Press Release

20 May 2015

Joint symposium to strengthen ties between Dutch and American research, medical and business communities

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GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (May 20, 2015)—The Kingdom of the Netherlands, Van Andel Research Institute and Spectrum Health Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital are pleased to announce a joint symposium aimed at strengthening ties between Dutch and American research and medical communities.

The symposiumentitled The United States of America and the Netherlands: A Partnership that Works will be held from 9:00 a.m.–5:30 p.m. June 1 at Van Andel Research Institute in Grand Rapids, Michigan. The event is free to attend and open to the scientific and medical communities as well as the public. Advance registration is required and can be completed at Registration will close Monday, May 25.

The symposium will precede a visit from His Majesty King Willem-Alexander and Her Majesty Queen Máxima of the Netherlands on June 2.

A part of the Life Sciences and Health Economic Mission of the Netherlands to the U.S., the symposium will bring together leading Dutch and American scientists and clinicians in the fields of epigenetics, neurodegenerative diseases and pediatric cancer. The symposium will provide an outstanding opportunity to initiate new collaborations and foster existing partnerships between scientists and clinicians in both countries, and to explore new avenues for health care and the translation of basic research to clinical practice.

“It is an absolute honor to host our esteemed colleagues from the Netherlands and West Michigan’s research and medical communities,” said Peter Jones, Ph.D., D.Sc., Van Andel Research Institute’s research director and chief scientific officer. “The symposium is especially meaningful given West Michigan’s large Dutch community and the shared commitment to top notch research in our region and the Netherlands.”

West Michigan is rapidly becoming known for exceptional basic research and clinical programs, thanks in part to Van Andel Research Institute, Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital and other partners along Grand Rapids’ Medical Mile. The Netherlands shares this commitment and has a strong research community and globally recognized healthcare system.

“Spectrum Health Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital is proud to play an important role in the West Michigan health community,” said James Fahner, M.D., division chief for pediatric hematology and oncology at Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital. “The strides being made by our team of devoted physicians, including physician scientists and researchers, would not be possible without the collaboration of colleagues from around the world.”

In addition to scientific presentations, several of the talks will center on enhancing patient experiences and implementing innovative new ways to improve the standard of care. This focus will include two presentations on ParkinsonNet, an initiative that connects more than 3000 medical and allied health professionals to better treat Parkinson’s. Led by Bastiaan Bloem, M.D., Ph.D., and Marten Munneke, Ph.D., and based at the Radboud University Medical Centre in Nijmegen, ParkinsonNet provides patients across the Netherlands with increased access to Parkinson’s experts via the Internet and in person, making it easier for patients to get the specialized and personalized care they need.

“Both Grand Rapids and the Netherlands have been investing in innovative techniques and practices in life sciences in health (Medical Mile). We feel that the innovative power of both countries offers exciting chances for crossovers between health, high tech and business development. And we are looking forward to exploring these chances on June 1,” said Martijn Nuijten and Roger Kleinenberg of the Netherlands Office for Science & Technology of the Netherlands Embassy in Washington, DC.

His Majesty King Willem-Alexander and Her Majesty Queen Máxima of the Netherlands will visit Frederik Meijer Gardens and Sculpture Park, Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital and Van Andel Research Institute on June 2. Hosted by Gov. Rick Snyder, the Royal Couple will receive tours of Van Andel Research Institute and Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital and will hear about the groundbreaking research and medical advances occurring in Grand Rapids.

Symposium speakers include:

  • Anton Berns, Ph.D.—Netherlands Cancer Institute
  • Bastiaan Bloem, M.D., Ph.D.—Radboud University Medical Center; ParkinsonNet
  • Patrik Brundin, M.D., Ph.D.— Van Andel Research Institute
  • Steve DeWitte—Connecticut Advocates for Parkinson’s
  • James Fahner, M.D.—Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital
  • Peter Jones, Ph.D., D.Sc.—Van Andel Research Institute
  • Marten Munneke, Ph.D.—Radboud University Medical Center; ParkinsonNet
  • Giselle Sholler, M.D.—Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital
  • Ashok Sriram, M.D., M.S.—Spectrum Health
  • Matthew Steensma, M.D.— Van Andel Research Institute, Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital, Michigan State University College of Human Medicine
  • Henk Stunnenberg, Ph.D.—Radboud Institute for Molecular Life Sciences



Van Andel Institute (VAI) is an independent biomedical research and science education organization committed to improving the health and enhancing the lives of current and future generations. Established by Jay and Betty Van Andel in 1996 in Grand Rapids, Michigan, VAI has grown into a premier research and educational institution that supports the work of more than 270 scientists, educators and staff. Van Andel Research Institute (VARI), VAI’s research division, is dedicated to determining the epigenetic, genetic, molecular and cellular origins of cancer, Parkinson’s and other diseases and translating those findings into effective therapies. The Institute’s scientists work in on-site laboratories and participate in collaborative partnerships that span the globe. Learn more about Van Andel Institute or donate by visiting 100% To Research, Discovery & Hope®


Spectrum Health is a not-for-profit health system, based in West Michigan, offering a full continuum of care through the Spectrum Health Hospital Group, which is comprised of 12 hospitals, including Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital; 180 ambulatory and service sites; 1,300 physicians and advanced practice providers, which include 1,100 members of the Spectrum Health Medical Group; and Priority Health, a health plan with more than 640,000 members. Spectrum Health is West Michigan’s largest employer, with 22,500 employees. The organization provided $294.6 million in community benefit during its 2014 fiscal year. Spectrum Health is the only health system in Michigan to be named one of the nation’s 15 Top Health Systems® by Truven Health Analytics for 2015. This is the fourth time the organization has received this recognition.


For more than 400 years, the Netherlands and the United States have been joined by the values of freedom, justice and an entrepreneurial spirit. A vibrant economic force, the Netherlands is a fixture in the top 5 of largest investors in the US and maintains the number one destination for American foreign investments. The Royal Netherlands Embassy, Dutch Consulates General and Honorary Consuls in the U.S. promote strong bilateral relations between the United States and the Netherlands in the areas of peace and stability; international law; energy and climate; water management; international human rights; and creative industries. The Netherlands and the United States: a partnership that works.

For questions about the symposium, please contact:

Nancy Kooienga
Director of Communications
Van Andel Institute

Melissa Kamara Liggins
Manager, Corporate Public Relations
Spectrum Health

For questions about the Royal Visit:

Details about the time and media access will be released at a later date. Media wishing to cover the Royal Visit in Grand Rapids should contact David Murray at the Governor’s Office for credentialing at 517.335.6397 or
Deadline for credentialing is MAY 26, 2015.

Follow the visit on social media using #NLRoyalvisit

For additional information on the program of the Royal Visit please contact the Netherlands Embassy in Washington,, 202-274-2606 or (c) 202-262-0995 or, 202.274.2630 or (c) 202.413.5020.