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WINTER 2015

VAN ANDEL INSTITUTE’S

HIGHLIGHTS of

HOPE

You Did It! Winterfest Reaches $1 Million Milestone to Benefit Parkinson’s Research Winterfest, Van Andel Institute’s (VAI) premier gala benefiting Parkinson’s disease research, celebrated its 10-year anniversary on February 19. Since its inception, the signature special event has raised more than $1 million to directly impact Parkinson’s disease research at Van Andel Research Institute (VARI).

An Honor and a Privilege Winterfest is made possible by dedicated donors and community leaders, like Blair and George Sharpe Jr., whose father has Parkinson’s disease. The brothers, along with their wives Missy and Michelle, began serving as co-chairs of Winterfest after receiving an invitation from VAI Board of Governors member Tony Asselta, who had organized the event for more than eight years. Like the Sharpes, Asselta’s father also had Parkinson’s. “Everyone in our family believes in the work being done at Van Andel Institute, so we thought this was a perfect opportunity to take action,” Blair said. “It’s a privilege to chair an event that has a direct impact on human health.”

Why We Give The Sharpes believe that the Parkinson’s therapies of the future begin with innovative approaches to biomedical

Blair Sharpe and George Sharpe Jr. serve as co-chairs of Van Andel Institute’s Winterfest to honor their father who has Parkinson’s disease.

research. “It’s amazing what is happening at Van Andel Institute with regards to Parkinson’s research,” Blair said. “The Institute’s leadership, focus on innovation and accelerated approach to translational research is something, as a donor and event co-chair, I am proud to support.”

associated with Parkinson’s disease moves through the brain. This finding may lead to new therapies, and is indicative of the capacity for discovery that the CNS has and will continue to have in the future.

Impact to Date

Perhaps one of the most exciting recent CNS developments is a unique partnership with The Cure Parkinson’s Trust on the Linked Clinical Trials (LCT) initiative, which is aimed at repositioning existing medications approved to treat other diseases and that have also shown promise in slowing or reversing Parkinson’s in preclinical experiments. By selecting drugs that are already in use, LCT aims to get effective new treatments to patients on a shorter timeline, giving hope not only to those who currently have Parkinson’s disease but also to those who may be diagnosed in the future.

The $1 million Winterfest has raised to date helped establish VARI’s Center for Neurodegenerative Science (CNS). Its first employee and laboratory was that of Dr. Patrik Brundin, an internationally renowned expert in Parkinson’s disease, who joined the Institute as its inaugural Jay Van Andel Endowed Chair in Parkinson’s Research in 2012. Since then, the CNS has grown to 40 individuals in more than 15,000 square feet of laboratory and office space. The Center has made significant contributions in recent years, including describing how a misfolded protein

Impact for the Future

For information on VAI’s upcoming special events, visit www.vai.org.

Profile for Van Andel Institute

Van Andel Institute's Highlights of Hope February 2015  

Read more about Van Andel Institute, a world-class biomedical research and science education facility located in Grand Rapids, Michigan, and...

Van Andel Institute's Highlights of Hope February 2015  

Read more about Van Andel Institute, a world-class biomedical research and science education facility located in Grand Rapids, Michigan, and...

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