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Through biomedical research and science education, Van Andel Institute is committed to improving the health and enhancing the lives of current and future generations.

2 A Letter from David Van Andel 4 Research

Table of Contents

6 Beyond the Brain 8 Translating Discovery into Life-Changing Care 10 Meet Van Andel Research Institute’s Principal Investigators 16 Investigating Life's Smallest Components 18 Going Further, Together 20 Education 22 Connecting Two Worlds 24 Van Andel Education Institute, NASA & the Girl Scouts Team Up to Take Girls to the Stars!

25 Bea Aldrink Idema Foundation Provides Students with a Summer of Discovery 26 Donors & Philanthropic Partners 28 Profiles in Hope — Van Andel Institute Donors Turn Love & Loss into Action 30 Events Photos 36 A Perfect Day, an Unforgettable Memory 38 Sources of Funding 39 Society of Hope 40 Signature Special Event Sponsors 41 Institute Leadership Team 42 Board & Council Members


A Letter from David Van Andel Dear Friends, This has been a year of extraordinary progress. Your generous support has helped us expand collaborations, achieve record levels of grant funding, publish more scientific advances than ever before and move closer to solving the mysteries surrounding some of humanity’s most devastating diseases. Our collaborations with researchers, educators and worldclass organizations have united us all with a common goal — to conquer diseases like cancer and Parkinson’s as quickly as possible. In Grand Rapids, we are discovering new ways to work together and build a critical mass of talent in the region. At the same time, we’re reaching out across the world, expanding collaborations with an impressive list of leading organizations, scientists and physicians. External recognition for the work we do has reached an all-time high and is reflected in the 37 new funding awards our scientists earned in 2017 totaling $27.7 million, including $23.6 million in federal grants. We also broke another Van Andel Institute record in 2017, with publications of scientific discoveries reaching an all-time high — 145 scientific papers, 132 of them peer-reviewed. Many of these studies were published in prestigious journals, such as Nature and Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, which reinforces the real-world impact of our work.


Discoveries at VAI are providing important clues to better understand how our bodies function in health and disease. To aid in this endeavor, we installed one of the world’s most powerful microscopes, called a cryo-electron microscope. Already, it is revealing intricate molecular secrets, detailing three-dimensional, atomic-level portraits of life’s smallest components, which will help us understand disease and devise new targets for drug therapies. In addition, our Parkinson’s research is unlocking vital clues to how the disease may be triggered through inflammation and factors in the nose and gut. As we move into our third decade, we continue to push toward creating a better tomorrow through the work we do today. Your encouragement and generosity help us build that brighter future for generations to come. Thank you for all you’ve done to help us achieve these vital goals. Warmly,

David Van Andel Van Andel Institute Chairman & CEO


Van Andel Research Institute

is a world leader in cancer epigenetics and Parkinson’s disease research. Collaborating with academia, industry and philanthropy, the Institute orchestrates cutting-edge clinical trials to improve human health.



Beyond the Brain

Do the secrets of Parkinson's lie in the nose, the gut and inflammation?

In 1817, British surgeon James Parkinson penned the first medical description of the disease that now bears his name. He chronicled a singular, inexplicable disorder that afflicted his patients — usually people advanced in age — with tremors and rigidity, eventually robbing them of their ability to move.

Under Brundin’s leadership, scientists in the Institute’s Center for Neurodegenerative Science working with collaborators around the world are tackling Parkinson’s from every angle, investigating its risk factors, its causes and its vulnerabilities. Their goal? To find ways to slow or stop its progression, something no current therapy can do.

Two hundred years have passed since then, and in many ways, the causes of Parkinson’s have continued to defy definition. But now, thanks to recent breakthroughs and technological advancements, scientists are chipping away at the seemingly impenetrable façade of Parkinson's disease, revealing a complex tapestry of causes, symptoms and molecular mechanisms that may revolutionize patient care and improve the lives of millions around the globe.

Moving past motor symptoms We now know that a host of seemingly unrelated symptoms can predate a Parkinson’s diagnosis by years, or even decades. Chief among them are the loss of a person’s sense of smell and intestinal issues, such as constipation.

Connecting the dots For much of the time since the initial publication of James Parkinson’s Essay on the Shaking Palsy, Parkinson’s disease was considered a purely motor condition, largely attributed to a brain progressively starved of the neurotransmitter dopamine, which controls voluntary movement. Like many other conditions, Parkinson's was viewed as one disease with likely one cure out there somewhere, waiting to be discovered. The reality, said Dr. Patrik Brundin, Van Andel Research Institute associate director of research, isn’t quite so clear cut. “Parkinson’s is an incredibly diverse disease and can vary widely from person to person,” Brundin said. “Its study and treatment necessitate a sophisticated approach and require us to recognize there may not just be one solution but many.”


“For a long time, we didn’t entirely grasp the significance of these other, non-motor symptoms,” Brundin said. “Now, we understand they are not only important precursors but also hint at the very basis of the disease itself. If we understand what’s happening early on in the disease, before motor symptoms appear, we can harness that knowledge to find ways to slow or possibly prevent it.” In a series of discoveries, the most recent published in 2017, Brundin’s team revealed how a toxic protein called alpha-synuclein, long linked to Parkinson’s, travels from the nose into the olfactory bulb, the area of the brain responsible for processing scents. From there, these proteins move from cell to cell, clogging up the molecular machinery required to keep cells healthy and functioning. These proteins eventually reach a region rich with dopamine-producing cells, where scientists theorize alphasynuclein wreaks havoc, killing cells and starving the brain of the chemical needed for movement. The nose isn’t the only place harboring a reserve of toxic proteins with a direct route to the brain. Something similar

may also be happening in the gut, which is connected to the brain via the “superhighway” of the vagus nerve, one of the longest nerves in the human body. It’s here that Assistant Professor Dr. Viviane Labrie is searching for reasons why normal alpha-synuclein changes into its toxic form and how this process — and its spread to the brain — could be prevented. “While the gut and the nose are clearly very different, they have one important thing in common — frequent contact with the outside world, through breathing and food consumption, respectively,” Labrie said. “Although environmental factors play a role in Parkinson’s disease, they can’t be the only things. We all breathe, and we all eat, but we all don’t get Parkinson’s. There has to be something else at play.” The tipping point The secret may lie, at least partially, in yet another normal process gone haywire. Inflammation is the body’s response to insult or injury, a manifestation of a marshaled immune system that sends a chemical flood to help heal a wound or respond to a stressor. There is a catch though — for inflammation to help rather than hurt, it must be silenced when it’s no longer needed. When inflammation sticks around, it can disrupt normal cellular function, interfering with processes such as the removal of toxic forms of alphasynuclein. “We’re learning, thanks to intense research in our lab and in the labs of our colleagues, that inflammation likely plays a central role in the incredibly complicated process that triggers Parkinson’s,” said Associate Professor Dr. Lena Brundin. “Reducing inflammation is a promising therapeutic strategy that may provide a tremendous opportunity to

RESEARCH attack the disease from a new direction.” Here again, the nose may harbor important clues. Fueled by a set of new Department of Defense grants totaling $4.37 million, Dr. Patrik Brundin and collaborators at University of Southern California and Michigan State University are investigating the role of air pollution as a potential contributing factor to Parkinson’s. Their theory? That environmental factors such as pollution build on a person’s specific genetic influences and age — the single greatest risk factor for Parkinson’s — setting off an uncontrolled inflammatory chain reaction.

Bringing it together In all, Parkinson’s is likely the result of a complex mix of genetics, epigenetics and environmental triggers that set a cascade of problems into motion. Some cause the abnormal clumping of alpha-synuclein, turning it from a harmless protein into a toxic one, while others bog down cellular machinery, interfering with processes designed to keep cells healthy. Genetic and epigenetic factors almost certainly are at play as well, influencing individuals’ risk of developing the disease. Each newly identified contributing factor reveals a chink in the armor of Parkinson’s, ripe for targeting by new or repurposed medications.

“We’ve come a long way since James Parkinson put ink to paper, from viewing the disease as a one-size-fits-all motor disorder to our current understanding of Parkinson’s as a diverse multi-system event,” Dr. Patrik Brundin said. “Together with collaborators around the world, our scientists are pushing forward quickly. We’re on the edge of ushering in a monumental change in how Parkinson’s patients are diagnosed and treated. I’m more excited — and hopeful — now than ever before.”



Translating Discovery into Life-Changing Care When it comes to defeating cancer and Parkinson’s disease, collaboration is one of our strongest assets. That’s why Van Andel Research Institute (VARI) teamed up with Stand Up To Cancer, the American Association for Cancer Research, The Cure Parkinson’s Trust, The Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research and other leading organizations, scientists and physicians — to see what we can do when our collective expertise and resources are combined. The result is a slate of clinical trials, critical steps on the road from the lab to the doctor’s office that ensure new treatments are safe and effective. If successful, these therapies could help improve the lives of millions of people suffering from these devastating diseases. Active clinical trials include the following. Cancer The VARI–SU2C Epigenetics Dream Team has six ongoing clinical trials at medical centers across the U.S. and in Copenhagen, Denmark. Two of these trials — non-small cell lung cancer and bladder cancer — are supported by two of 10 inaugural SU2C Catalyst® grants, totaling nearly


$5.5 million. The trials are evaluating new combination treatments for: Acute myeloid leukemia (AML), an aggressive blood cancer that is notoriously difficult to treat and has poor long-term survival. Bladder cancer, a tough-to-treat cancer that is the sixth most common type of cancer diagnosed in the U.S. *Supported by a SU2C Catalyst® grant Metastatic colorectal cancer, the second leading cause of cancer death in men and women combined in the U.S. Myelodysplastic syndrome (MDS) and AML, which also are the subjects of a small pilot study that is investigating whether a simple addition to the standard care regimen may improve the current therapy’s ability to impede cancer cell growth and destroy cancer cells. This combination is also being explored in patients with clonal cytopenia of undetermined significance (CCUS) — thought

to be a potential precursor to MDS in some patients. MDS and chronic myelomonocytic leukemia (CMML), two blood cancers that are incurable with current drugs and that may progress to AML, a much more aggressive cancer. Non-small cell lung cancer, the most common type of lung cancer, which accounts for more than 80 percent of cases. Lung cancers are a major public health problem and claim more lives annually than any other type of cancer. *Supported by a SU2C Catalyst® grant

RESEARCH Parkinson's disease The Linked Clinical Trials (LCT) initiative, spearheaded by The Cure Parkinson’s Trust and supported by VARI, aims to shift the paradigm on Parkinson’s treatment from managing symptoms to slowing or stopping the disease’s progress. By investigating medications that are already approved to treat other conditions and that impact the same biological processes that are at play in Parkinson’s, scientists hope to cut the time it takes for new, more effective medications to be approved, getting them to the people who need them faster. Medications being investigated by LCT include the following. Ambroxol, a medication originally developed to treat respiratory ailments, which has shown promise in correcting an underlying molecular problem in Parkinson’s.

Deferiprone, a medication that removes excess iron from the blood and that is being investigated for its potential to reduce high iron levels in the area of the brain most affected by Parkinson’s.

Liraglutide, a Type 2 diabetes medication that belongs to a class of drugs called GLP-1 agonists and prompts the release of insulin, thereby lowering glucose levels in the blood when bound to its receptor.

Recent findings suggest that when liraglutide activates these receptors in the brain, the drug provides protection against degenerative damage to key brain cells, specifically A growing body of evidence suggests similar dysfunctions in those affected in Parkinson’s disease. mitochondria, the power plants of cells, may also contribute Nilotinib, a medication originally developed to treat the to Parkinson’s. blood cancer leukemia. This multicenter trial is supported by The Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research, Exenatide, a Type 2 diabetes medication that has shown outstanding promise in lab experiments and clinical trials as The Cure Parkinson’s Trust and VARI. a therapy that may slow the progression of Parkinson’s. Simvastatin, a cholesterol-lowering medication that is Following positive results from a phase two trial reported in part of the PD-STAT trial, which is underway at 21 medical centers across the United Kingdom. 2017, plans for a larger, phase three trial are in the works. EPI-589, an experimental drug originally designed to treat rare mitochondrial diseases in children.

Learn more at vai.org/clinical-trials.


Meet Van Andel Research Institute’s Principal Investigators Van Andel Research Institute (VARI) is composed of three centers and 32 principal investigators, each with their own area of expertise and research projects. VARI Leadership Peter Jones Chief Scientific Officer; Director, Center for Epigenetics

Peter Jones, Ph.D., D.Sc., is a pioneer in epigenetics, a growing field that explores how genes are regulated and provides new avenues for developing therapies for cancer and other diseases. His discoveries have helped usher in an entirely new class of drugs that have been approved to treat blood cancer and are being investigated in other tumor types. Dr. Jones is a member of the National Academy of Sciences and the American Academy of Arts & Sciences. He and his colleague Dr. Stephen Baylin co-lead the Van Andel Research Institute–Stand Up To Cancer Epigenetics Dream Team. Dr. Jones is the Institute's chief scientific officer and director of its Center for Epigenetics.


Patrik Brundin Associate Director of Research; Director, Center for Neurodegenerative Science

Patrik Brundin, M.D., Ph.D., investigates molecular mechanisms in Parkinson’s disease, and his goals are to develop new therapies aimed at slowing or stopping disease progression or repairing damage. He is one of the top-cited researchers in the field of neurodegenerative disease and leads international efforts to repurpose drugs to treat Parkinson’s. Brundin is director of the Center for Neurodegenerative Science and associate director of research for VARI.

Bart Williams Director, Center for Cancer and Cell Biology

Bart Williams, Ph.D., studies the building blocks of bone growth on behalf of the millions suffering from diseases such as osteoporosis. He seeks new ways of altering cell signaling pathways to encourage healthy bone development and deter the spread of cancer to the skeleton. Williams is director of the Center for Cancer and Cell Biology.

Steven J. Triezenberg Dean, Van Andel Institute Graduate School; Professor, Center for Epigenetics

Steven J. Triezenberg, Ph.D., explores the genetic and epigenetic control systems of viruses to understand how infections progress and to reveal new ways to stop those infections. His discoveries with herpes simplex viruses have opened up new possibilities for antiviral drug development and have revealed new insights into how human cells control gene expression. In addition to running a lab at VARI, Dr. Triezenberg is the founding dean of Van Andel Institute Graduate School.

Scott Jewell Director, Core Technologies and Services

Scott Jewell, Ph.D., leads Van Andel Research Institute’s Core Technologies and Services, which provides technology and specialized expertise for research investigators. Cores and services include bioinformatics and biostatistics, cryoEM, confocal microscopy and quantitative imaging, flow cytometry, genomics, pathology and biorepository, smallanimal imaging, vivarium management and transgenics. Jewell is a past president of the International Society for Biological and Environmental Repositories (ISBER).

RESEARCH Center for Epigenetics

Research areas: Epigenetics, cancer, heart disease, neuroepigenetics and structural biology

Stephen Baylin

Stephen Baylin, M.D., studies the body’s genetic control systems — called epigenetics — searching for vulnerabilities in cancer. Baylin is a leader in this field, ranking among the first to trace epigenetic causes of cancer. His studies have led to new therapies for common cancers, like breast, lung, colorectal and many others. He is co-leader of the VARI–SU2C Epigenetics Dream Team with Dr. Peter Jones, co-director of Johns Hopkins’ Cancer Biology Division and associate director for research at Sidney Kimmel Comprehensive Cancer Center.

Stefan Jovinge

Stefan Jovinge, M.D., Ph.D., develops ways to help the heart heal itself and has led dozens of clinical trials in regenerative medicine. As a critical care cardiologist and scientist, he uses a bench-to-bedside approach in an effort to give patients with serious heart conditions longer, healthier lives. The clinical platform for his research is the Cardiothoracic Intensive Care Unit at Spectrum Health Hospital's Fred and Lena Meijer Heart Center, and the basic science effort in regenerative medicine is performed at VARI. He serves as director of the DeVos Cardiovascular Research Program.

Peter W. Laird

Peter W. Laird, Ph.D., seeks a detailed understanding of the molecular foundations of cancer with a particular focus on identifying crucial epigenetic alterations that convert otherwise healthy cells into cancer cells. He is widely regarded as an international leader in this effort and has helped design some of the world’s state-of-the-art tools to aid in epigenetics research. Laird is a principal investigator for the National Cancer Institute’s Genome Data Analysis Network and played a leadership role in The Cancer Genome Atlas, a multi-institutional effort to molecularly map cancers. He is a professor in the Center for Epigenetics.

Huilin Li

Huilin Li, Ph.D., uses cryo-electron microscopy (cryo-EM) to reveal the most basic building blocks of DNA replication and other systems vital for life. He has been at the vanguard of cryo-EM for more than 20 years, and his research has implications for some of the world’s most critical public health concerns, including tuberculosis, cancer, mental illness and many more. He is a professor in the Center for Epigenetics.

Gerd Pfeifer

Gerd Pfeifer, Ph.D., studies how the body switches genes on and off, a biological process called methylation that, when faulty, can lead to cancer or other diseases. His studies range from the effects of tobacco smoke on genetic and epigenetic systems to the discovery of a mechanism that may help protect the brain from neurodegeneration. Pfeifer’s studies have implications across a range of diseases, including cancer, Parkinson’s, diabetes and many others. Pfeifer is a professor in the Center for Epigenetics.

Scott Rothbart

Scott Rothbart, Ph.D., studies the ways in which cells pack and unpack DNA. This complex process twists and coils roughly 2 meters of unwound DNA into a space less than 1/10th the width of a human hair. Although this process is impressive, it is also subject to errors that can cause cancer and other disorders. Rothbart seeks new targets for drug development in this process. He is an assistant professor in the Center for Epigenetics.


Meet Van Andel Research Institute’s Principal Investigators (continued) Hui Shen

Hui Shen, Ph.D., develops new approaches to cancer prevention, detection and treatment by studying the interaction between genes and their control systems, called epigenetics. Her research focuses on women’s cancers, particularly ovarian cancer, and has shed new light on the underlying mechanisms of other cancer types, including breast, kidney and prostate cancers. She is an assistant professor in the Center for Epigenetics.

Piroska Szabó

Piroska Szabó, Ph.D., studies the flow of epigenetic information from parents to their offspring, with a focus on how epigenetic markers are remodeled during egg and sperm production and how these markers are rewritten after fertilization. These processes have profound implications on fertility and embryo development. Disturbances in epigenetic remodeling are thought to contribute to disease conditions lasting well into adulthood. Szabó is an associate professor in the Center for Epigenetics.


Tim Triche

As a statistician and computational biologist with an interest in clonal evolution and cancers of the blood, Tim Triche Jr.'s, Ph.D., work focuses on wedding data-intensive molecular phenotyping to adaptive clinical trial designs, in an effort to accelerate the pace of drug targeting and development in rare or refractory diseases. Triche is an assistant professor in the Center for Epigenetics.

Center for Neurodegenerative Science

Research areas: Parkinson’s disease, depression/ suicide, aging, prion disease, Alzheimer’s disease and neuroepigenetics

Lena Brundin

As a psychiatrist and a scientist, Lena Brundin, M.D., Ph.D., seeks ways to diagnose and treat depression and suicidality by studying inflammation of the nervous system. Her findings may lead to earlier interventions for depressive patients and for the development of a new class of antidepressants that targets the immune system. She also investigates how inflammatory mechanisms can damage nerve cells in Parkinson’s disease. She is an associate professor in the Center for Neurodegenerative Science.

Gerhard Coetzee

Gerhard Coetzee, Ph.D., searches the human genome for minuscule changes that contribute to the onset, progression and drug resistance of many diseases, including cancer, Parkinson’s and rare and heritable disorders. His team deploys genome sequencing technologies and high-powered computational arrays to tease out patterns and interactions of markers and treatment targets from among the human genome’s more than three billion DNA base pairs. Coetzee is a professor in the Center for Neurodegenerative Science.

Jeffrey Kordower

Jeffrey Kordower, Ph.D., is an international authority on the onset of Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s and Huntington’s diseases, and works to develop new procedures aimed at slowing disease progression or reversing damage to the brain. He holds a primary appointment at Rush University in Chicago and is a Director’s Scholar at VARI, where he focuses on designing preclinical studies and clinical trials to translate these new approaches into meaningful changes for people suffering with movement disorders.

RESEARCH Viviane Labrie

Viviane Labrie, Ph.D., studies the dynamic interplay between the human genome and its control system — the epigenome — to understand how neurodegenerative diseases start and progress in an effort to develop improved diagnostics and treatments. Labrie’s scientific pursuits have deepened understanding of conditions including Parkinson's, Alzheimer's, schizophrenia and lactose intolerance. She has also developed new methods for epigenome analysis. She is an assistant professor in the Center for Neurodegenerative Science.

Jiyan Ma

Darren Moore

Jiyan Ma, Ph.D., studies abnormal proteins that cause neurodegenerative diseases, including Parkinson’s disease and prion diseases in humans and animals. His lab has developed new ways to understand how these proteins spread and cause diseases in humans and animals. The lab is also developing new approaches to diagnose and treat these devastating disorders. Ma is a professor in the Center for Neurodegenerative Science.

Darren Moore, Ph.D., seeks new diagnostic and treatment approaches for Parkinson’s by investigating the inherited form of the disease, which accounts for 5 to 10 percent of cases. He aims to translate the understanding of these genetic mutations into better treatments and new diagnostic tools for Parkinson’s, both inherited and non-inherited. Discoveries in Moore’s lab routinely elucidate the faulty molecular interactions that transform healthy, functioning neurons into diseased ones. Moore is a professor in the Center for Neurodegenerative Science.

Dr. Stephen Baylin Director’s Scholar, VARI Co-Head of Cancer Biology, Johns Hopkins University Sidney Kimmel Comprehensive Cancer Center In May 2017, Dr. Baylin became the third VARI-affiliated scientist to be elected to the prestigious National Academy of Sciences, which was founded in 1863 to advise the country on matters of science and technology. He joins Chief Scientific Officer Dr. Peter Jones and Dr. George Vande Woude, the Institute’s founding research director and distinguished scientific fellow, emeritus, among the society's storied ranks.

With the elections of Drs. Jones and Baylin, VARI is now home to:

An award-winning year In 2017, we celebrated the election of two of our own into prestigious societies, reflecting a lifetime of scientific achievement and reinforcing the Institute’s growing reputation as a home for innovative and impactful research. Dr. Peter Jones Chief Scientific Officer In addition to being awarded a 7-year, $7.8 million Outstanding Investigator Award from the National Institutes of Health, Dr. Jones was inducted into the American Academy of Arts & Sciences, an elite group that includes more than 250 Nobel laureates and 60 Pulitzer Prize winners. His election comes a year after he was named to the National Academy of Sciences.

3 members of the National Academy of Sciences 3 members of the American Association for the Advancement of Science 3 fellows of the American Association for Cancer Research 2 members of the American Academy of Arts & Sciences


Meet Van Andel Research Institute’s Principal Investigators (continued) Center for Cancer and Cell Biology

Research areas: Asthma, diabetes, neurofibromatosis Type 1, osteoarthritis, osteoporosis, sarcoma, tuberous sclerosis and blood, bone, breast, colorectal, pancreatic and prostate cancers

Juan Du

Juan Du, Ph.D. seeks to understand the brain’s intricate communication systems using state-of-the-art structural biology approaches, such as cryo-EM. She is an assistant professor in the Center for Cancer and Cell Biology.

Patrick Grohar

Patrick Grohar, M.D., Ph.D., develops new drugs to treat bone cancer in children, in addition to pursuing a deeper understanding of the mechanisms underlying sarcomas and related conditions. Once these potential therapies are proven safe and effective in the lab, his team translates these potential therapies into clinical trials for children with few other options. He is an associate professor in the Center for Cancer and Cell Biology and a pediatric oncologist at Spectrum Health Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital.


Brian Haab

Brian Haab, Ph.D., searches for new ways to diagnose and stratify pancreatic cancers based on the chemical fingerprints tumors left behind. Part of the problem Haab aims to solve is that cancers often look and behave normally — until after they’ve started making people sick. Haab is sleuthing out clues to build a library of diagnostic tools that will help providers diagnose tumors earlier and optimize treatment. He is a professor in the Center for Cancer and Cell Biology.

Xiaohong Li

Xiaohong Li, Ph.D., studies how and why various cancers, particularly prostate and breast cancer cells, migrate from their original site and spread to the bone. These cells stay dormant but might wake up years later and grow up to become bone metastases, causing debilitating pain and complicating treatments. Li hopes that a better understanding of metastatic cancers will lead to new diagnostic tests and targeted therapies. She is an assistant professor in the Center for Cancer and Cell Biology.

Wei Lü

Wei Lü, Ph.D., is working to unravel how brain cells communicate with each other. Using techniques such as cryo-EM, his work has contributed to the field’s understanding of molecules that play crucial roles in the development and function of the nervous system. He is an assistant professor in the Center for Cancer and Cell Biology.

Karsten Melcher

Karsten Melcher, Ph.D., studies molecular structure and cellular communication, which have implications for finding new treatments for serious health threats, including cancer, diabetes and obesity. His expertise extends beyond human cells — his research into plant hormones may one day lead to heartier crops that resist drought and help meet the nutritional demands of a growing global population. Dr. Melcher is an associate professor in the Center for Cancer and Cell Biology.

RESEARCH Lorenzo Sempere

Lorenzo Sempere, Ph.D., studies the role of microRNAs in the origin and growth of cancer. These very short strands of genetic material were discovered just over 15 years ago and are now recognized as dynamic regulatory modules of the larger human genome. Sempere targets microRNAs in an effort to develop new cancer drugs, specifically for pancreatic and breast cancers. He is an assistant professor in the Center for Cancer and Cell and Biology.

Matt Steensma

Matt Steensma, M.D., studies the genetic and molecular factors that cause benign tumors to become cancers to find vulnerabilities that may be targeted for treatment. As a scientist at VARI and a practicing surgeon at Spectrum Health Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital, he is committed to translating scientific discoveries into treatments that improve patients’ lives.

George Vande Woude

George Vande Woude, Ph.D., is a titan in cancer biology. He is the founding director of VARI, which he led for a decade. His discovery and description of the MET receptor tyrosine kinase as an oncogene, together with its activating ligand hepatocyte growth factor, have led to new possibilities for cancer therapies and revolutionized the way scientists view the disease, especially in tumor progression. He is a distinguished scientific fellow, emeritus, in the Center for Cancer and Cell Biology and a member of the National Academy of Sciences.

Ning Wu

Ning Wu, Ph.D., investigates the interface between cellular metabolism and cellular signaling, particularly as they relate to cancer. On the most basic level, cancer is fundamentally a disease of uncontrolled cell growth, and Wu believes that understanding a tumor’s voracious energy requirements and altered signaling pathways will lead to new treatments that optimize existing combination therapies and identify novel therapeutic targets. She is an assistant professor in the Center for Cancer and Cell Biology.

H. Eric Xu

H. Eric Xu, Ph.D., explores the structure of molecules in the body’s complex hormone signaling system, which plays a vital role in health and disease. He is particularly known for his discoveries in defining the structure of molecules critical to the development of new drugs for cancer, diabetes and many others. He is a professor in VARI’s Center for Cancer and Cell Biology and serves as director of VARI–SIMM Research Center in Shanghai, China.

Tao Yang

Tao Yang, Ph.D., studies the signaling systems that govern skeletal stem cells and the role they play in diseases such as osteoarthritis and osteoporosis. Bones are the largest producer of adult stem cells, which mature into cartilage, fat or bone tissue — a process that falters with age. Yang seeks a better understanding of these systems in search of new treatments for degenerative bone disorders. He is an assistant professor in the Center for Cancer and Cell Biology.


Investigating Life's Smallest Components At first glance, the image rotating on Dr. Huilin Li’s computer screen looked like a tangled mass of ribbons, with teal whorls looping through blue ones and an elegantly spiraling pink whorl running through the middle. But Li’s trained eyes saw so much more — a critical piece of molecular machinery responsible for helping copy DNA, the instructions for life, revealed in never-before-seen detail thanks to a revolutionary technology called cryo-electron microscopy (cryo-EM). For Li and his colleagues in Van Andel Research Institute’s (VARI) growing team of structural biologists, cryo-EM offers an unprecedented look at a world that is minuscule in size and massive in impact, a realm of tiny molecular workers that control every aspect of biological function in health and disease. “Cryo-EM is like space exploration in reverse — rather than seeking out the cosmos with powerful telescopes, technology is turned inward, revealing the structures of life’s smallest components in remarkable clarity,” Li said. “Because the shape of molecules is intimately linked to their role in the body, understanding exactly what they look like has immense potential for improving human health.” The right tools and the right people at the right time Although cryo-EM has been around for decades, advances in technology and technique have only recently turned it into a scientific juggernaut, even landing cryo-EM a coveted spot as Nature Method’s Breakthrough of the Year in 2015. Discovery after discovery continue to reinforce cryo-EM's value as a research tool, evidenced by the breathtaking images of previously elusive molecules that frequently adorn the covers of scientific journals around the world.


One thing was clear — to be a structural biology powerhouse, VARI needed to join the cryo-EM community. With the generous support of CEO David Van Andel and the hard work of people across the Institute, VARI’s $10 million David Van Andel Advanced Cryo-Electron Microscopy Suite was up and running by early 2017 — a massive undertaking and an even more impressive achievement given the extensive renovations, installations and recruitment efforts required for completion. “The opening of our cryo-EM facility is a testament to the Institute’s commitment to life-changing science and the exemplary vision of our leadership, board and scientific team,” said Chief Scientific Officer Dr. Peter Jones. “Cryo-EM gives us insight that has never before been attainable. We believe the result will be nothing short of a revolution in our biological understanding that will lead to more effective medications for a multitude of diseases.” The crown jewel of the facility is an FEI Titan Krios from Thermo Fisher Scientific, a behemoth of a microscope that can visualize molecules 1/10,000th the width of a human hair. There are fewer than 120 Krioses in use globally, placing the Institute in the elite company of some of the world’s top-tier research organizations.

“Each day, our scientists are pushing the boundaries of what was once thought to be impossible, always with an eye on building a better tomorrow.”

Dr. Peter Jones

whose previous achievements included producing the first cryo-EM images of the HIV-1 virus’s inner shell, and Li, whose work has revealed mechanisms at the very basis of life. They were joined in 2017 by Dr. Wei Lü and Dr. Juan Du, who use cryo-EM to investigate molecules crucial to development and function of the brain and the nervous system. The team didn’t waste any time getting to work.

As the suite was being built, VARI also grew its structural biology team, recruiting cryo-EM experts whose strengths aligned with the Institute’s mission of impacting human health. These new recruits joined VARI scientists Dr. H. Eric Xu and Dr. Karsten Melcher, both internationally recognized structural biologists who played key roles in bringing cryo-EM to VARI.

From idea to application The beauty of cryo-EM lies in its speed and its ability to allow scientists to view molecular structures in their natural state, rather than the tough-to-produce crystallized form that some gold standard methods require. It works by flash freezing molecules and scanning them with an electron beam, a process that generates hundreds of thousands of two-dimensional images that are then assembled via computer into a three-dimensional portrait.

The first to arrive were facility manager Dr. Gongpu Zhao,

The results are stunning in their clarity, allowing novel

RESEARCH observations that push scientific research into new directions and open additional avenues for therapeutic development. Because the function of a molecule is closely tied to its shape, the ability to see a molecule's structure in intricate detail gives scientists powerful insights that may be translated into new medications for a host of diseases. Think of it like a lock and key: If you know what the lock looks like, you can cut a key to fit it. In much the same way, scientists can design medications that link up with specific proteins, correcting a dysfunctional process. The result? A new, hopefully more effective treatment. In 2017, the first two structures determined wholly on the Institute’s Krios were announced in prestigious journals. In October, Li and collaborators at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory and Imperial College London published a portrait of Mcm2-7 helicase, a molecular complex that triggers DNA replication and plays a key role in the cell divisions that sustain life, in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. In December, Lü and Du’s images of the TRPM4 receptor, a protein that may be an important drug target for stroke and traumatic brain injury, appeared in the pages of Nature. Both are exceptional achievements on their own, but together, they are a herald of discoveries to come. “Science often comes down to the details, meaning that sometimes the smallest things may help solve the biggest problems,” Jones said. “Each day, our scientists are pushing the boundaries of what was once thought to be impossible, always with an eye on building a better tomorrow.” (LEFT TO RIGHT) 3D STRUCTURE OF TRPM4 RECEPTOR; 3D STRUCTURE OF MCM2-7 HELICASE.


Going Further, Together In the past 30 years, Grand Rapids has undergone a renaissance — one that has revitalized the city's economy and transformed a formerly sleepy hilltop into a thriving center of scientific discovery and innovation. Once known as a manufacturing hub, the city is becoming a leader in research aimed at improving human health, a reputation that grows each day thanks to a vibrant community of scientists, educators and health care professionals who call Grand Rapids home. Nowhere is this more evident than the city’s Medical Mile, a stretch of Michigan Avenue that includes Van Andel Institute (VAI), Spectrum Health, Michigan State University (MSU) College of Human Medicine, Grand Valley State University, Ferris State University, Grand Rapids Community College and University of Michigan-Metro Health, and is close to collaborators such as Mercy Health and Mary Free Bed Rehabilitation Hospital. The impact of these organizations and of the community’s investment in their success is undeniable — since the groundbreaking of

Building a culture of collaboration in Grand Rapids

the Institute in 1996, the Medical Mile has sparked more than $3 billion in research, education and health care infrastructure and is now home to more than 65 scientists and their labs. “The spirit of teamwork is alive and well in Grand Rapids, and is propelling the city to international prominence,” said Dr. Peter Jones, the Institute’s chief scientific officer. “No single organization did this alone; instead, it was a collaborative effort bolstered by a dedicated, passionate community that achieved the success we have today.” In September 2017, the Medical Mile continued its trajectory with the opening of Michigan State University’s Grand Rapids Research Center, just down the hill from VAI. The six-story, 162,800-square-foot facility will house 44 labs dedicated to a mission that parallels the Institute’s — to enhance health through cutting-edge biomedical research. VAI and MSU have long collaborated on an institutional and an individual level, thanks in part to the many MSU scientists whose labs resided at the Institute until the

Grand Rapids Research Center opened in the fall and the close proximity of MSU College of Human Medicine’s Secchia Center, just across Michigan Avenue. With both organizations charting a course toward ambitious growth, which will at least double the number of world-class scientists in Grand Rapids, we plan to take our partnership to the next level. By sharing core scientific services, such as high-powered sequencing technology and analytical expertise, investigators at MSU and VAI will have an even more robust scientific support system bolstering their efforts. The goal is to further build a dynamic scientific environment, one in which investigators can focus on their life-changing research with easy access to the necessary resources. “We expect the results of our continued collaboration to be nothing short of transformative,” Jones said. “Together with all of our colleagues in Grand Rapids, we look forward to making our vision of a healthier, better tomorrow a reality.”

Breaking records As the economic impact of the Medical Mile continues to grow, so, too, does the amount of external funding earned by VARI scientists.

Another important metric used to measure the Institute’s scientific impact is the publication of discoveries in scientific journals.

Attaining federal funding is of special importance because it serves as a stamp of scientific validation, thanks in part to rigorous application and peer-review processes, and communicates to the world at large that third-party experts have found the work robust and valuable.

We’re pleased to report that in 2017, VARI scientists excelled on both fronts, earning more peer-reviewed federal grant funding and publishing more scientific papers than any other year in the Institute’s history.


In 2017, VARI scientists ... • Received 37 new awards totaling $27.7 million (life of award) • Of those, 18 awards, or $23.6 million, are federal grants (life of award) • Published 145 publications, 132 of which are peer-reviewed



Van Andel Education Institute

is dedicated to creating classrooms where curiosity, creativity and critical thinking thrive.

Van Andel Institute Graduate School

develops future leaders in biomedical research through an intense problem-focused Ph.D. degree in cell and molecular genetics.



Connecting Two Worlds Dylan Dues is a graduate student on a decidedly difficult path — a path that requires long hours spent absorbing information, laboratory work and multiple rotations in a clinical setting. Dues is on his way to becoming a physician–scientist — a rare specialty that serves as a bridge between the research lab and clinical work with patients. Enrolled in the unique M.D./ Ph.D. Dual Degree Program established by Van Andel Institute Graduate School (VAIGS) and the Michigan State University (MSU) College of Human Medicine, he is at the very beginning of a lifelong professional journey. Dues became interested in pursuing this demanding degree after working as a lab technician in one of VAI’s Parkinson’s disease research labs and volunteering as an undergraduate student on a neurology team at Le Bonheur Children's Hospital in Germantown, Tennessee. As a volunteer working alongside a team of physicians, he got to see firsthand the limits of therapeutic options available for epilepsy and other neurological disorders. He also developed a deeper understanding of the importance of biomedical research in the development of new therapies. “Volunteering at the children’s hospital made me reflect on the multitude of reasons people seek medical care, and how limited we really are regarding what we can offer them,” Dues said. “Because of biomedical research, we know more than ever about human diseases, but there are still a lot of barriers between what we understand scientifically and how that knowledge can be translated into effective therapies for patients.” Working as a physician–scientist will give Dues the opportunity to cross the many barriers that separate the


lab from the clinic and focus on providing the best care possible for his patients and those who might benefit from his research. “If I am working as a physician and I find something interesting or difficult to treat, as a trained scientist, I can take what I’ve learned in the clinic back to the lab and study it further — and being able to do that is pretty rare,” Dues said. “And conversely, working as a scientist with direct access to the clinic, I can be the missing link between what is known now, what we might discover later and how these lab discoveries might impact a patient’s treatment in the future.” Uniquely positioned for translational research Started in 2010, the collaborative M.D./Ph.D. Dual Degree Program was designed to offer a path for students who wanted to work in two symbiotic but separate worlds. Students enrolled in the program work toward a medical degree at MSU’s College of Human Medicine while also pursuing a Ph.D. degree at VAIGS. The program integrates curriculum and hands-on lab and clinical training that is tailor-made for ambitious students like Dues who want to work in the lab and the clinic. According to Dr. Steven J. Triezenberg, president and dean of VAIGS, the program is a continuation of the Institute’s commitment to science education that has a lasting and profound impact on human health and well-being. “Van Andel Institute Graduate School’s mission is to train scientists who are working on medically relevant questions that might one day impact patient care,” Triezenberg said. “Physician–scientists are uniquely positioned for translational research because they have

the opportunity to see problems in the clinic firsthand that need to be solved, and then they can use their skills in the lab to develop new therapeutic solutions.”

“Graduate students at the Institute are treated like budding professionals. It’s exciting to be in a program where faculty have a real interest in seeing you become a physician–scientist.” Dylan Dues As medicine becomes more personalized and granular, Triezenberg sees physician–scientists playing a greater role in medicine. “I think we will see interest in this program increase in the next few years,” Triezenberg said. “National studies have highlighted the importance of people who can function comfortably in two worlds and can find ways to make connections between them in order to benefit patient care.” The Institute’s mission to develop improved treatments

EDUCATION for patients, focus on basic as well as translational research and culture of collaboration gives Dues a learning experience that is tailor-made for his passion. “Graduate students at the Institute are treated like budding professionals. It’s exciting to be in a program where faculty have a real interest in seeing you become a physician–scientist,” Dues said. “People tell me I’m crazy all the time for taking so much on, but I’ve never been one to shy away from a difficult problem or an insurmountable task. I’m where I need to be.”



Van Andel Education Institute, NASA & the Girl Scouts Team Up to Take Girls to the Stars! The sky was not the limit for Girl Scouts who attended Van Andel Education Institute’s (VAEI) inaugural Journey Through a Life in Space camp in early June 2017. Young space explorers participated in hands-on activities, learning about space travel and rocket science, navigating the solar system and discovering how life in space might affect the human body. The camp was a partnership between VAEI, NASA and the Girl Scouts of Michigan Shore to Shore, and featured a curriculum developed by NASA. Campers also met with a NASA engineer and a Van Andel Research Institute scientist to learn about future career opportunities in science-related fields. “It’s wonderful to see so many young women passionate about science — working together collaborating, and

learning what it means to be a scientist working for NASA or Van Andel Research Institute,” said Lisa Neeb, VAEI instructional specialist. “The camp experience we were able to give these girls was the result of different organizations coming together to create a learning experience unlike anything we’ve ever done before. Collaborating with wellknown organizations like NASA and the Girl Scouts enabled us to create a very special program.” VAEI’s summer space camp is one of the many ways the Institute partners with local and national organizations to bring new and exciting science education programs to students. “It’s really encouraging to see that organizations are

interested in working with Van Andel Education Institute to make science education more engaging and impactful,” Neeb said. “I know we will continue to look for more ways to work with national science organizations, community groups, nonprofits, museums and zoos in order to continue to provide the very best educational opportunities we can for our students. It’s exciting to think of what we can do next.”

In 2017, Van Andel Education Institute worked directly with 925 students and more than 1,300 teachers. Since NexGen Inquiry® was launched in April 2015, more than 4,000 teachers have signed up to use it, and more than 114,000 student assignments have been issued through this



groundbreaking platform.

Bea Aldrink Idema Foundation Provides Students with a Summer of Discovery


“Van Andel Education Institute encourages students to be passionate, engaged learners and helps them explore the incredible world of scientific discovery.” Bea Aldrink Idema


Van Andel Education Institute (VAEI) hosted an inaugural summer camp program for 60 enthusiastic young students across West Michigan in July 2017. Fourth- through seventh-grade students from a variety of backgrounds were offered a unique opportunity to experience the joy of discovery and embrace their curiosity, creativity and critical thinking skills through the program. Students learned how to develop supportive learning relationships and expand their understanding of basic scientific principles, all while building friendships and having fun.

The camp was made possible through a generous gift from the Bea Aldrink Idema Foundation, a West Michigan–based nonprofit organization that has long supported VAEI’s commitment to biomedical research and science education. While growing up in a farming family in Allendale, Michigan, Bea developed a zest for life, people and helping others in her community. Supporting educational initiatives has long been a passion for Bea and her extended family — in addition to investing in the Institute, the Bea Aldrink Idema Foundation has contributed generously to academic institutions throughout Grand Rapids.

grade students. The Institute will also use these funds to partner with organizations such as NASA, the Girl Scouts of America, the Grand Rapids Children’s Museum and the Grand Rapids Public Museum to design summer camps that cover a variety of scientific subjects. Terra Tarango, VAEI director and education officer, is grateful to partner with the Foundation to create a unique program that takes learning out of textbooks and places it in an active, hands-on educational environment. “We are so appreciative of the Bea Aldrink Idema Foundation’s generosity and support for our mission,” Tarango said. “The Foundation’s gift has enabled us to broaden the number of students we serve and to enhance the experience for all campers. With professional equipment, creative curriculum and hands-on learning experiences, our campers will gain not only the science content they learn at camp but also treasured memories and a lifelong passion for learning!”

“Van Andel Education Institute encourages students to be passionate, engaged learners and helps them explore the incredible world of scientific discovery,” Bea said. “Our Foundation is proud to support the Institute’s programs that are inspiring students and illuminating the beauty and complexity of the natural world.” Because of the Foundation’s generosity, VAEI is able to extend the summer camp programming into 2018 and expand the curriculum to include second- through 12th-



Van Andel Institute’s donors and philanthropic partners are connected by a shared sense of commitment to the Institute’s mission. Their creativity, passion and dedication have helped the Institute become a thriving center for innovative biomedical research and science education.



Profiles in Hope — Van Andel Institute Donors Turn Love & Loss into Action Blake Crabb

Blake Crabb always looks for an opportunity to tell people about Purple Community and Van Andel Institute (VAI). As a past co-chair of the Purple Community Cabinet and a current member of the Institute’s JBoard Ambassadors, Crabb has given presentations, met with community members and worked hard to help organize successful fundraising events. For Crabb, the work is all deeply personal. “I discovered Purple Community within a month of my mom being diagnosed with pancreatic cancer,” Crabb said. “One of the first things I asked the Purple Community team was if VAI researches pancreatic cancer, and they said, ‘We absolutely do, and by the way, would you like to meet one of our scientists?’” Crabb’s mother fought the disease aggressively, but after two years of treatment, the cancer spread to her liver and even further, to her lymph nodes. Blake and his mom decided to take her off treatment to preserve her quality of life. He stayed by her side until the very end. “It was about 7:15 in the morning when she passed,” Crabb said. “I walked in to her room just after she took her last breath.” When Crabb’s mother passed away, it completely changed his perspective on what was important in life. He began searching for ways to cultivate hope.


“After you are somebody’s main caregiver, you end up with an amazing amount of time, which makes you shift your sense of purpose,” Crabb said. “It made me look for ways to be hopeful, and I’ve come to understand that if you’re looking for hope, you definitely have to take action. You have to be able to look at a challenge and ask yourself, ‘What can I do?’” Over the past several years, Crabb has worked with Purple Community team members and volunteers, organizing and inspiring others and leveraging his skills to support research into pancreatic cancer. “Volunteering your time is not about some massive undertaking — it’s really as simple as getting involved on the ground level and figuring out what motivates you,” Crabb said. “When you spread positive energy around and bring people together, it’s more likely you are going to end up with something that results not just in hope but maybe one day, a cure.” Watch Blake's story at bit.ly/BlakeCrabb.

Pat Ringnalda

There’s an unmistakable joyful energy at the Bee Brave 5K — an event Pat Ringnalda and her friends and family have organized for more than a decade. Ringnalda is a passionate advocate for breast cancer research, and her contagious positivity makes the Bee Brave 5K not only a successful fundraiser but also a way for people to come together in the spirit of hope.

Since partnering with Van Andel Institute’s Purple Community in 2016, the event has raised nearly $140,000 to benefit breast cancer research at the Institute. Ringnalda is encouraged by the outpouring of support she’s received for Bee Brave and its mission of hope. “When I think back to when I first started the event and was recruiting volunteers, friends and family members to help, I thought it would be temporary, but 10 years later, we are still here, working together to make this such a wonderful event,” Ringnalda said. Hosting an event for 10 years takes a great deal of effort, but when the demands weigh on her, Ringnalda often reflects on the people she’s had the opportunity to meet who are in the toughest fight of their lives. “One of my first event sponsors was a women’s exercise business in West Michigan,” Ringnalda said. ”When I would visit, I would see this woman named Lupita on the treadmill, and I could see she was battling cancer and trying to get healthy. She came to our first event with her whole family — and then in less than a year, she passed away. Stories like that remind me that our efforts are important, and we need to keep making a difference for everyone fighting cancer.” Bee Brave’s partnership with Purple Community has helped Ringnalda grow her event and connect her to a network of like-minded supporters. It is a partnership that has helped build on her vision and grow her popular event into something extraordinary. “If you’re thinking about doing an event, my answer is … stop thinking and do it now,” Ringnalda said. “Working with Purple Community connects your passion to an incredible group of people who are there to support you and help

you give back for a cause you care deeply about.” Watch Pat's story at bit.ly/PatRingnalda.

Chelsea Westra

Chelsea Westra never thought she would be organizing golf outings or leading a team of volunteers, but for more than a year, she has helped run Eagles for Eric, a West Michigan– based fundraising committee. Together with Purple Community, Westra has helped raised thousands of dollars to benefit osteosarcoma research. Named after her late husband, Eric, the committee is a tribute to the life they shared together and to Westra’s need to help others who have been affected by cancer. Westra’s first child, Arie, had just been born when Eric underwent surgery due to recurrent osteosarcoma, a rare bone cancer. The couple was devastated by the unexpected news, but they fought through it and sought out the best treatment possible. Four months later, a full-body bone scan confirmed that tumors had spread throughout his body. “Eric needed everything I had to help him,” Westra said. “Our parents and siblings really stepped up. My son, Arie, was essentially raised by my sister-in-law during the last few months Eric was sick — we missed the first time he crawled, and we missed a lot of those little milestones.” Eric passed away from the disease in 2016, and it was the most difficult thing Westra could ever imagine. Being Eric’s caregiver for those three years gave her a newfound understanding of the importance of research in developing new treatments for devastating diseases like osteosarcoma.

During Eric’s first surgery, he donated a portion of his tumor to Dr. Matthew Steensma’s lab at the Institute to be used for osteosarcoma research. Westra views this act of generosity as a fitting way to honor the life of the man she loved so dearly. “A great heartache, like I had with Eric, really gives you a heart for great causes. And Van Andel Institute is what’s in my heart because it keeps Eric’s memory alive. It still feels like we can do something good with it, and hopefully, one day, because of what they’re able to do with Eric’s tumor, it won’t be a terminal diagnosis; it will be a beatable diagnosis,” Westra said. Through Westra’s work with Purple Community, she plans to play an active role in the Institute’s work to develop lifesaving therapies for people battling cancer. “Hope looks different to everyone,“ Westra said. “For me, hope looks like working hard so that my son, Arie, can see that maybe his dad isn’t here, but look at this amazing thing that happened because of his life.” Watch Chelsea's story at bit.ly/ChelseaWestra.

David Bronkema

David Bronkema’s faith and family mean the world to him. When he was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease at the young age of 42, his thoughts instantly went to God and his children. “The thing that flooded my mind when I was driving home after being diagnosed was that my kids need to understand that God is good, not just when things are going well … I want them to know he is good all the time,” Bronkema said.

PHILANTHROPY Bronkema’s strong Christian faith and need to do good in the world led him to become a dedicated supporter of Van Andel Institute’s Parkinson’s disease research, and he is optimistic that with donor support, the Institute’s scientists can help those diagnosed with this degenerative disease. “I’ll be honest and say I hope that there is a cure in my lifetime, so I try and live every day to the fullest, and never give up hope,” Bronkema said. “Just understanding all the great research taking place at the Institute should give anyone a real sense of hope that we are that much closer to a cure.” Bronkema is an ardent believer in the Institute’s ability to effect change and bring about new therapies for Parkinson’s, and he hopes more people will join him and support its mission. “If you want to change the way things are tomorrow, you have to get involved in what the Institute is doing today,” Bronkema said. “Whether it’s volunteering or donating through Purple Community, or giving a donation to benefit the Institute’s scientists, everyone can find a way to support the work happening here.” Facing the hardest battle of his life, Bronkema is encouraged by the Institute’s work and supported by the love of his family and his faith in God. “I have so much hope for what Van Andel Institute is doing, and because of that, I will never lose heart,” he said. Watch David's story at bit.ly/ DavidBronkema.


Winterfest & The Art of Fashion & Research



A Conversation About Depression Hosted by Carol Van Andel & The Carol Van Andel Angel of Excellence Dinner & Awards Presentation




Purple Community 5K & Around the World



Curiosity and Cocktails & Designs on a Cure




VAI Golf Outing & Couture for a Cure



Hope on the Hill & A Conversation About Osteoporosis Hosted by Carol Van Andel




A Perfect Day, an Unforgettable Memory hundreds of other people with their own stories of life, loss and love.

Jens Bach loved to see his grandson, Jake, play football. On a warm September afternoon, Jens sat in his wheelchair with his nurse, Joyce, at his side watching as Jake played in the Hope College Purple Community game. It wasn’t easy to see every part of the game, but he knew that Jake was wearing a jersey that had Jens “Flex” Bach stitched on the back in his honor. He was at the very end of his long fight with cancer, but Jens wanted to be there to watch Jake play, one last time.

“What is so great and moving about Purple Community games is that everyone there has a special relationship to the cause, and even though our family was there in a big group for Jens, it was so wonderful to see other families who were there supporting their loved ones,” Scott said. “Every player had a name on the back of their jersey, and I knew they were playing for someone who was important to them — someone they loved or maybe someone they lost in the fight against cancer.”

“It was a perfect day,” said Mary VanderVeen, Jens’ daughter and Jake’s mom. “My dad loved watching Jake’s games, and as the football season approached, it became clear that we didn’t have much time left with him, so the Purple Community game became an important event for us.” Mary and her husband, Scott, along with family and friends, came from all across the country to be there with Jens at the game.

Caroline Dykstra, assistant athletic director at Hope College, has seen firsthand how important Purple Community games are to families whose lives have been affected by cancer. For her and the athletes she works with, the events are a time of great emotion and great purpose.

“My dad passed away almost one week after the Purple Community game. That game has come to mean so much to us as a family,” Mary said. “He was such a kind, gentle and strong man who loved his family, and having that moment with him was really something we will never forget.”

“Everyone who attends our games has a story about someone who has fought a battle with cancer,” Dykstra said. “Our partnership with Purple Community gives us the chance to honor people like Jens, give back to our community in a meaningful way and help raise funds for a cause we are incredibly passionate about.”

Purple Community events do more than raise funds for research; they bring people together through a shared experience, and often, they create unforgettable memories.

When the game ended on that late-summer afternoon, and Jake said goodbye to his teammates and left the field, he walked toward his family and his grandfather Jens sitting in his wheelchair. Jens never had the chance to play football as a young man, but one week before he passed away, surrounded by his friends and family, Jake handed his grandfather the jersey he wore during the game. It was the least he could do for his biggest fan.

Every jersey has a name When Scott VanderVeen looked out in the stands during the game, he noticed that Jens and his family were among




Purple Community Purple Community, Van Andel Institute’s grassroots fundraising and awareness program, connects individuals, schools, teams and businesses to the resources needed to support groundbreaking cancer and Parkinson’s disease research. In 2017, Purple Community members hosted more than 150 events throughout Michigan that raised more than $622,000. Purple Community events bring people from every walk of life together to celebrate the power of family, friendship and community action. They also give people the chance to honor those fighting disease and pay tribute to those who have lost their fight against cancer and Parkinson’s. Every event is a collection of stories — people coming together to support one another and help make the world a better, healthier place.



Sources of Funding Sources of Funding for Research & Education


Private philanthropy


Grants and contract revenue (direct)


Endowment income




Sources of Funding for Operating & Overhead Expenses


Endowment income


Grants and contract revenue


Society of Hope The Society of Hope recognizes individuals and couples who have notified us that they will include Van Andel Institute in their will or other deferred giving plan. Through our acknowledgment of and gratitude to these exceptional people, we hope that their generosity will inspire others. Vivian G. Anderson Stanley & Blanche Ash Kevin & Michelle Bassett Philip & Shirley Battershall John & Nancy Batts Fred & Julie Bogaert Bill & Marilyn Crawford Barbara Erhards J. Scott Grill Joan Hammersmith Arthur Joseph Jabury Ms. Maryanna Johnson

Renee Kuipers Mr. & Mrs. Timothy Long Jamie Mills & Jim Nichols LG & Helen Myers Jone E. Phillips Ronald Rutkowski Alan R. Ryan George Sietsema Eva Sonneville Fred L. Tape Hylda & Alvin Tuuk John E. VanFossen

In Memoriam — Donald W. Maine

With great sadness, we said farewell to Don Maine in February 2018. A member of the Van Andel Education Institute Board of Trustees and chair of the Finance and Compensation committees for more than 11 years, Don was a devoted friend and an enthusiastic champion of the Institute from our beginning.

Don was a fixture on the educational scene in West Michigan. He was fascinated with entrepreneurial thinking, and his vision guided Davenport University from a small college to a fully accredited university. As the former president and chancellor, he was beloved at Davenport and throughout our community. A mentor to many, Don

made people feel special in everything he did. He gave freely of his time and expertise, serving on multiple boards and receiving numerous accolades along the way. Don was a great friend personally and of the Institute. He will be missed dearly. - David Van Andel


Signature Special Event Sponsors ADAC Automotive Adamy Valuation Ag Business Solutions Alliance Beverage Amway Amway Grand Plaza AON Aquinas College Artistry ASI Interiors Atomic Object Barnes & Thornburg, LLP B.D.'s BBQ Belwith Products Matthew & Shari Berger BHS Insurance Franco & Alessandra Bianchi Dave & Jill Bielema Bluewater Technologies Charles & Christine Boelkins Buist Electric Calamos Jerry & Suzanne Callahan Caminiti Associates Inc. Scott & Heidi Campbell Cancer & Hematology Centers of Western Michigan Cascade Rentals Cheeky Strut Chemical Bank The Chop House CityFlatsHotel Coldwell Banker Colliers International Consumers Credit Union Cornerstone University Crowe Horwath, LLP Crystal Clean Auto Detailing

Cumulus Media, Inc. Tom & Tracy Curran Currie Foundation Custer, Inc. CWD Real Estate Investment Cygnus 27 Czech Asset Management, L.P. Davenport University David & Carol Van Andel Family Foundation Brian DeVries & Barbara Pugh The Dick & Betsy DeVos Family Foundation Discovery Financial, LLC Divani DK Security The Douglas & Maria DeVos Foundation Eastbrook Homes Eenhoorn, LLC Eileen DeVries Family Foundation Ellis Parking Erhardt Construction Eurest Extend Your Reach Ferris Coffee & Nut Co. Fifth Third Private Bank First & Main Management First National Bank John & Melynda Folkert FOODesign by Chef Brech Dan & Lou Ann Gaydou Goldman Sachs Good Grand Rapids Christian Schools Grand Rapids YMCA Grand Valley State University


We are grateful to have extraordinarily dedicated signature event sponsors. Thank you for partnering with us and supporting our mission throughout the year.

Grand Ventures Gravity Taphouse Grille Greenridge Realty Martin & Peggy Greydanus Dr. Jana Hall Fred L. Hansen Harvey Automotive Paul & Sheryl Haverkate Honigman Hope College Horwood Marcus & Berk Chartered Howard Miller Huizenga Group Ben & Molly Hunting Melissa & Ralph Iannelli Ice Sculptures Ltd. The I.C.N. Foundation iHeartMedia, Inc. Independent Bank Iron i understand Jandernoa Foundation Jeffery Roberts Design John Hancock Retirement Plan Services, LLC Dr. Peter & Veronica Jones Jim & Ginger Jurries JW Marriott Grand Rapids Keeler John & Nancy Kennedy Kerkstra Precast Kinney Family Kitchen 67 Al & Robin Koop Lake Michigan Credit Union Ray & Jeannine Lanning Leigh's

Leo's Lighthouse Group Gary & Vicky Ludema Macatawa Bank Marsha Veenstra State Farm Insurance Mary Free Bed Rehabilitation Hospital McAlvey Merchant & Associates McDonnell Investment Management, LLC McShane & Bowie, P.L.C. Media 3 Design Meijer Mercy Health Metro Health Michigan State University College of Human Medicine Mika Meyers, PLC Mike Bell, Inc. & Westwater Patterson Jamie Mills & Jim Nichols Mitten CNC MLive Media Group/The Grand Rapids Press Modern Day Events & Floral Dave & Kim Moorhead Mike & Rachel Mraz Norris, PernĂŠ & French, LLP Investment Counsel Tim & Karen O'Donovan Orthopaedic Associates of Michigan Osteria Rossa Owen-Ames-Kimball Co. Parkinson's Association of West Michigan Leland & Alexandra Perez

Peter C. & Emajean Cook Foundation Pine Rest Christian Mental Health Services Pioneer Construction Pitsch Companies Preusser Jewelers Priority Health Radius Health, Inc. Reds at Thousand Oaks Regal Investment Advisors, LLC The Richard & Helen DeVos Foundation Tom & Brenda Rinks Rocket Science Creative Rockford Construction RoMan Manufacturing John & Therese Rowerdink Rowerdink, Inc. San Chez Bistro Scott & Jan Spoelhof Foundation Secchia Family Foundation SemelSnow Interior Design, Inc. The Sharpe Collection Nick & Karen Sherman six.one.six Slows Bar BQ Sobie Meats, LLC Soils & Structures Spectrum Health Square 1 Bank, a division of Pacific Western Bank Rob & Susan Stafford Standard Supply & Lumber Co. Steelcase Stephen Klotz Family Foundation The Steve & Amy Van Andel Foundation

Thomas & Mary Stuit Taconic Charitable Foundation Thomas S. Fox Family Todd Wenzel Buick GMC Townsquare Media (Channel 95.7, 100.5 The River & WFGR 98.7) Truscott Rossman U.S. Bank USA Financial Sharon Van Dellen Van Eerden Foodservice Company Dave & Beth Van Portfliet Brian & Lori Vander Baan The Veldheer, Long, Mackay & Bernecker Group of Merrill Lynch Russ & Chris Visner Waddell & Reed, Inc. Warner Norcross & Judd, LLP Watson Smith, Inc. Wells Fargo Bank West Michigan Woman Wheelhouse Dr. Bart & Wendy Williams Williams Kitchen & Bath Greg & Meg Willit Bob & Karen Wiltz Wolverine Worldwide Women's Lifestyle Magazine Jim & Jane Zwiers


Institute Leadership Team “In Grand Rapids, we are discovering new ways to work together and build a critical mass of talent in the region. At the same time, we’re reaching out across the world, expanding collaborations with an impressive list of leading organizations, scientists and physicians.” David Van Andel

David Van Andel Van Andel Institute Chairman & CEO

Jerry Callahan, Ph.D., M.B.A. Vice President, Innovation & Collaboration Officer

David Van Andel is Chairman and CEO of Van Andel Institute in Grand Rapids, Michigan. He is also an entrepreneur involved in several other business interests in the natural and life science products industries.

Jana Hall, Ph.D., M.B.A. Chief Operations Officer

The son of Jay Van Andel, founder of Van Andel Institute and co-founder of Amway Corporation, David is currently a member of Amway’s Board of Directors and serves on its Executive, Governance and Audit committees. Before leading Van Andel Institute, he had held various positions at Amway since 1977, including chief operating officer of Amway’s Pyxis Innovations Business Unit, and was senior vice president–Americas and Europe, overseeing Amway business activities in North America and 22 European and 11 Latin American affiliates.

Peter Jones, Ph.D., D.Sc. Chief Scientific Officer, Van Andel Research Institute Timothy Myers Vice President & Chief Financial Officer Terra Tarango Director & Education Officer, Van Andel Education Institute Steven J. Triezenberg, Ph.D. President & Dean, Van Andel Institute Graduate School Linda Zarzecki Vice President of Human Resources


Board & Council Members Van Andel Institute Trustees

Van Andel Research Institute Trustees

David Van Andel Chairman & Chief Executive Officer, Van Andel Institute

David Van Andel Chairman & Chief Executive Officer, Van Andel Institute

John Kennedy President & Chief Executive Officer, Autocam Medical

Tom R. DeMeester, M.D. Professor & Chairman Emeritus, Department of Surgery, Keck School of Medicine, University of Southern California

Mark Meijer President, Life E.M.S. Ambulance

James B. Fahner, M.D. Chief of Hematology & Oncology, Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital Michelle Le Beau, Ph.D. Professor of Medicine, Section of Hematology/Oncology; Director, University of Chicago Comprehensive Cancer Center; Director, Cancer Cytogenetics Laboratory, University of Chicago George Vande Woude, Ph.D. Distinguished Scientific Fellow, Founding Research Director, Van Andel Research Institute Ralph Weichselbaum, M.D. Chairman, Department of Radiation; Head, Ludwig Center for Metastasis Research, University of Chicago


Max S. Wicha, M.D. Distinguished Professor of Oncology; Professor, Department of Internal Medicine; Founding Director, University of Michigan Comprehensive Cancer Center


Van Andel Education Institute Trustees David Van Andel Chairman & Chief Executive Officer, Van Andel Institute James E. Bultman, Ed.D. Former President, Hope College Donald W. Maine Former President, Davenport University Juan R. Olivarez, Ph.D. President, Aquinas College Gordon L. Van Harn, Ph.D. Emeritus Provost & Professor of Biology, Calvin College


Van Andel Research Institute Board of Scientific Advisors

Howard J. Federoff, M.D., Ph.D. Vice Chancellor for Health Affairs; Dean of Medicine, University of California Irvine

Michael Brown, M.D. (Chair) Paul J. Thomas Professor of Genetics & Director of the Jonsson Center of Molecular Genetics, University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center

Theresa Guise, M.D. Professor of Medicine; Jerry W. & Peg S. Throgmartin Professor of Oncology, Department of Medicine, Division of Endocrinology, Indiana University

Richard Axel, M.D. Professor of Neurosciences, Columbia University

Kristian Helin, Ph.D. Director, Biotech Research & Innovation Centre (BRIC); Professor, Faculty of Health Sciences, University of Copenhagen

Joseph L. Goldstein, M.D. Chairman of the Department of Molecular Genetics, University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center Tony Hunter, Ph.D. Professor, Molecular & Cell Biology Laboratory; American Cancer Society Professor; Renato Dulbecco Chair; Director, Salk Institute Cancer Center Philip A. Sharp, Ph.D. Professor of Biology & Head of the Cancer Center, Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Sharon Y.R. Dent, Ph.D. Professor and Chair, Department of Epigenetics and Molecular Carcinogenesis; Director, Science Part; Director, Center for Cancer Epigenetics, MD Anderson Cancer Center Max S. Wicha, M.D. Distinguished Professor of Oncology; Professor, Department of Internal Medicine; Founding Director, University of Michigan Comprehensive Cancer Center

Van Andel Research Institute External Scientific Advisory Board

Van Andel Education Institute Advisory Council

Tony Hunter, Ph.D. (Chair) Professor, Molecular & Cell Biology Laboratory; American Cancer Society Professor; Renato Dulbecco Chair; Director, Salk Institute Cancer Center

David Van Andel Chairman & Chief Executive Officer, Van Andel Institute

Marie-Francois Chesselet, M.D., Ph.D. Charles H. Markham Professor of Neurology; Distinguished Professor of Neurology and of Neurobiology, Reed Neurological Research Center

Nancy Ayres Former General Manager, Flexco Stephen Best Education Consultant, Michigan Department of Education

LEADERSHIP James Boelkins, Ph.D. Former Provost, Hope College Joseph Krajcik, Ph.D. Professor, Department of Teacher Education at Michigan State University Carol Van Andel, B.A. Executive Director, David & Carol Van Andel Family Foundation

Van Andel Institute Graduate School Board of Directors James Fahner, M.D. Chief of Hematology & Oncology, Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital Michael J. Imperiale, Ph.D. Director, Doctoral Program in Cancer Biology; Associate Chair, Department of Microbiology & Immunology, University of Michigan Peter Jones, Ph.D., D.Sc. Chief Scientific Officer, Van Andel Research Institute Pamela Kidd, M.D. Hematopathologist & Medical Director of the Hematology & Flow Cytometry Laboratories, Spectrum Health & Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital Gordon Van Harn, Ph.D. Emeritus Provost & Professor of Biology, Calvin College


Board & Council Members (continued) Van Andel Institute Board of Governors Cynthia Afendoulis Martin & Sue Allen Kurt Arvidson Tony & Kathleen Asselta James & Shirley Balk Jeffrey & Stephanie Battershall Stacie Behler Gregory & Rajene Betz Franco & Alessandra Bianchi David & Jill Bielema Chuck & Christine Boelkins Carrie Boer Patrick Brady Charles & Pam Brickey Drs. Patrik & Lena Brundin James & Martha Bultman Jerry & Suzanne Callahan Scott & Heidi Campbell John & Marie Canepa Matthew Cook Sam & Janene Cummings Dave & Karen Custer Stephen Czech Mark & Mary Jane de Waal Jerry & Karen DeBlaay Thomas DeJong Robert DeVilbiss

Doug & Maria DeVos Richard DeVos John Dykema & Michele Maly-Dykema David Eisler Michael & Lynette Ellis Tim Emmitt Jim & Gail Fahner John & Melynda Folkert David & Judy Frey Dan & Lou Ann Gaydou Gary & Pam Granger Martin & Margaret Greydanus Jefra Groendyk Ronald Haan Dr. Thomas J. Haas James & Kathy Hackett Dr. Jana Hall David & Joyce Hecht Paul & Rosemary Heule John & Gwen Hibbard Bradley & Liz Hilton Dirk Hoffius Robert Hooker J.C. Huizenga & Dr. Tammy L. Born-Huizenga Allen & Helen Hunting

CO-CHAIRS: TIM LONG & VICKY LUDEMA Ben & Molly Hunting Douglas Hutchings Jose & Sue Infante Earle & Kyle Irwin Mike & Sue Jandernoa Lynne Jarman-Johnson Dr. Peter & Veronica Jones John & Deb Kailunas David & Nancy Kammeraad John & Nancy Kennedy James King & Stephanie Rubie Craig & Debra Kinney Stephen Klotz John Knapp Diane Kniowski Al & Robin Koop Raymond & Jeannine Lanning Ken Larm Wilbur & Sharon Lettinga Ray Loeschner Timothy & Kimberly Long Gary & Vicky Ludema Donald & Kathleen Maine Linda Martin Hendrik & Liesel Meijer Mark & Mary Beth Meijer Rusty & Jennifer Merchant

Jamie Mills & Jim Nichols Louis Moran Mike & Rachel Mraz Mark & Elizabeth Murray John & Gail Nowak Juan & Mary Olivarez Richard Pappas Donald & Ann Parfet Lewis Pitsch & Teresa Hendricks-Pitsch Pat Ringnalda Jeffery Roberts Eve Rogus Carol Rottman Doug Rottman John & Therese Rowerdink Michael & Cindy Schaap Peter & Joan Secchia George & Linda Sharpe George & Missy Sharpe Budge & Marilyn Sherwood Brent & Diane Slay Kasie Smith John & Judy Spoelhof Robert & Susan Stafford Thomas & Mary Stuit Duke Suwyn

Renee Tabben Dr. Steven & Laura Triezenberg David & Carol Van Andel Steve & Amy Van Andel Michael & Michelle Van Dyke Daniel & Ann Marie Van Eerden Gordon & Mary Van Harn Maria Van Til Drs. Gordon & Margaret Van Wylen Brian & Lori Vander Baan Stuart & Nelleke Vander Heide Allen & Nancy VanderLaan Michael VanGessel David & Beth VanPortfliet Chris & Dana Vinton Russell & Christine Visner Phillip & Kathleen Vogelsang Geoffrey & LeeAnne Widlak Scott & Rebecca Wierda James & Sue Williams Greg Willit & Meg M. Miller Willit James & Jane Zwiers

Thank you, Board of Governors. As members of the Van Andel Institute Board of Governors, you serve as ambassadors who help advance the Institute’s mission and vision in the local community. Thank you for being our partners and contributing significantly to our success.


LEADERSHIP JBoard Ambassadors


Dr. Dorothy C. Armstrong Troy & Jill Austin Jon & Jennifer Baldini Chad Bassett Scott & Heidi Campbell Natalie Cleary Paige Cornetet Blake Crabb Aaron & Afton DeVos Samuel DeVries William Dion Lindsey Dubis Bo & Jennifer Fowler Kevin Gardenier Linsey Gleason David Granger Crissy Hughes Jason & Brandi Huyser Jack Iott Eric Jones Allison Keutgen Kevin & Kathryn Kileen Michael Kooistra Eric & Caitlin Kovalak Michael & Jaimie Lomonaco Erica Lonn Kimberly Loomis

Geoff Ludema Matthew McDonald Peter & Kim Medema Kate Meyer Elizabeth Mines Phillip & Amy Mitchell Evan & Caitlin Mlynarek Mike & Rachel Mraz Christopher & Alyssa Nance Kyle & Kendra Osowski Matt Osterhaven Gregory & Allyson Paplawsky Erin Paquet Leland & Alexandra Perez Laurie Placinski Elizabeth Pohl Nikki Probst Jeff & Deidre Remtema Adam & Liz Rhoda Charlie & Tanya Rowerdink Lindsay & Scott Slagboom Jon & Allison Sleight Meriden Smucker Steve Steketee Tim Streit Paul & Libby Stuit Charity Taatjes

William Templin Elizabeth Terhorst Jane Tomaszewski Bob Tsironis Aaron & Hailey Van Andel Chris Van Andel Jesse Van Andel Kyle Van Andel Daniel VandenBosch David & Sarah Vanderveen Marc & Ashley Veenstra Alison & Bill Waske Sutter Amanda Whowell MeiLi Wieringa Charlie Wondergem Aaron & Amanda Wong Scott & Megan Zubrickas

Thank you, JBoard members. As JBoard members, you are leaders who exhibit the power of young professionals to make a difference. We appreciate the energy and dedication you bring to the Institute. Thank you for your vision and your friendship in our efforts to improve the health and enhance the lives of current and future generations.


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Profile for Van Andel Institute

2017 Van Andel Institute Annual Report  

2017 Van Andel Institute Annual Report