Van Andel Institute
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|Van Andel Institute|
|Location||Grand Rapids, MI|
Van Andel Institute (VAI) is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization in Grand Rapids, Michigan. The Institute’s mission is to improve the health and enhance the lives of current and future generations through disease research and science education. VAI was founded by Jay and Betty Van Andel in 1996 and is composed of two complementary institutes: Van Andel Research Institute (VARI) and Van Andel Education Institute (VAEI). VARI scientists study the genetic, cellular, and molecular origins of cancer and other diseases and work to translate those findings into effective therapies for patients. VAEI provides a continuum of learning through a variety of educational programs that help to prepare tomorrow’s scientists.
Van Andel Research Institute
VARI’s primary work has been in basic research – looking for what occurs to cause disease in individual cells, and using that information to identify biomarkers that can help predict and diagnose diseases, and lead to the development of safer, more effective drugs. The research at VARI has primarily focused on cancer, but is expanding into other diseases such as osteoporosis, Parkinson’s, and diabetes. The Institute’s Phase II building expansion included the addition of space for the new Jay Van Andel Parkinson Research Lab. VAI co-founder Jay Van Andel suffered from Parkinson disease for over 10 years before his death in 2004.
From 1999 until 2009, former National Cancer Institute administrator George Vande Woude, Ph.D., served as VARI’s research director and helped to build the research programs that exist today. Before joining VARI, Dr. Vande Woude was Director of the Basic Research Program at the Frederick Cancer Research and Development Center as well as the Director for the Division of Basic Sciences at the National Cancer Institute. In the early 1980s, Dr. Vande Woude’s laboratory discovered the human MET oncogene, which is now an important target in the development of anti-cancer drugs.
Van Andel Education Institute
Van Andel Education Institute (VAEI) provides science education programs to inspire and prepare students to pursue science or science-related professions. In addition to internships and other opportunities for students, major programs include:
The Science Academy offers several hands-on programs for both students and teachers. Through the Out-of-School-Time Cohort Program, groups of students learn to think and act like scientists over the course of three years, asking their own questions about different species, ecosystems, and genetics and answering them with the tools of science. Science on Saturday is a one-day program in which students and adults form two-person teams and explore some aspect of the natural world. Teachers learn alongside their students through Classroom Science Investigations, a unique professional development program tailored to each teacher’s needs.
VAI Graduate School
Van Andel Institute Graduate School (VAIGS) is a Ph.D. program that prepares students for careers in biomedical disease research. The program includes a problem-based curriculum that simulates how scientists approach new research questions, laboratory rotations, seminars and workshops, and optional teaching and hospital experiences. The first graduating class was in 2012. VAIGS was accredited by the HLC on November 12, 2013.
Located in downtown Grand Rapids, Michigan, Van Andel Institute's building was designed by famed architect Rafael Viñoly to be constructed in two phases; the first phase was completed in 2000 and Phase II opened in December 2009. The building is set into a steep hill at the beginning of "Grand Rapids Medical Mile".
The facility has many unique design elements and benefits, including:
- Windows and glass roof structures that cascade down both sides of the building provide abundant natural light, even to several laboratories; the flow of the glass roof structures evoke the rapids of the nearby Grand River
- Open spaces and layout foster random encounters and the free exchange of ideas among employees working in different areas
- On-site cafeteria
- Demonstration lab for visitors to view research in progress
- Interactive discovery wall for visitors to learn about the Institute's history, milestones, and impact
- Library with research journals, computer access, fireplace, and comfortable seating
- Next door to the recently renovated Crescent Park
- Interior design that reflects the diversity of the Institute's staff
- Custom-designed modular lab benches and work surfaces that are adjustable and easy to reconfigure
- Innovative system of climate control based on integrated design of walls, roofs and lab fixtures
- "Life," by world-famous artist Dale Chihuly, is a 14-foot glass sculpture reminiscent of the DNA double-helix that spirals from the ceiling in the lobby
- Phase II is LEED certified at the Platinum level to have minimal impact on the environment
Van Andel Institute serves as the cornerstone of the West Michigan biomedical research and life sciences corridor. The past decade has seen more than $1 billion in private and philanthropic investment in research and clinical infrastructure along the Medical Mile in Grand Rapids, which includes Van Andel Institute, Spectrum Health System, the Michigan State University College of Human Medicine Secchia Center, the GVSU Cook-DeVos Center for Health Sciences, and other medical-related developments.
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