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Labs

Meet Our Scientists

Van Andel Research Institute (VARI) is dedicated to exceptional research and to positively impacting human health. Through cutting-edge science and extensive collaboration, VARI’s investigators are working to find new diagnostics and treatments for cancer, neurodegenerative diseases, and other conditions such as cardiovascular diseases, osteoarthritis and depression. 

VARI’s laboratories are divided into three centers and a core services team, which allows for efficiency and cross-center collaboration.

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Research Leadership

VARI Chief Scientific Officer

Dr. Jones was born in South Africa, raised and attended college in Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe), and received his Ph.D. from the University of London. He joined the University of Southern California in 1977, attaining the rank of Professor in 1985 and Distinguished Professor in 1999. He also served as Director of the USC Norris Comprehensive Cancer Center between 1993 and 2011.

VARI Associate Director of Research

Dr. Patrik Brundin has more than 30 years of experience studying neurodegenerative diseases, Parkinson’s disease pathogenesis and therapeutic neural grafting into people with Parkinson’s disease. He is one of the top cited researchers in the field of neuroscience with nearly 300 publications on Parkinson’s disease and related topics.

Center for Epigenetics

The Center for Epigenetics is dedicated to the study of epigenetics and epigenomics in health and disease, with the ultimate goal of developing novel therapies to treat cancer and neurodegenerative diseases. The Center collaborates extensively with other labs in other VARI centers as well as with external partners to maximize its impact in developing therapies that target epigenetic mechanisms.

Center for Neurodegenerative Science

The Center for Neurodegenerative Science focuses on the development of novel treatments that slow or stop the progression of neurodegenerative disease, in particular Parkinson’s disease. The Center’s work revolves around three main goals: disease modification, biomarker discovery, and brain repair.

Center for Cancer and Cell Biology

Scientists in the Center for Cancer and Cell Biology study the basic mechanisms of cancer and other diseases with the goal of developing
better diagnostics and therapies.

Program in Skeletal Disease and Tumor Microenvironment

Scientists in the Program in Skeletal Disease and Tumor Microenvironment work to develop improved treatments for diseases that affect the musculoskeletal system, including neurofibromatosis type 1, osteosarcoma, osteoporosis, osteoarthritis, and developmental disorders. Additionally, there is substantial focus on understanding why some tumor types (e.g., breast, prostate and lung) are highly predisposed to metastasize and grow in the skeletal compartment. The Program’s goal is to develop better treatments to reduce tumor burden and enhance the quality of life for patients suffering from these conditions.

The Innovation and Integration Program

The Innovation and Integration Program exists at the intersection of VARI’s three centers. Scientists in the program develop and use new technologies to accelerate research and utilize structural, functional, computational, chemical, and systems biology approaches to translate basic research to clinical applications with the ultimate goal of positively impacting patients.

Program in Molecular Oncology and Pre-Clinical Therapeutics

VARI’s Program in Molecular Oncology and Pre-Clinical Therapeutics uses a multidisciplinary approach to answer fundamental questions about tumors and their surrounding environment. Through a detailed understanding of cell signaling pathways, the program seeks to understand the process of initiation and progression of human disease and to apply this new knowledge to disease-specific applications and new therapies.