Van Andel Institute

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Van Andel Institute
Van Andel Institute logo.png
Van Andel Institute.jpg
Formation 1996
Headquarters Grand Rapids, Michigan
David Van Andel
$210 million

Van Andel Institute (VAI) is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit medical research institute in Grand Rapids, Michigan. VAI was founded by Jay and Betty Van Andel in 1996 and is composed of two institutes: Van Andel Research Institute (VARI) and Van Andel Education Institute (VAEI).[1] VARI scientists study the genetic, cellular, and molecular origins of cancer and other several other degenerative diseases, notably Parkinson's.[2] VAEI offers various science education programs for students K-12, professional development for science teachers, and a graduate school for college students pursuing biomedical research.[3]


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.[4] The research at VARI has primarily focused on cancer, but is expanding into other diseases such as osteoporosis,[5] Parkinson's,[6] and diabetes. The Institute’s Phase II[7] building expansion included the addition of space for the new Jay Van Andel Parkinson Research Lab.[8] 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.[9]

In 2014, Peter Jones became the VARI research director and has continued to recruit faculty members to VARI. Currently, VARI is organized into three centers: the Center for Epigenetics, the Center for Neurodegenerative Sciences, and the Center for Cancer and Cell Biology.


Van Andel Education Institute (VAEI) provides science education programs to inspire and prepare students to pursue science or science-related professions.[10] In addition to internships and other opportunities for students, major programs include:

Science Academy[edit]

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[edit]

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.[11] VAIGS was accredited by the HLC on November 12, 2013.


Located in downtown Grand Rapids, Michigan, the Van Andel Institute's building was designed by 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 the "Grand Rapids Medical Mile". The structure was designed to recall images of a river, an acknowledgement of its proximity to the Grand River. Notable areas include a demonstration lab and on-site cafeteria. The lobby features a 14-foot tall glass sculpture called "Life" created by Dale Chihuly designed to be an artistic representation of a DNA double helix.


  1. ^ "Van Andel Institute". West Michigan Science & Technology Initiative. Retrieved November 29, 2010. 
  2. ^ Matt Roush (September 20, 2012). "Van Andel Showcases Latest Parkinson's Research". CBS Detroit 8. Retrieved March 10, 2014. 
  3. ^ Tom Beaman (Spring 2008), BioMatters – Students Thrive in Michigan Science Education Programs, MichBio, pp. 14–16, retrieved November 29, 2010 
  4. ^ Matt Vande Bunte (February 27, 2010). "Van Andel Institute research could help improve cancer drugs effectiveness in fighting kidney cancer". The Grand Rapids Press. Retrieved November 29, 2010. 
  5. ^ Matt Vande Bunte (October 21, 2009). "Van Andel Institute, research partner to study osteoporosis, apply findings at new clinic on Blodgett campus". The Grand Rapids Press. Retrieved November 29, 2010. 
  6. ^ "Searchable database of funded grants: Circulating microRNAs as biomarkers for early detection of Parkinson's Disease". Michael J. Fox Foundation. Retrieved November 29, 2010. 
  7. ^ J. Dykehouse (December 2009). "Lab expansion opens" (PDF). Nature. 462: 1085. doi:10.1038/nj7276-1085c. Retrieved November 29, 2010. 
  8. ^ Monica Scott (October 14, 2009). "Michigan State University lures Parkinson's research team, $6.2 million grant, to Grand Rapids". The Grand Rapids Press. Retrieved November 29, 2010. 
  9. ^ NS Duesbery; BT Teh (February 26, 2007). "Cancer: biology and therapeutics – A tribute to George Vande Woude". Oncogene. 26 (9): 1258–1259. PMID 17322909. doi:10.1038/sj.onc.1210257. Retrieved November 29, 2010. 
  10. ^ Stephanie Doublestein (May 13, 2010). "Van Andel Education Institute Growing a Culture of Young Scientists". Rapid Growth Media. Retrieved November 29, 2010. 
  11. ^ Brian McVicar (June 20, 2012). "With first graduates under its belt, Van Andel Institute Graduate School is closer to gaining accreditation". MLive. Retrieved August 23, 2012. 

Coordinates: 42°58′10″N 85°40′01″W / 42.9695°N 85.667°W / 42.9695; -85.667