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VAI Voice

The Official Blog of Van Andel Institute
30 Dec 2016

What difference does a year make?

When it comes to biomedical research and science education, a year can make all the difference. In 2016, we celebrated Van Andel Institute’s 20th anniversary, reflecting on what has been accomplished and laying the foundations for the future. As the last chapter in 2016 begins to close, we would like to share some of this year’s most notable highlights.

An uptick in clinical trials
Clinical trials are an important and necessary step in the development of new diagnostics and therapies that benefit patients. This year, Van Andel Research Institute continued collaborations with Stand Up To Cancer (SU2C), The Cure Parkinson’s Trust and other outstanding organizations to launch several clinical trials to investigate potential therapies for cancer and Parkinson’s, respectively.

Learn more about these exciting efforts by checking out the links below:

Van Andel Research Institute–Stand Up To Cancer (VARI–SU2C) Epigenetics Dream Team trials:

Linked Clinical Trials (Parkinson’s disease):

A major discovery in Parkinson’s disease
A drug originally developed for type 2 diabetes is being readied for human clinical trials in search of the world’s first treatment to impede the progression of Parkinson’s disease, following publication of promising laboratory findings.

If MSDC-0160 is as successful in human trials as it was in laboratory models, it could be a game-changer, giving people with Parkinson’s a higher quality of life for a longer period of time. The Cure Parkinson’s Trust and Van Andel Research Institute are currently working with the drug’s developer, Metabolic Solutions Development Company, to address regulatory issues and obtain funding to organize the clinical trial. The study’s leader, VARI’s Dr. Patrik Brundin, hopes a trial can begin sometime in 2017. Read more here.

New leadership for Van Andel Education Institute (VAEI)
Terra Tarango was appointed director and education officer of VAEI in 2016. Tarango has more than 15 years of experience working on curriculum and technology-focused education products. She will oversee the development and implementation of all VAEI science education and teacher professional development programs—and help take the Institute’s inquiry-based education methods to a national audience. Learn more about Tarango by clicking here.

VAEI, 2016 by the numbers
In the last year, VAEI has worked with 800 students and more than 1,200 teachers in West Michigan.

Since its launch in April 2015, 3,000 teachers have signed up to use NexGen Inquiry®, the Institute’s online, inquiry-based science education platform. The interactive resource serves as a digital science journal where teachers and students can conduct experiments, record and analyze data, and share hypotheses. To date, more than 70,000 teacher assignments have been issued through this innovative platform.

A lot has been accomplished in 2016 and we cannot wait to see what 2017 has in store for the Institute. Happy New Year!