocks at the proverbial door,<br />

resulting in higher blood sugar levels<br />

and, eventually, diabetes.<br />

It’s this issue of resistance that is the<br />

focal point of Burton’s work.<br />

“The goal of our project is to design<br />

or discover new ways to treat insulin<br />

resistance using strategies that already<br />

exist in nature,” Burton said. “We just<br />

have to find them.”<br />

Small but mighty<br />

The whole project hinges on worms.<br />

Nematodes to be exact.<br />

They’re called Caenorhabditis elegans,<br />

or C. elegans for short. Although small —<br />

they’re best viewed under a microscope<br />

— they offer scientists a powerful way to<br />

study health and sleuth out the causes of<br />

disease.<br />

To date, these tiny creatures have<br />

racked up an impressive resume: they<br />

are responsible for two Nobel Prizes<br />

in Physiology or Medicine as well as<br />

countless discoveries that shed light on<br />

diseases from cancer to neurological<br />

disorders. They’re ideal research models<br />

because they reproduce quickly, they’re<br />

easy to work with and, importantly, they<br />

share much of their biology with humans:<br />

roughly two-thirds of their genes have a<br />

human counterpart. 3<br />

“A lot of the basic mechanisms that any<br />

animal uses to regulate important things<br />

like insulin signaling exists in worms the<br />

same way it exists in humans,” Burton<br />

explains. “In fact, some of our knowledge<br />

about human insulin signaling actually<br />

comes from discoveries made in worms.”<br />

Importantly, C. elegans feed on bacteria.<br />

They’re not particularly picky eaters,<br />

which works out great for Burton and<br />

his team, because their project relies<br />

on finding microbes that possess a<br />

mechanism for combating insulin<br />

resistance. The trick is finding the right<br />

ones.<br />

That’s where the students come in.<br />

Scientific synergy<br />

Take one step into Heather DeJonge’s<br />

classroom at Lowell High School and you<br />

know you’re somewhere special.<br />

Student-drawn neon renderings of cells<br />

adorn the walls. Above the cabinets,<br />

models of the DNA double helix spiral<br />

toward the ceiling. A window at the back<br />

of the room looks out into a glass-roofed<br />

greenhouse filled with student-tended<br />

plants.<br />

And then there’s DeJonge herself.<br />

She’s an educational dynamo, a teacher<br />

who is deeply invested in fostering<br />

curiosity in her students. It’s clear after<br />

a few moments of conversation that she<br />

does more than teach science.<br />

She lives it.<br />

In summer 2014 and 2015, DeJonge<br />

worked at <strong>VAI</strong>, where she leveraged<br />

C. elegans to study impacts of aging on<br />

health. Then, in 2021, Burton arrived<br />

at <strong>VAI</strong> as an assistant professor from<br />

University of Cambridge in the U.K. He<br />

revitalized C. elegans research at the<br />

Institute and, during one of <strong>VAI</strong>’s High<br />

School Journal Clubs, met DeJonge.<br />

Together, they created a pilot program<br />

that would give students in DeJonge’s<br />

class real-world research experience<br />

while also helping Burton’s search for an<br />

insulin resistance fix.<br />

“There is deep value in students doing<br />

authentic research in high school,”<br />

DeJonge said. “They can actually<br />

contribute to something that’s not well<br />

understood yet.”<br />

The project is a far cry from the oftenstaid<br />

experiments that are standard in<br />

science curricula across the country.<br />

There’s no correct answer and no<br />

guarantee that students will find anything.<br />

Instead, there is the potential of discovery<br />

— and that’s a powerful motivator.<br />

“As a former high school student,<br />

I personally wasn’t excited about<br />

reproducing experiments when we already<br />

knew what the answers were supposed to<br />

be. At that point, you just fail or recreate<br />

something that’s already happened, but<br />

there’s no chance of discovery,” Burton<br />

said. “That’s what drives a lot of us who<br />

work in the lab everyday — that chance.”<br />

Real research, real impact<br />

Lauren “Ren” Pearson, Faith Van Duinen<br />

and McKenna Nietupski donned white<br />

lab coats before setting petri dishes<br />

packed with worms on the benchtop next<br />

to their microscopes. For weeks, these<br />

intrepid high school students braved the<br />

temperamental Michigan autumn to seek<br />

out soil samples to mine for bacteria. Some<br />

of the samples came from the high school’s<br />

lawn. Others hail from the Flat River that<br />

meanders through downtown Lowell.<br />

Several were sourced from Comstock Park,<br />

which borders the northeast side of <strong>VAI</strong>’s<br />

home city of Grand Rapids.<br />

Their guide for the project was Darrick<br />

Gates, a research technician in the Burton<br />



<strong>VAI</strong> Scientists team up with high school students<br />

to solve the challenge of insulin resistance<br />

Lab. Throughout fall 2022, Gates made<br />

the half-hour trek to Lowell to help the<br />

trio set up experiments, analyze what<br />

they’re seeing and talk through next<br />

steps.<br />

In their classroom lab, Gates helped the<br />

students add the bacteria they gathered<br />

to the plates to see how the worms react.<br />

Do they go about business as usual? Do<br />

they seem more active? Or do they seem<br />

sluggish and lethargic?<br />

The worms are canaries in a coal mine,<br />

bellwethers for breakthroughs. If insulinresistant<br />

worms get healthier in the<br />

presence of certain bacteria, that’s a sign<br />

that the microbes could have what it<br />

takes to curb insulin resistance.<br />

Regardless of the eventual results, the<br />

students say, it’s the journey and the<br />

possibility of finding something wholly<br />

unique that drives their work.<br />

“It really is a learning process. If you<br />

mess up one time, why did you mess up?<br />

I like going back to figure out what works<br />

and what doesn’t,” Van Duinen said.<br />

“That in itself can be an experiment.”<br />

Pearson jumps in: “There’s no wrong<br />

answer. There’s just a thousand notquite-right<br />

ones.”<br />

“And on top of that,” Nietupski adds, “I<br />

like how there’s always something new.<br />

28<br />

There will always be things that have not<br />

been discovered yet.”<br />

From Lowell to the lab<br />

Back at <strong>VAI</strong>, Gates and Burton gathered<br />

around a glowing computer monitor<br />

depicting a split-screen of two groups<br />

of worms, their images projected from<br />

a pair of plates sitting under a nearby<br />

microscope.<br />

Half are healthy and writhing. The other<br />

half are listless.<br />

All of them offer clues into the<br />

innerworkings of insulin resistance.<br />

While the students were hard at work in<br />

Lowell, Burton’s lab tackled the technical<br />

aspects of the project. This includes<br />

screening soil samples to identify known<br />

microbes and flag new ones. The most<br />

promising sample came from close<br />

to home — a compost pile in Gates’<br />

backyard.<br />

So far, the Burton Lab has found three<br />

bacteria with the potential to impact<br />

insulin resistance. The work is far from<br />

over — fully analyzing each one is an<br />

arduous process that can take a year or<br />

more.<br />

“Our dream is that we characterize these<br />

bacteria, and we find something that<br />

works,” Burton said. “In the long term,<br />

we want to translate our basic findings<br />

from the lab into the clinic where we can<br />

actually help people.”<br />

There is deep precedent for mining<br />

bacteria for new medicines. The<br />

antibiotics streptomycin, vancomycin<br />

and tetracycline were all derived from<br />

soil bacteria. 4 Rapamycin, which helps<br />

prevent rejection in organ transplants<br />

and has anti-cancer properties, was<br />

isolated from a bacterium dug from<br />

the soil of Rapa Nui, also known as<br />

Easter Island. 5 The chemotherapy agent<br />

bleomycin was discovered by scientists<br />

after screening Streptomyces bacteria in<br />

search of a species that could be used in<br />

drug development. 6<br />

That’s the kind of breakthrough Burton<br />

and his team are working toward.<br />

They’ve already had some exciting early<br />

results that Burton hopes to publish in<br />

a scientific journal sometime in the next<br />

year. Although the findings aren’t ready<br />

to be shared yet, the nature of research<br />

offers a tantalizing promise for what’s to<br />

come.<br />

The start of something big<br />

In many ways, this project is only the<br />

beginning.<br />

The beginning of a possible new way to<br />

treat insulin resistance and, with it, Type<br />

2 diabetes.<br />

The beginning of a collaboration<br />

designed to inspire curiosity.<br />

And, for many, the beginning of a fresh<br />

way to think about the ground beneath<br />

our feet.<br />

The power of science is rooted in the<br />

unknown and what we might find when<br />

we take the simple step of asking a<br />

question. For the students, the chance to<br />

contribute to real research has opened a<br />

new world of possibility, one that offers<br />

revelations for those who choose to<br />

search.<br />

“There really aren’t a ton of other<br />

schools that do what we’re doing with<br />

this,” said Pearson. “This has been an<br />

incredible opportunity to do some real<br />

scientific exploration in a setting where<br />

we’re supported by teachers, peers and<br />

incredible scientists.”<br />

As the analysis continues in Burton’s<br />

lab, there is a current of excitement,<br />

a constant hum of possibility that<br />

something unexpected could be right<br />

around the corner. What if a simple<br />

clod of dirt and the microbes within —<br />

from Lowell, from Grand Rapids, from<br />

Rockford — could be the key to a lifechanging<br />

breakthrough?<br />

“The possibilities are endless,” Burton<br />

said. “I can’t wait to see what comes<br />

next.”<br />

Funding Acknowledgement<br />

Research reported in this publication was supported by Van Andel Institute.<br />

References<br />

1<br />

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 2022. Type 2 diabetes. https://www.cdc.gov/diabetes/basics/type2.html.<br />

2<br />

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 2022. National Diabetes Statistics <strong>Report</strong>. https://www.cdc.gov/diabetes/<br />

data/statistics-report/index.html.<br />

3<br />

Zhang S, Li F, Zhou T, Wang G, Li Z. 2020. Caenorhabditis elegans as a useful model for studying aging mutations. Front<br />

Endocrinol 11.<br />

4<br />

Li W. 2020. Bacteria: The drug factory you’d never expect. Harvard University Science in the News. https://sitn.hms.<br />

harvard.edu/flash/2020/bacteria-the-drug-factory-youd-never-expect/.<br />

5<br />

Seto B. 2012. Rapamycin and mTOR: a serendipitous discovery and implications for breast cancer. Clin Transl Med 1:29.<br />

6<br />

American Chemical Society. 2020. Bleomycin. https://www.acs.org/molecule-of-the-week/archive/b/bleomycin.html.<br />



Graduate School<br />

Van Andel Institute Graduate School’s Ph.D. in<br />

molecular and cellular biology is a researchintensive,<br />

interdisciplinary program that prepares<br />

students for exceptional careers as independent<br />

investigators. The Graduate School combines<br />

extensive practical experience and rigorous scientific<br />

training with in-depth academic coursework and<br />

professional development — a powerful pairing that<br />

gives our students a springboard for success. By<br />

the end of their studies at the Institute, students<br />

graduate not only with a Ph.D., but also with the tools<br />

required to build a strong career as a biomedical<br />

scientist and research leader.<br />

Housed across the street from the Institute’s main<br />

facility and next to Van Andel Institute for Education,<br />

the Graduate School features modern classrooms<br />

and workstations designed to fuel collaboration. The<br />

flexible space is designed for comfortable growth<br />

and evolution, allowing students to tackle innovative<br />

approaches to learning.<br />

Graduate School by the numbers<br />

51 Students enrolled<br />

44 Students graduated (40 Ph.D.; 4 M.S.)<br />

1.25:1 Student:faculty ratio<br />

5.2 Years on average time to degree<br />

79% Cumulative graduation rate<br />

Numbers current as of September <strong>2023</strong>.<br />


30<br />


Van Andel Institute welcomes new<br />

Graduate School dean and chief academic officer<br />

Van Andel Institute appointed Dr. Eric C. Swindell as dean and chief academic<br />

officer of Van Andel Institute Graduate School.<br />

Swindell joined the Institute after a distinguished 25-year career in scientific<br />

research, with the past several years dedicated to leadership positions in biomedical<br />

graduate education. He brings a proven track record as a dynamic, energetic and<br />

motivational team builder who possesses a deep understanding of science graduate<br />

education and a robust commitment to collaboration and inclusiveness.<br />

“I am excited to join Van Andel Institute and honored to lead the Graduate School<br />

in continuing to train the scientific leaders of the future,” Swindell said. “The<br />

combination of cutting-edge research, innovative educational programming and the<br />

ability to make paradigm-shifting discoveries makes Van Andel Institute a unique<br />

home for all trainees.”<br />

Previously associate dean at the Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences at Baylor<br />

College of Medicine in Houston, Texas, Swindell comes to Van Andel Institute<br />

Graduate School with an extensive background in research as well as graduate<br />

education administration, including recruitment, admissions, academic affairs,<br />

promotions and curriculum. His experience includes academic leadership roles at<br />

the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center UTHealth Graduate School of<br />

Biomedical Sciences and UTHealth Houston.<br />

“There is no doubt Dr. Swindell will build on the Graduate School’s strong foundations<br />

to sustain and extend our impact on the scientists of tomorrow,” said Dr. Peter A.<br />

Jones, <strong>VAI</strong> chief scientific officer and Graduate School president. “His vision for the<br />

Graduate School’s future is bold and exciting. In close collaboration with our faculty,<br />

he will further elevate our ability to train graduate students to lead in academia and<br />

industry.”<br />

Swindell has deep technical expertise and has held research positions at Baylor<br />

College of Medicine, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Max Planck Institute<br />

and the University of Texas. The recipient of several prestigious awards and honors,<br />

Swindell has served on multiple academic and research committees and published<br />

several high-impact papers.<br />

Born in Bermuda, Swindell earned his undergraduate degree in microbiology from<br />

the University of Texas at Austin and his Ph.D. in biochemistry from Baylor College<br />

of Medicine. He completed postdoctoral training at the Massachusetts Institute of<br />

Technology and Baylor College of Medicine before joining the faculty at University of<br />

Texas McGovern Medical School.<br />

“His vision for the Graduate School’s future is bold and exciting. In<br />

close collaboration with our faculty, he will further elevate our ability<br />

to train graduate students to lead in academia and industry.”<br />

— Dr. Peter A. Jones<br />

“The combination of<br />

cutting-edge research,<br />

innovative educational<br />

programming and<br />

the ability to make<br />

paradigm-shifting<br />

discoveries makes<br />

Van Andel Institute an<br />

exceptional home for<br />

all trainees.”<br />

— Dr. Eric C. Swindell<br />


32<br />


Van Andel Institute<br />

for Education<br />





K-12 Education<br />

Van Andel Institute for Education brings the spirit of research into classrooms,<br />

building spaces where curiosity, creativity and critical thinking thrive. Through<br />

the development of inquiry-based approaches, <strong>VAI</strong> educators help teachers,<br />

administrators and parents elevate the next generation of problem solvers.<br />

Programs are designed to engage students at an intrinsic level while delivering<br />

innovative strategies for teachers, with a shared goal of promoting high-quality<br />

education for all. Students participate in authentic learning experiences that<br />

allow them to think critically and challenge themselves, all while having a healthy<br />

dose of fun. Our educators are committed to making the classroom a place<br />

where students and teachers want to be.<br />

<strong>2023</strong> HIGHLIGHTS<br />

Students discover what’s in their water<br />

<strong>VAI</strong> for Education worked alongside elementary students from Grand Rapids<br />

Christian as they learned about the valuable role watersheds play in maintaining<br />

a healthy water supply. <strong>VAI</strong>’s learning specialists led students through several<br />

activities in which they tested different methods of cleaning contaminated<br />

water and experimented with models of density. Once students had collected<br />

information, they worked together to share this newfound knowledge with the<br />

community using detailed and informative projects. The event taught students<br />

how learning could be memorable, meaningful and fun, and forged a promising<br />

collaboration between <strong>VAI</strong> and the Grand Rapids Christian Schools.<br />

Teachers and students shoot for the stars<br />

Michigan Great Lakes Virtual Academy (MGLVA) partnered with <strong>VAI</strong> for Education<br />

to host two Curiosity on Wheels events, which brings science experiences directly<br />

to the community. Students and their families had the opportunity to think and<br />

act like scientists and engineers while participating in a series of STEM-centered<br />

learning investigations. Additionally, more than 100 MGLVA educators attended<br />

<strong>VAI</strong>’s Flex PD learning sessions, where they experienced the benefits of projectbased<br />

learning, along with practical and approachable strategies for implementing<br />

science concepts in their classrooms.<br />

Welcoming inquiry-based educators<br />

Science on the Grand, <strong>VAI</strong>’s conference for inquiry-based educators, attracted<br />

157 participants from 17 states and Canada. This 35% increase in attendance from<br />

2022 underscores its value to educators and enthusiasts. One attendee shared,<br />

“Science on the Grand reminded me that science is for everyone, and the more<br />

we can make it place-based, engaging, cross curricular and infused in the arts<br />

and literature, the more success we’re going to have in teaching it and students<br />

retaining it.” Science on the Grand is committed to delivering research-based and<br />

classroom-tested content, bridging the gap between theory and practice. With<br />

its ability to adapt to the evolving needs of educators, Science on the Grand has<br />

become a cornerstone event in science education, promising continued impact for<br />

years to come.<br />

K–12 EDUCATION<br />

36<br />


K-12 Education<br />

Bringing science to<br />

summer camps<br />

Van Andel Institute for Education’s<br />

K–12 <strong>2023</strong> summer camps saw student<br />

attendance more than double:<br />

674 participants joined a one-day or<br />

four-day summer camp in science,<br />

engineering and robotics. With a<br />

stunning 182% growth rate over<br />

last year, these summer camps are<br />

demonstrating their incredible potential<br />

for future expansion and impact. Parents<br />

and students alike raved about the<br />

camps, which were spotlighted by local<br />

media outlets, further solidifying <strong>VAI</strong>’s<br />

reputation as a provider of exceptional<br />

K–12 STEM experiences.<br />

In <strong>2023</strong>, <strong>VAI</strong> for Education expanded its reach by:<br />

Serving 5,650 students: An increase of 102% over<br />

the previous school year.<br />

Serving 5,515 teachers in 12 states: a 139%<br />

increase over the previous school year.<br />

K–12 EDUCATION<br />

Engaging with 15,514 educators nationwide — a 59%<br />

increase over the previous school year — by providing<br />

free instructional resources such as Timely Topic Lessons,<br />

Thought Leadership Webinars, and more.<br />

38<br />


Events &<br />

Philanthropy<br />




Winterfest Celebration<br />

Grand Rapids’ winter extravaganza<br />

returned for the 18th year, combining<br />

food, cocktails and generosity to support<br />

Parkinson’s disease research. Guests<br />

were treated to an unforgettable dinner<br />

at the stunning Cascade Hills Country<br />

Club, along with the opportunity to bid on<br />

unique auction packages. This iconic event<br />

directly fuels groundbreaking research<br />

into Parkinson’s and life-changing new<br />

treatments.<br />

Thank you to our Title Sponsor, Buist<br />

Electric.<br />

Carol Van Andel Angel of Excellence<br />

Dinner & Award Presentation<br />

The annual Carol Van Andel Angel<br />

of Excellence Dinner & Award<br />

Presentation recognizes those who have<br />

demonstrated a strong commitment to<br />

<strong>VAI</strong>’s mission through volunteer service<br />

and philanthropic efforts. The award<br />

celebrates philanthropists, volunteers<br />

and advocates whose undeniable<br />

generosity and tireless determination<br />

furthers <strong>VAI</strong>’s ability to improve the<br />

health and enhance the lives of current<br />

and future generations. The <strong>2023</strong> award<br />

recipients were Holly Barker, Dr. Jim and<br />

Martie Bultman, Hope College, Howard<br />

Miller Company, and Jane Zwiers.<br />






















42<br />


Around the World<br />

Hosted by <strong>VAI</strong>’s JBoard Ambassadors,<br />

Around the World kickstarts the Grand<br />

Rapids summer with a combination<br />

of artisan wine and local food — all<br />

in support of Van Andel Institute for<br />

Education. The evening features fine<br />

wines from around the region, along<br />

with a presentation from <strong>VAI</strong> for<br />

Education, showcasing the curiosity,<br />

creativity and critical thinking possible<br />

with modern approaches to learning.<br />

Thank you to our Title Sponsor,<br />

Lake Michigan Credit Union.<br />

Fash Forward with Max Mara:<br />

Spring/Summer Fashion Show<br />

World-renowned Italian brand Max<br />

Mara returned to Grand Rapids for a<br />

one-of-a-kind fashion experience. The<br />

gathering featured an intimate lunch<br />

alongside an exclusive runway show<br />

featuring Max Mara’s Spring/Summer<br />

<strong>2023</strong> Collection. Guests received<br />

VIP access to a Max Mara shopping<br />

experience featuring a specially curated<br />

selection of the brand’s unique offerings.<br />

All proceeds directly funded biomedical<br />

research and education programs at the<br />

Institute.<br />
















44<br />


<strong>VAI</strong> Open —<br />

Corporate Charity Pickleball Event<br />

America's fastest growing sport,<br />

combined with support for biomedical<br />

research, made for a successful inaugural<br />

<strong>VAI</strong> Open, a round robin tournament<br />

held on the rooftop of the Amway Grand<br />

Plaza Hotel. Before the tournament,<br />

players gathered for an intimate dinner<br />

and auction at MDRD, all in support of<br />

research and education at the Institute.<br />

Thank you to our Presenting Sponsors,<br />

MDRD, Rooftop Pickleball and 20x44 Sports.<br />











46<br />


JBoard Member Mixer<br />

<strong>VAI</strong>’s JBoard Ambassadors are a group of<br />

vibrant early to mid-career professionals<br />

from Grand Rapids and beyond, all<br />

sharing in the belief of a brighter,<br />

healthier future. Together, they work<br />

to create a healthier tomorrow through<br />

<strong>VAI</strong>’s mission, supporting research and<br />

education at the Institute. Every year,<br />

JBoard members gather for a mixer<br />

featuring <strong>VAI</strong> postdoctoral fellows — the<br />

perfect opportunity to discuss ideas,<br />

passions and goals for the future.<br />

Van Andel<br />

Institute<br />

Golf Outing<br />

Returning to the stunning Wuskowhan<br />

Players Club, the <strong>VAI</strong> Golf Outing brought<br />

together community members, businesses<br />

and local organizations for an afternoon<br />

of golf and discovery. The event featured a<br />

drone-drop raffle, silent auction, dinner and<br />

golf tournament, along with remarks from<br />

this year’s guest speaker, Kavon Frazier, a<br />

six-year NFL veteran originally from Grand<br />

Rapids.<br />

Thank you to our Title Sponsor, the Timothy<br />

Long and William Mackay Group of Merrill<br />

Lynch.<br />



















48<br />


Couture for a Cure<br />

West Michigan’s signature evening of<br />

fashion, fun and philanthropy, Couture for<br />

a Cure returned for its 18th year. Co-hosts<br />

Carol Van Andel and Rebecca Wierda guided<br />

guests through a fashion presentation by<br />

Leigh's, featuring unique insight into the<br />

latest styles and trends, along with the latest<br />

products from Artistry. Couture welcomed<br />

featured designer SIMKHAI along with its<br />

founder Jonathan Simkhai for an exclusive<br />

look into the studio’s iconic garments. A<br />

strolling cocktail hour and silent auction<br />

allowed guests to interact, while those<br />

looking for fresh makeup inspiration and<br />

innovative skincare visited the Artistry<br />

beauty bar.<br />


Thank you to our Title Sponsor, Amway, and<br />

our Presenting Sponsors, Leigh’s and<br />

SIMKHAI.<br />












50<br />


Hope on the Hill Gala — Under the Sea<br />

Hope on the Hill, the Institute's signature<br />

gala, returned for its 23rd year, this<br />

time bringing guests deep into the blue<br />

depths of the ocean floor to unravel<br />

the mysteries of cancer, Parkinson’s<br />

and other diseases. Attendees enjoyed<br />

a selection of exquisite food and drinks<br />

while perusing a silent auction filled with<br />

unforgettable experiences and unique<br />

items. The evening featured stunning<br />

performances from classical singing<br />

sensation Victory Brinker — Guinness<br />

World Record’s Youngest Opera Singer<br />

and finalist on “America’s Got Talent.”<br />

Thank you to our Title Sponsor, Fifth<br />

Third Private Bank.<br />

A Conversation About Fueling Metabolism —<br />

Hosted by Carol Van Andel<br />

The word “metabolism” often inspires<br />

thoughts of food and diet — but it is much<br />

more than what we eat. Metabolism fuels<br />

our day-to-day lives, and problems with<br />

metabolism can contribute to disease.<br />

Carol Van Andel was joined by Maranda<br />

and Dr. Sara Nowinski for a discussion on<br />

metabolism and its effects on health.<br />

Thank you to our Title Sponsor, Howard<br />

Miller Company.<br />


















52<br />


Signature special event sponsors<br />

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

our mission throughout the year.<br />

Winterfest Celebration<br />

Rob & Dawn Arnoys<br />

Barnes & Thornburg LLP<br />

Bluewater Technologies<br />

Buist Electric<br />

Calamos Investments<br />

Jerry & Suzanne Callahan<br />

Custer Inc.<br />

Brian DeVries & Barbara Pugh<br />

The Doubleday Family Trust<br />

Edge Natural Resources LLC<br />

Ernst & Young<br />

FastSigns<br />

Fiduciary Financial Advisors<br />

Grand Rapids Christian Schools<br />

Jana Hall<br />

Harvey Automotive<br />

King Street Capital Management<br />

Lake Michigan Credit Union<br />

Macatawa Bank<br />

Michigan State University College of<br />

Human Medicine<br />

Michael & Sally Murdock<br />

Owen-Ames-Kimball Co.<br />

Pioneer Construction<br />

PL Capital Advisors, LLC<br />

Red Glasses Movement<br />

Rockford Construction<br />

Rycenga Building Center<br />

S. Abraham & Sons, Inc.<br />

SHARPE<br />

Straight Line Design<br />

Trillium Investments<br />

Trinity Health Grand Rapids<br />

Mike & Gayle VanGessel<br />

Warner Norcross + Judd LLP<br />

West Michigan Woman<br />

Robert & Karen Wiltz<br />

Around the World<br />

Alliance Beverage Distributing<br />

Jerry & Suzanne Callahan<br />

Blake Crabb<br />

Mimi Cummings<br />

David & Carol Van Andel Family<br />

Foundation<br />

Jeffrey & Kate DeLongchamp<br />

Brian DeVries & Barbara Pugh<br />

Eileen DeVries Family Foundation<br />

Element Four<br />

Greenridge Realty, Inc.<br />

Matt & Sarah Jones<br />

KM Online Marketing<br />

Lake Michigan Credit Union<br />

Leigh’s<br />

NVINT<br />

Studio M Interiors<br />

Tripp & Katie VanderWal<br />

West Michigan Woman<br />

Wicked Pro Events<br />

Fash Forward<br />

Brian DeVries & Barbara Pugh<br />

Max Mara<br />

Mark & Mary Beth Meijer<br />

Greg & Meg Willit<br />

<strong>VAI</strong> Open<br />

20x44 Sports<br />

AHC Hospitality<br />

Amway<br />

David & Carol Van Andel Family<br />

Foundation<br />

Eenhoorn<br />

Jojo+Lo Pickleball<br />

Kurt & Jena Lacks<br />

Tim & Kim Long<br />

MDRD<br />

Pioneer Construction<br />

Regal Financial Group<br />

Rockford Construction<br />

Rooftop Pickleball<br />

Steve & Cheryl Timyan<br />

Two by Four<br />

University of Michigan Health-West<br />

<strong>VAI</strong> Golf Outing<br />

Advantage Commercial Real Estate<br />

Berends Hendricks Stuit Insurance<br />

Agency Inc.<br />

Bluewater Technologies<br />

Custer Inc.<br />

David & Carol Van Andel Family<br />

Foundation<br />

The John Dykema & Michele<br />

Maly-Dykema Family Foundation<br />

Erhardt Construction<br />

First National Bank of Michigan<br />

Gallagher<br />

Grand Rapids Christian Schools<br />

Ben & Molly Hunting<br />

Life EMS Ambulance<br />

Loomis, Sayles & Company<br />

Macatawa Bank<br />

Making the Turn Against Parkinson’s<br />

McAlvey Merchant & Associates<br />

M.D. Sass Associates Inc.<br />

Merrill Lynch — Timothy Long &<br />

William Mackay<br />

Midwest Capital Advisors<br />

Northern Jet Management<br />

Pine Rest Christian Mental Health<br />

Services<br />

Priority Health<br />

Rockford Construction<br />

John & Therese Rowerdink<br />

Secrest Wardle<br />

SHARPE<br />

Standard Supply & Lumber/Zeeland<br />

Lumber<br />

Tom & Mary Stuit<br />

Summit Point Roofing<br />

University of Michigan Health-West<br />

US Bank<br />

Dave & Beth VanPortfliet<br />

Wells Fargo<br />

West Michigan Woman<br />

Couture for a Cure<br />

Acrisure<br />

Amway<br />

Andy J. Egan Co.<br />

Bengtson Center for Aesthetics &<br />

Plastic Surgery<br />

Bluewater Technologies<br />

Chuck & Christine Boelkins<br />

Dan & Sherry Bowen<br />

Cheeky Strut<br />

Coldwell Banker Schmidt Realtors<br />

CWD Real Estate Investment<br />

Davenport University<br />

David & Carol Van Andel Family<br />

Foundation<br />

Jeffrey & Kate DeLongchamp<br />

Brian DeVries & Barbara Pugh<br />

Eileen DeVries Family Foundation<br />

Eurest<br />

First National Bank of Michigan<br />

Gallagher<br />

Patti Griswold<br />

Jana Hall<br />

Kurt & Madelon Hassberger<br />

Paul & Sheryl Haverkate<br />

Dave & Donna Hockstra<br />

J.C. & Tammy Huizenga<br />

Bill & Starr Humphries<br />

Jandernoa Foundation<br />

Jeffery Roberts Design<br />

Dr. Peter & Veronica Jones<br />

Kool Auto Group<br />

Lake Michigan Credit Union<br />

Leigh’s<br />

Life EMS Ambulance<br />

McAlvey Merchant & Associates<br />

Pediatric Dental Specialists of<br />

West Michigan<br />

Alanna Rynders<br />

Scott Group Studio<br />

SHARPE<br />


Jack & Lori Skoog<br />

Scott & Jan Spoelhof<br />

The Steve & Amy Van Andel Foundation<br />

Trinity Health Grand Rapids<br />

Sharon Van Dellen<br />

Mike & Gayle VanGessel<br />

Brian & Colleen Walker<br />

Vicky Weller<br />

West Michigan Woman<br />

Greg & Meg Willit<br />

XYZ Motors<br />

Hope on the Hill — Under the Sea<br />

Al & Robin Koop Foundation<br />

Amway<br />

Aon<br />

Bill & Amy Bennett<br />

Betz Industries<br />

BHS Insurance<br />

Dave & Jill Bielema<br />

Bluewater Technologies<br />

Chuck & Christine Boelkins<br />

Buist Electric<br />

Jerry & Suzanne Callahan<br />

Ryan & Jessica Cook<br />

Mimi Cummings<br />

Tom & Tracy Curran<br />

Custer Inc.<br />

David & Carol Van Andel Family<br />

Foundation<br />

Discovery Financial<br />

Eenhoorn<br />

Ellis Parking Company<br />

Ferris State University<br />

Fifth Third Private Bank<br />

Fox Family Foundation<br />

Gallagher<br />

Grand Rapids Christian Schools<br />

Grand Valley State University<br />

Martin & Peggy Greydanus<br />

Jana Hall<br />

Hansen/Balk Steel Treating Co.<br />

Hope College<br />

Howard Miller Company<br />

J.C. & Tammy Huizenga<br />

Ice Guru<br />

ICN Foundation<br />

Jandernoa Foundation<br />

John Ball Zoo<br />

Matt & Sarah Jones<br />

Dr. Peter & Veronica Jones<br />

John & Nancy Kennedy<br />

Craig & Debra Kinney<br />

Josh & Connie Kooistra<br />

Blake & Mary Krueger<br />

John & Katie Kuiper<br />

Lake Michigan Credit Union<br />

Ray & Jeannine Lanning<br />

Gary & Vicky Ludema<br />

Macatawa Bank<br />

Meijer<br />

The Meijer Foundation<br />

Merrill Lynch — Timothy Long &<br />

William Mackay<br />

Michigan State University College of<br />

Human Medicine<br />

New Holland Brewing Co.<br />

NPF Investment Advisors<br />

Owen-Ames-Kimball Co.<br />

PageWorks<br />

Peter C. & Emajean Cook Foundation<br />

Pioneer Construction<br />

Pitsch Companies<br />

Plastic Surgery Associates<br />

Priority Health<br />

Quality Air Service, Inc.<br />

Rockford Construction<br />

Eve Rogus & Paul Becker in memory of<br />

Clementine “Teenie” Rogus<br />

Rowerdink Inc<br />

Tony & Dawn Semple<br />

SHARPE<br />

David & Linda Spencer<br />

Rob & Susan Stafford<br />

Steelcase<br />

Stephen Klotz Family Foundation<br />

Duke Suwyn<br />

Trinity Health<br />

University of Michigan Health-West<br />

Mike & Michelle Van Dyke<br />

Dan & Ann Van Eerden<br />

Bob & Grace VanTimmeren<br />

Christian & Kara VerMeulen<br />

Warner Norcross + Judd LLP<br />

Wells Fargo<br />

West Michigan Woman<br />

Williams Family<br />

Greg & Meg Willit<br />

Wolverine Worldwide<br />

Jim & Jane Zwiers<br />

A Conversation About Fueling<br />

Metabolism<br />

Amway<br />

Cornerstone University<br />

Gallagher<br />

Grand Rapids African American<br />

Health Institute<br />

Howard Miller Company<br />

Kent County Medical Society Alliance<br />

Leigh’s<br />

Truscott Rossman<br />

Wedgewood Christian Services<br />

West Michigan Woman<br />

Western Theological Seminary<br />


54<br />


Nurturing education & science in Grand Rapids<br />

Throughout Beatrice “Bea” Idema’s life she believed in helping others. In 2010, her passion took on a new shape<br />

through the founding of the Bea Aldrink Idema Foundation, a nonprofit organization dedicated to supporting a<br />

variety of causes with an emphasis on education. Over the last decade, the Foundation has supported projects and<br />

organizations across West Michigan — including Van Andel Institute — partnering with those who share Idema’s<br />

bright vision for the region.<br />

The foundation’s members are Peter, Chad, and Vincent Versluis, and Tonya Williamson. They actively seek out<br />

causes that they believe will have a substantial impact on the community, causes that share Bea’s vision of making<br />

West Michigan a great place to live.<br />

The BAI Foundation believes that children are our greatest assets. It is a guiding principle for various partnerships,<br />

including multiple years supporting <strong>VAI</strong>’s K–12 education programs. The Foundation’s generosity has bolstered<br />

student programs such as summer camps and field trips, while also enhancing teacher capacity by supporting the<br />

development of thought-provoking and practical classroom resources, including teacher webinars.<br />

Particularly when it comes to science, Peter and Tonya believe in hands-on opportunities for students. “The<br />

experience beyond the classroom is increasingly important,” Peter said. “We have been able to see and even<br />

participate in the field trip activities at <strong>VAI</strong>. It was the perfect mix being both challenging and fun.”<br />

<strong>VAI</strong> offers a unique opportunity to have hands-on learning in a real scientific setting. The education facilities are<br />

adjacent to the Institute’s main building, where scientists from around the world are researching diseases that<br />

affect almost everyone, including cancer and Parkinson’s. The aim of the BAI partnership with <strong>VAI</strong> is to equip a new<br />

generation of future scientists to take up the baton and continue the race.<br />

For the siblings, leading the foundation in the name of their aunt is challenging and rewarding, Tonya said.<br />

Together, they’re working to further Bea’s vision of a healthier, smarter, and brighter Grand Rapids, and they believe<br />

supporting education is one of the best ways to make an impact.<br />

“The experience<br />

beyond the classroom<br />

is increasingly<br />

important. We have<br />

been able to see and<br />

even participate in<br />

the field trip activities<br />

at <strong>VAI</strong>. It was the<br />

perfect mix being both<br />

challenging and fun.”<br />

— Peter Versluis<br />


“Bea believed in the people of West Michigan, and so do we,” Tonya said. “Every step we take moves the city forward,<br />

making it a desirable place to live while it maintains its values and charm.”<br />


56<br />


At the crossroads of<br />

community & research<br />

For more than a decade, Matt Cook has worked to empower<br />

communities. As the vice president of community relations<br />

at Lake Michigan Credit Union (LMCU), he oversees the<br />

organization’s efforts in philanthropy, sponsorships and<br />

volunteerism — a task that would lead to a partnership with<br />

Van Andel Institute.<br />

LMCU, which is celebrating its 90th year, was founded by a Grand<br />

Rapids Public Schools teacher, Cook said, which cemented its deep<br />

values of community support from the very beginning. Outreach<br />

started with a focus on employee volunteering, with staff sharing<br />

their time and talents when able. Since then, LMCU’s efforts have<br />

grown to encompass events, partnerships and an increasing number<br />

of volunteers.<br />

“It’s rather incredible, because we can tell people this is<br />

happening in their state, county, maybe even the very<br />

city they’re in,” Cook said. “It’s a mission they believe in,<br />

they can see the work being done, and it’s happening<br />

close to home — it connects all the dots.”<br />

Since then, LMCU has deepened its partnership<br />

with <strong>VAI</strong>, with more than 15 years of support for<br />

the Institute’s signature events. LMCU is the title<br />

sponsor for Around the World, a celebration of summer<br />

benefiting Van Andel Institute for Education’s K-12<br />

programs. Keeping with its founding values, LMCU’s<br />

sponsorship helps create classrooms where curiosity,<br />

creativity and critical thinking thrive.<br />

<strong>VAI</strong>’s inquiry-based learning professional development<br />

opportunities.<br />

In 2019, <strong>VAI</strong>’s mission became even more personal, as<br />

Cook’s father-in-law was diagnosed with Parkinson’s<br />

disease. His family began to dig deeper into <strong>VAI</strong>’s<br />

research by attending the Institute’s free Public<br />

Lecture Series, speaking with scientists at events and<br />

reading the Institute’s publications to get a better<br />

understanding of the disease. Cook described <strong>VAI</strong> as a<br />

“unique gem,” a place that he and his family could use<br />

to support Parkinson’s research while gaining a deeper<br />

understanding of the disease.<br />

“As a family, and as a community, it’s really important<br />

to have <strong>VAI</strong> as a conduit for biomedical research and<br />

learning,” Cook said. “You think about the development<br />

taking place along Medical Mile and wonder if those<br />

things would even exist without the initial investment<br />

to start the Institute. From a donor and personal<br />

perspective, you build a connection with the cause<br />

because you get to see the scientists and leaders that<br />

are making the research happen.”<br />


“We’re a not-for-profit institution that recognizes our employees and<br />

members are a part of the communities we serve,” Cook said. “We<br />

need to continue to invest in those communities to ensure they are<br />

thriving.”<br />

That outreach coincided with the start of another group that<br />

supports grassroots outreach, <strong>VAI</strong> Purple Community. Purple<br />

Community is a dynamic community awareness and fundraising<br />

program that connects individuals, schools, teams and companies<br />

with the resources needed to take action.<br />

LMCU has been a part of Purple Community nearly since its<br />

inception, Cook said. The credit union played a key role during some<br />

of the earliest days, gathering volunteers from their branches to<br />

support events at local schools. They provided logistical support<br />

too, gathering donations in a way that felt safe and efficient for<br />

community members.<br />


Their support doesn’t end there — LMCU is a longtime<br />

sponsor of Couture for a Cure, Grand Rapid’s fashion<br />

extravaganza, and Hope on the Hill, the Institute’s gala<br />

honoring science, discovery and the heroes working to<br />

understand disease. LMCU is still guiding community<br />

outreach efforts, bringing volunteers and support to<br />

the Grand Rapids Griffins Purple Community Game and<br />

other <strong>VAI</strong> and Purple Community events.<br />

“These gatherings help keep the Institute moving<br />

forward, connecting scientists, businesses and<br />

organizations to build the network we need to detangle<br />

these diseases — and it’s an honor to say LMCU plays a<br />

part in making the events happen,” Cook said.<br />

Cook shares his own connection to the Institute beyond<br />

his role at LMCU. He’s been a part of <strong>VAI</strong>’s JBoard<br />

Ambassadors and regularly attends <strong>VAI</strong>’s events — you’ll<br />

even see his family deep dive into STEM every year<br />

at Curiosity Hour. They even carry <strong>VAI</strong>’s passion for<br />

science education beyond the event: His wife, Carlie, is<br />

a high school science teacher, and has participated in<br />

58<br />


Supporting a shared mission<br />

Matt and Sarah Jones knew the surface details of Van Andel Institute but for<br />

years, they didn’t have the opportunity to learn about its work beyond what they<br />

saw of the building. Years later, when they moved back to Grand Rapids, they<br />

searched for a place to get involved and make an impact. <strong>VAI</strong> was the perfect<br />

match.<br />

“Looking back now, there really is nothing quite like the Institute,” Sarah said. “It’s a<br />

place we can support right in our backyard while knowing it has a worldwide impact.”<br />

The couple first became involved by joining the JBoard, <strong>VAI</strong>’s network of early<br />

and mid-career professionals in 2020. It was an unusual time, as the COVID-19<br />

pandemic disrupted in-person gatherings and events. For their first year as JBoard<br />

Ambassadors, the couple could only experience virtual events. While it wasn’t what<br />

they originally expected, the virtual gatherings still proved fruitful.<br />

Their increasing involvement is driven by an endless desire to improve the world<br />

around them. Both Matt and Sarah have seen family and friends come face-to-face<br />

with disease, experiences that shape their belief in biomedical research.<br />

“Even when I don’t understand every bit of the science, I still hear the mission — that’s<br />

what I love about the scientists, you can tell they’re truly passionate about being<br />

here,” Matt said.<br />

Meeting scientists, postdoctoral fellows and graduate students brings a valuable<br />

personal touch to the Jones’ relationship with <strong>VAI</strong>. For Sarah, a Grand Rapids native,<br />

it’s an opportunity to see beyond the Purple Community events she heard of as a<br />

child. Learning more about the research and hearing it’s taking place in her home<br />

makes it easy to support the mission.<br />

“You hear of scientists and students coming from around the world because of<br />

the Institute. It’s inspiring, and you have to imagine it’s driving bigger and better<br />

things for Grand Rapids.” — Sarah Jones<br />


“Those early virtual events gave us the opportunity to focus entirely on hearing about<br />

the science, something that was incredibly important to us,” Matt said. “Everything<br />

was a bit more difficult back then, but hearing about the research was inspiring, and it<br />

made it clear to us that we were in the right place.”<br />

In the years since, they have stepped up their commitment to the Institute, not only<br />

by attending gatherings but also by donating auction packages and sponsoring events.<br />

Sarah is also a part of the Around the World planning committee, helping organize the<br />

JBoard Ambassadors’ kickoff to summer.<br />

Together, they’re excited to see that mission grow beyond the walls of the Institute.<br />

They aim to continue supporting <strong>VAI</strong>, attending events and providing a helping hand<br />

when able — and they’re eager to see how the Institute and city evolve.<br />

“You hear of scientists and students coming from around the world because of the<br />

Institute,” Sarah said. “It’s inspiring, and you have to imagine it’s driving bigger and<br />

better things for Grand Rapids.”<br />

60<br />


A Mini fandom with major impact<br />

Passion comes in all forms. For some, it’s sports or<br />

books, but for Jim Cvelbar, it’s a deep love for his<br />

Mini Cooper vehicle. This love led him to drive more<br />

than 57,000 miles around the country to various Mini<br />

gatherings — and eventually start raising thousands<br />

of dollars for biomedical research at Van Andel<br />

Institute.<br />

Cvelbar purchased his first Mini in 2015, and driving it<br />

instantly became one of his favorite hobbies. He found<br />

himself deeply fascinated by every aspect of the Mini,<br />

from its unique handling to the radical paint jobs many<br />

owners employ to customize their vehicles. He wanted<br />

to meet other drivers, see more cars and be a part of a<br />

community. While there was a “Mini Enthusiast” club,<br />

the members weren’t active, Cvelbar said, and he wanted<br />

a group that would do things, ideally using the passion<br />

for the vehicles for something greater.<br />

”We have these cars that stand out and are a blast to<br />

drive,” Cvelbar said. “They’re designed to be fun, so we<br />

should be having fun with them.”<br />

In 2016, Cvelbar co-founded the Northeast Ohio<br />

MINIacs, a group dedicated to building a passionate Mini<br />

community. It started small — ice cream meetups with<br />

five, maybe 10 Minis showing up to snap some photos<br />

and share a few stories. Since then, the group has grown<br />

to a community of more than 2,500 members, with some<br />

joining from far beyond the Northeast Ohio area.<br />

As the NEO MINIacs traveled across the Midwest,<br />

Cvelbar started to notice larger, more organized events.<br />

This was the first time he saw the MINIacs as something<br />

more than a group of passionate Mini owners, he said.<br />

62<br />

“We saw these events that weren’t just a ton of fun,<br />

but were using Minis to raise money for charity,<br />

support local businesses and do something for the<br />

communities they live in,” Cvelbar said.<br />

The group began looking for bigger experiences,<br />

ideally ones that backed a worthwhile cause. In 2017,<br />

Cvelbar heard of MINI on the Mack, an event that<br />

gathers thousands of Minis at the Mackinac Bridge in<br />

an attempt to break the world record for the largest<br />

Mini parade, all while raising funds for the biomedical<br />

research initiatives taking place at <strong>VAI</strong>. The event is<br />

sponsored by MINI dealer and <strong>VAI</strong> supporter SHARPE,<br />

bringing an elevated level of expertise for those<br />

looking to learn more about Minis. The NEO MINIacs<br />

knew they had to be there, and Cvelbar led a group of<br />

18 cars from Cleveland to Mackinaw City.<br />

“We felt like celebrities,” Cvelbar said. “People<br />

everywhere were taking photos of our cars, and it was<br />

incredible to see so many other passionate drivers<br />

gathered for a good cause.”<br />

Cvelbar found the gathering particularly emotional,<br />

as his mother is a cancer survivor. It was breathtaking<br />

to see thousands of people sharing in his interest, he<br />

said, all while knowing they’re here to support a better<br />

future.<br />

“I’m lucky to say my mom had — yes, had! — cancer,<br />

and it’s because of the research and treatments that<br />

have come from supporting organizations like<br />

Van Andel Institute.”<br />

Cvelbar and the NEO MINIacs returned to the<br />

Mackinac Bridge in August, where the event raised<br />

more than $31,000 for <strong>VAI</strong>.<br />

“I’m lucky to say<br />

my mom had —<br />

yes, had! — cancer,<br />

and it’s because of<br />

the research and<br />

treatments that have<br />

come from supporting<br />

organizations like<br />

Van Andel Institute.”<br />

— Jim Cvelbar<br />



Philanthropy<br />

Circle of Hope Anonymous (6)<br />

The Jay and Betty Van Andel Circle of Hope<br />

recognizes those who have included<br />

Van Andel Institute in their will, trust or other<br />

estate plans. Through our acknowledgment of<br />

and gratitude to these exceptional people, we<br />

hope that their generosity will inspire others.<br />

(Members as of December <strong>2023</strong>.)<br />

By the numbers<br />

Gasper Amodeo*<br />

Vivian Anderson*<br />

Stanley* & Blanche* Ash<br />

Kevin & Michelle Bassett<br />

Philip* & Shirley Battershall<br />

John* & Nancy Batts<br />

Frederick* & Julie* Bogaert<br />

John* & Sharon* Bouma<br />

Dr. Jim & Martie Bultman<br />

Jerry & Suzanne Callahan<br />

William & Marilyn<br />

Crawford<br />

Dr. Glenn & Patrice<br />

Deibert<br />

Barbara Erhards<br />

J. Scott Grill*<br />

Jana Hall<br />

Joan Hammersmith*<br />

Terry & Jacklyn Hickman<br />

Arthur J. Jabury*<br />

Maryanna Johnson<br />

Karen S. Kamerschen, Ph.D.<br />

& Robert E. Pearson, M.D.*<br />

Dennis* & Joanne* Kozarek<br />

Reneé Kuipers*<br />

Bertil Kenneth Larm*<br />

Timothy & Kimberly Long<br />

Donald* & Kathleen Maine<br />

Jamie Mills & James Nichols<br />

LG* & Helen* Myers<br />

Robert* & Lorraine* Nyhoff<br />

Steven & Melissa Ozinga<br />

Jill & Ken Peirce<br />

Jone Phillips*<br />

Donna Rosa<br />

Ronald & Mary Rutkowski<br />

Alan Ryan*<br />

Tom & Barbara Shaw<br />

Ralph Siegel*<br />

George Sietsema*<br />

Eva Sonneville*<br />

Alvin* & Hylda* Tuuk<br />

John Van Fossen<br />

John J. Visser*<br />

Robert* & Greta*<br />

Wellington<br />

Carol Winton*<br />

John Wisneski*<br />

*Indicates deceased<br />

Circle of Hope member<br />

Institute Leadership Team<br />

David Van Andel<br />

Chairman & Chief Executive Officer<br />

David Van Andel played a prominent role in bringing professional hockey<br />

back to Grand Rapids in 1996. He is co-owner and chairman of the twotime<br />

Calder Cup champion Griffins.<br />

Van Andel is chairman and CEO of Van Andel Institute in Grand Rapids.<br />

He is also an entrepreneur involved in several other business interests in<br />

the natural and life science products industries. He currently serves as<br />

a member of Amway’s Board of Directors on its Executive, Governance<br />

and Audit committees. He is also active in numerous business, cultural<br />

and community organizations including The Right Place Economic<br />

Development Agency and The Economic Club of Grand Rapids.<br />

Van Andel was born and raised in Grand Rapids, and he graduated from<br />

Hope College in Holland, Michigan. He and his wife, Carol, have four<br />

children and three grandchildren.<br />

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

Chief Scientific Officer; President,<br />

Van Andel Institute Graduate School<br />

Jerry Callahan, Ph.D., MBA<br />

Chief Strategic Officer<br />

Thomas R. Curran, Jr., J.D.<br />

General Counsel<br />

Jana Hall, Ph.D., MBA<br />

Chief Operations Officer<br />

Timothy Myers, MBA, CPA<br />

Vice President & Chief Financial Officer<br />

Sam Pinto<br />

Vice President & Chief Facilities Officer<br />

Craig Reynolds<br />

Vice President for Research Protections<br />

Terra Tarango<br />

Director & Chief Education Officer,<br />

Van Andel Institute for Education<br />

Eric C. Swindell, Ph.D.<br />

Dean & Chief Academic Officer,<br />

Van Andel Institute Graduate School<br />

Kathleen Vogelsang, CFA, MBA<br />

Chief Investment Officer<br />

Linda Zarzecki<br />

Vice President of Human Resources<br />


<strong>VAI</strong> <strong>VAI</strong> Operating Revenues<br />

63%<br />

1%<br />

5%<br />

31%<br />

$79,000K<br />

$38,000K<br />

$6,000K<br />

$1,800K<br />

Investment return<br />

utilized<br />

Grant Other & contract revenues<br />

revenue<br />

Contributions Investment return utilized<br />

Other Grant revenues & contract revenue<br />

33%<br />

Operating <strong>VAI</strong> Operating Expenses Expenses<br />

5%<br />

62%<br />

$71,600K<br />

Research<br />

Education<br />

Management,<br />

$38,700K<br />

general & other<br />

Management, general & other<br />

$5,200K<br />

Education<br />

Research<br />

Designated Gifts | $4,858K Total<br />

Unrestricted<br />

65%<br />

14%<br />

4%<br />

2%<br />

11%<br />

4%<br />

$3,135.8K<br />

$700.6K<br />

$538.6K<br />

$200K<br />

$179.3K<br />

Other<br />

Unrestricted<br />

Neurodegenerative<br />

Internship Cancer Program<br />

Education Neurodegenerative<br />

Internship program<br />

Cancer<br />

Other (includes scientific event<br />

sponsorships & Metabolism)<br />

Contributions<br />

$103.6K<br />

Education<br />

64<br />


Van Andel Institute Board Members<br />

Van Andel Institute<br />

Trustees<br />

David Van Andel<br />

Chairman & Chief Executive Officer,<br />

Van Andel Institute<br />

Connie Chang, MBA<br />

Chief Operating Officer, ONL Therapeutics<br />

John Kennedy, MBA<br />

President & Chief Executive Officer, Autocam Medical<br />

Mark D. Meijer<br />

Founder & President, Life E.M.S. Ambulance<br />

Van Andel Research<br />

Institute Trustees<br />

David Van Andel<br />

Chairman & Chief Executive Officer,<br />

Van Andel Institute<br />

Ralph Deberardinis, M.D., Ph.D.<br />

Chief of Pediatric Genetics & Metabolism,<br />

University of Texas Southwestern; &<br />

Endowed Chair, University of Texas Southwestern<br />

Medical Center, Howard Hughes Fellow<br />

James B. Fahner, M.D.<br />

Division Chief of Pediatric Hematology & Oncology,<br />

Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital & Spectrum Health<br />

Medical Group; Associate Professor, Department of<br />

Pediatrics, Michigan State University<br />

Michelle M. Le Beau, Ph.D.<br />

Chief Scientific Officer, Cancer Prevention &<br />

Research Institute of Texas<br />

Max S. Wicha, M.D.<br />

Madeline and Sidney Forbes Professor of Oncology,<br />

University of Michigan Rogel Cancer Center —<br />

Michigan Medicine<br />

Van Andel Education<br />

Institute Trustees<br />

David Van Andel<br />

Chairman & Chief Executive Officer,<br />

Van Andel Institute<br />

James E. Bultman, Ed.D.<br />

President Emeritus, Hope College<br />

Susan Meell<br />

Chief Executive Officer, MMS Education<br />

Juan R. Olivarez, Ph.D.<br />

President Emeritus, Aquinas College<br />

Teresa Weatherall Neal, Ed.D.<br />

Former Superintendent, Grand Rapids Public Schools<br />

Van Andel Institute Graduate<br />

School Board of Directors<br />

Maria Cimitile, Ph.D.<br />

Professor of Philosophy, Honors College,<br />

Grand Valley State University<br />

James B. Fahner, M.D.<br />

Division Chief of Pediatric Hematology & Oncology,<br />

Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital & Spectrum Health<br />

Medical Group; Associate Professor, Department of<br />

Pediatrics, Michigan State University<br />

Peggy Farnham, Ph.D.<br />

William M. Keck Professor of Biochemistry and Chair,<br />

Department of Biochemistry & Molecular Medicine,<br />

Keck School of Medicine, University of Southern<br />

California; Vice Dean for Health & Biomedical Science<br />

Education, Keck School of Medicine, University of<br />

Southern California<br />

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

Chief Scientific Officer, Van Andel Institute;<br />

President, Van Andel Institute Graduate School<br />

Juan R. Olivarez, Ph.D.<br />

President Emeritus, Aquinas College<br />

Mary O’Riordan, Ph.D.<br />

Vice Chair of the Board; Associate Dean of Graduate<br />

& Postdoctoral Studies & Frederick C. Neidhardt<br />

Collegiate Professor of Microbiology and Immunology,<br />

University of Michigan Medical School<br />

Candace T. Smith-King, M.D.<br />

Vice President, Corewell Health Academic Affairs,<br />

Corewell Health System; Pediatric Specialist, Helen<br />

DeVos Children’s Hospital<br />

Van Andel Research Institute<br />

External Scientific Advisory Board<br />

Sharon Y.R. Dent, Ph.D. (ESAB Chair)<br />

Professor & Chair, Department of Epigenetics &<br />

Molecular Carcinogenesis; Director, Science Park;<br />

Director, Center for Cancer Epigenetics, MD Anderson<br />

Cancer Center<br />

Xiaodong Cheng, Ph.D.<br />

Professor, Department of Molecular & Cellular<br />

Oncology, The University of Texas MD Anderson<br />

Cancer Center<br />

Ted Dawson, M.D., Ph.D.<br />

Professor, Departments of Neurology, Neuroscience<br />

& Pharmacology & Molecular Sciences, Johns Hopkins<br />

University; Director, Institute for Cell Engineering,<br />

Johns Hopkins University<br />

Joseph Ecker, Ph.D.<br />

Professor, Plant Molecular & Cellular Biology<br />

Laboratory Director, Genomic Analysis Laboratory<br />

Howard Hughes Medical Institute Investigator, Salk<br />

International Council Chair in Genetics, Salk Institute<br />

Theresa Guise, M.D.<br />

Professor, Department of Endocrine Neoplasia &<br />

Hormonal Disorders Chief, Section of Bone & Mineral<br />

Disorders, The University of Texas MD Anderson<br />

Cancer Center Cancer Prevention Research Institute<br />

of Texas (CPRIT); Scholar Co-Director of the Rolanette<br />

& Berdon Lawrence Bone Disease Program of Texas;<br />

Co-Leader, Tumor Microenvironment & Metastasis<br />

program of the IU Simon Cancer Center, NCI<br />

Comprehensive Cancer Center<br />

Tony Hunter, Ph.D.<br />

Professor, Molecular & Cell Biology Laboratory;<br />

American Cancer Society Professor; Renato<br />

Dulbecco Chair; Director, Salk Institute Cancer<br />

Center<br />

Anthony E. Lang, O.C., M.D., FRCPC, FAAN, FCAHS,<br />

FRSC<br />

Director, Edmond J. Safra Program in Parkinson’s<br />

Disease Toronto Western Hospital<br />

Mitchell Lazar, M.D., Ph.D.<br />

Willard & Rhoda Ware Professor In Diabetes &<br />

Metabolic Diseases, Perelman School of Medicine,<br />

University of Pennsylvania<br />

Thomas J. Montine, M.D., Ph.D.<br />

Chair, Department of Pathology, Stanford University<br />

Pathology Professor, Stanford Medicine<br />

Max S. Wicha, M.D.<br />

Madeline and Sidney Forbes Professor of Oncology,<br />

University of Michigan Rogel Cancer Center —<br />

Michigan Medicine<br />

BOARDS<br />

66<br />


Van Andel Institute Board of Governors<br />

Co-Chairs<br />

Timothy Long<br />

Vicky Ludema<br />

Van Andel Institute began with<br />

a vision: to improve human health.<br />

Members<br />

Dennis & Barbara Adama<br />

Dr. Marguerite Aitken<br />

John & Mary Amell<br />

Rosemary Anderson<br />

Kurt Arvidson<br />

Heidi Auman<br />

Jerry & Suzanne Callahan Tina Freese Decker<br />

Bill & Starr Humphries<br />

The Institute is fueled by a community of bright minds who share a<br />

Jeffrey & Cheryl Baker<br />

James & Shirley Balk<br />

Regena Bassett<br />

relentless curiosity Samuel Colelland deep commitment Stuart Genschaw to make Carl & Kelly the Jandernoa world a better<br />

Charles Lott<br />

Jeffrey Battershall<br />

John & Ginny Baysore<br />

Paul Becker & Eve Rogus<br />

Brad Bengtson<br />

Bill & Amy Bennett<br />

Brian Conley<br />

Dan & Magee Gordon<br />

Sidney & Cate Jansma<br />

place through groundbreaking biomedical research and inspired K-12<br />

and graduate Shirley education.<br />

& Keith Cook<br />

Jeff & Meg Bennett<br />

Matthew & Shari Berger<br />

Gregory & Rajene Betz<br />

Ed & Karen Bezilla<br />

Franco & Alessandra Bianchi<br />

Tom & Tracy Curran<br />

Ronald Haan<br />

Andrew & Joy Kim<br />

At Van Andel Institute, we do more than dream about improving<br />

Dave & Jill Bielema<br />

Rusty Blakely<br />

Ted & Betsy Boelema<br />

human health. Thomas We DeJonge strive to make Shane it & Ann a Hansen reality.<br />

Chuck & Chris Boelkins<br />

Carrie Boer<br />

Fred Bogaert<br />

Donald Botting<br />

Jeremy Bouwhuis<br />

Chip Bowling<br />

Becky Bravata<br />

Anne Brennan<br />

Brent Brinks<br />

Leonard Brucato<br />

Dr. Jim & Martie Bultman<br />

Beau Burnett<br />

William & Jackie Bylenga<br />

Carol Bylsma<br />

Stephen & Michele Chachulski<br />

Dave & Kerry Clay<br />

Diane Colvin<br />

Matthew Cook<br />

Ryan & Jessica Cook<br />

Marcos & Liset Cordoba<br />

Charles Cox<br />

Bill & Marilyn Crawford<br />

Mimi Cummings<br />

David & Karen Custer<br />

Kim Dabbs<br />

Doug & Sandy Dekock<br />

Robert & Allison DeVilbiss<br />

Dick & Betsy DeVos<br />

Douglas & Maria DeVos<br />

Brian DeVries & Barbara Pugh<br />

Dan & Viki Distin<br />

John Dykema & Michele<br />

Maly-Dykema<br />

Mark Eastburg<br />

Mike & Lynette Ellis<br />

Henry Emrich<br />

Diego Filippi<br />

Michael Finch<br />

Mickie Fox<br />

Miller Ganapini<br />

Todd & Brenda Gardner<br />

Mark Giura<br />

Dan Goris<br />

Tim Gortsema<br />

Braden Graham<br />

John & Deanna Green<br />

Dr. Martin & Peggy Greydanus<br />

Patti Griswold<br />

Jefra Groendyk<br />

Dr. Peter Hahn<br />

Dr. Jana Hall<br />

Jeff & Ann Harten<br />

Kurt & Madelon Hassberger<br />

Matt & Jodie Haverdink<br />

Paul & Sheryl Haverkate<br />

Mike Hemmingsen<br />

Paulus Heule<br />

Thomas Hilldore<br />

Dave & Donna Hockstra<br />

Matt Hoeksema<br />

Dr. Philip & Sharon Hoekstra<br />

Dirk & June Hoffius<br />

Christopher Hufnagel<br />

J.C. Huizenga & Tammy Born-<br />

Huizenga<br />

Ben & Molly Hunting<br />

Patrick & Jasmine Irish<br />

Mike & Sue Jandernoa<br />

Lynne Jarman-Johnson<br />

Andy Jasper<br />

Lynn Jekkals<br />

Matt & Sarah Jones<br />

Dr. Peter & Veronica Jones<br />

David & Nancy Kammeraad<br />

John & Nancy Kennedy<br />

Craig & Debbie Kinney<br />

Jennifer Kirchgessner<br />

Linda Klein<br />

Dr. Stephanie Kloostra<br />

Margaret Klopcic<br />

Steve Klotz<br />

Jerry Kooiman<br />

Josh & Connie Kooistra<br />

Matt & Danielle Kool<br />

Al & Robin Koop<br />

Brian & Cathy Koop<br />

Blake & Mary Krueger<br />

Gregory Kuhl<br />

Jon Lanning<br />

Ray & Jeannine Lanning<br />

Arlyn & Marcia Lanting<br />

Bertil Kenneth Larm<br />

Michael Le Roy<br />

Timothy & Kim Long<br />

Steve Longstreet<br />

Gary & Vicky Ludema<br />

Michael & Suzanne Lunn<br />

Philomena Mantella<br />

Holly McCaw<br />

Dawn McCotter<br />

Tom McGovern<br />

Michael McGraw<br />

Hendrik Meijer<br />

Mark & Mary Beth Meijer<br />

Rusty Merchant<br />

Scott Merchant<br />

Jack H. Miller<br />

Rick Minnema<br />

Mike & Rachel Mraz<br />

David Muilenberg<br />

Gordon J. Muir<br />

Paul & Anne Nemschoff<br />

Laurie-Ann Netto<br />

Jack Nichols<br />

Shawn Norden<br />

Dr. Juan & Mary Olivarez<br />

Thomas Ozinga & Phong Hoang<br />

Mitchell Padnos<br />

Milind Pant<br />

Richard Pappas<br />

Lee & Alexandra Perez<br />

Lewis Pitsch<br />

Shawn & Sarah Platt<br />

James Preston<br />

Elsa Prince Broekhuizen<br />

Dr. Suresh & Dr. Sarla Puri<br />

Todd Rempe<br />

Dr. John Renucci<br />

Pat Ringnalda<br />

Brenda Rinks<br />

Jeffery Roberts<br />

Hilary Roelofs<br />

Dr. Jack & Lija Romence<br />

Robert Roth<br />

Doug Rottman<br />

John & Therese Rowerdink<br />

Joseph Sanda<br />

Gideon Sanders<br />

Mark Satkoski<br />

Mike & Cynthia Schaap<br />

Timothy Schowalter<br />

Mary Schregardus<br />

Marc & Jeanne Schupan<br />

Matthew Scogin<br />

Charlie Secchia<br />

Tony & Dawn Semple<br />

George & Linda Sharpe<br />

George & Missy Sharpe<br />

Tom & Barb Shaw<br />

Jeremy Shoemaker<br />

John & Judy Spoelhof<br />

Scott & Jan Spoelhof<br />

Robert & Susan Stafford<br />

Peter Stamos & Soonmee Cha-<br />

Stamos<br />

Frank Stanek<br />

Anne Stephens<br />

Leanne Stoll<br />

Tom & Mary Stuit<br />

Duwane Suwyn<br />

Dr. Kathryn Swanson<br />

Praveen Thadani<br />

Bradley Thomas<br />

P.J. Thompson<br />

Dr. Steve & Laura Triezenberg<br />

John Truscott<br />

David & Sandy Turner<br />

David & Carol Van Andel<br />

Steve & Amy Van Andel<br />

Sharon Van Dellen<br />

Michael & Michelle Van Dyke<br />

Daniel & Ann Marie Van Eerden<br />

Douglas & Sandra Van Essen<br />

Donna Van Haren<br />

Maria Van Til<br />

John Van Wylen<br />

Dr. Doug Vander Woude<br />

Allen & Nancy VanderLaan<br />

Patti Vandort<br />

Michael & Gayle VanGessel<br />

David & Beth VanPortfliet<br />

Dr. John R. & Grace<br />

VanTimmeren<br />

Jim & Wanda Veld<br />

Dr. Chris & Kara VerMeulen<br />

Peter Versluis<br />

Chris Vinton<br />

Angela Visbeen<br />

Phil & Kathy Vogelsang<br />

James & Cassandra Ward<br />

Tom Welch<br />

Van Andel Institute JBoard Ambassadors<br />

Co-Chairs<br />

Blake Crabb<br />

Rachel Mraz<br />

Members<br />

Rueben Antonio<br />

Blake Crabb<br />

Jordan Custer<br />

Aaron & Afton DeVos<br />

Sam DeVries<br />

Ben Eastburg<br />

Jennifer Fischer<br />

Evan Frick<br />

James Frieling<br />

Meghan Gartman<br />

Erik & Victoria Hansen<br />

Nate Harris<br />

Mike Hemmingsen<br />

Jason & Brandi Huyser<br />

Nate Johnson<br />

John & Vicky Weller<br />

Benjamin Wickstrom<br />

Chris Wierda<br />

Scott & Rebecca Wierda<br />

Julie Wiersema<br />

Greg Williams<br />

Jim & Sue Williams<br />

This list reflects gifts received between Jan. 1 and Dec 31, 2022.<br />

Matt & Sarah Jones<br />

Trey Kailunas<br />

Andrew Kapanowski<br />

Margaret Kennedy<br />

Kaleb Kimble<br />

Michael & Andrea Leestma<br />

Kimberly Livingston<br />

Diana Longstreet<br />

Kathleen Martin<br />

Rob & Kati Missman<br />

Mike & Rachel Mraz<br />

Thomas Murray<br />

Nathan & Erin Nartker<br />

Jon & Elle Oberdick<br />

John O’Neill<br />

Kendra Osowski<br />

Greg Paplawsky<br />

Lee & Alexandra Perez<br />

Justin Pinto<br />

Alexandra Price<br />

This list includes members active any time between Jan. 1 and Dec. 31, <strong>2023</strong>.<br />

Greg Willit & Meg Miller Willit<br />

Bob & Karen Wiltz<br />

Jim & Mary Workman<br />

John & Kathy Workman<br />

Jim & Jane Zwiers<br />

Jason Zylstra<br />

Patrick & Jenna Riley<br />

Nicole Rodammer<br />

Sara Ross<br />

Alex Schrotenboer<br />

Allison Sleight<br />

Dr. Josh & Mollie Smith<br />

Timothy Streit<br />

Mark Stuit<br />

Aaron & Hailey Van Andel<br />

Chris Van Andel<br />

Jesse & Heather Van Andel<br />

Kyle Van Andel<br />

Dan VandenBosch<br />

Tripp & Katie VanderWal<br />

Samuel & Sydney Vucelich<br />

Cameron Young<br />

Megan Zubrickas<br />


Thank you, Board of Governors.<br />

As members of the Van Andel Institute Board of Governors, you serve as ambassadors who help advance the Institute’s mission and vision in the local community.<br />

Thank you for being our partners and contributing significantly to our success.<br />

Thank you, JBoard Ambassadors.<br />

As JBoard Ambassadors, you are leaders who exhibit the power of early and mid-career professionals to make a difference. We appreciate the energy and dedication<br />

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.<br />

68<br />


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

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