Press Release

16 Dec 2013

Van Andel Institute appoints new Director of Research, Chief Scientific Officer

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World-Renowned Molecular Biologist to Help Shape Future of Research Institute

Grand Rapids, Mich. (Dec. 16, 2013) – Van Andel Institute, a world-class research institute headquartered in Grand Rapids, Michigan, announces the appointment of Peter A. Jones Ph.D., D.Sc. to the position of Director of Research and Chief Scientific Officer of Van Andel Research Institute. Dr. Jones begins officially on February 17, 2014.

Dr. Jones is an internationally renowned researcher with more than 40 years’ experience. He is a pioneer in the field of epigenetics and its role in cancer. Originally from South Africa, Dr. Jones began his career as a research officer/chief research officer in his native land, and was a National Institute of Health Post-Doctoral Fellow at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles. In 1977, Dr. Jones joined the faculty of Keck School of Medicine at the University of Southern California, where for the last 14 years he has been a distinguished professor of Urology, Biochemistry and Molecular Biology. He was also the Director of the USC Norris Comprehensive Cancer Center from 1993 to 2011 and President of the American Association for Cancer Research in 2005-2006.

“The appointment of Dr. Jones is a proud day for the advancement of Van Andel Research Institute and is the culmination of much thoughtful planning,” said David Van Andel, Chairman and CEO, Van Andel Institute. “We have found a visionary leader in biomedical research, whose experience will bridge basic and translational research and inform the national expansion of the Institute for many years to come.”

Dr. Jones’ pioneering research uncovered basic mechanisms of DNA methylation and its role in cancer, as well as uncovering critical pathways in the development of bladder cancer.

Epigenetics is the study of heritable changes in gene activity which are not caused by changes in the DNA sequence. Epigenetics has recently become a hot-button research focus, and it is responsible for new and innovative approaches to personalized cancer therapy. Dr. Jones is interested in how current therapies cause epigenetic changes and switch genes on or off, in order to develop improved therapies. Dr. Jones played a crucial role in the International Human Epigenome Consortium, an organization focused on mapping thousands of human epigenomes to better understand their role in cancer and chronic illnesses like obesity, diabetes and certain mental health disorders.

Dr. Jones plans to continue his work on the translational research aspects of epigenetics while at Van Andel Institute, bolstering the Institute’s impressive portfolio of cancer and disease research. While in this role Dr. Jones plans to further define Van Andel Institute’s strategic plan, build a robust clinical program and recruit additional scientists to the Institute’s four research centers.

“It is an honor to join Van Andel Research Institute – an organization dedicated to changing the course of biomedical research,” said Dr. Jones.

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About Van Andel Institute

Established by Jay and Betty Van Andel in 1996, Van Andel Institute (VAI) is an independent research and educational organization based in Grand Rapids, Mich., dedicated to preserving, enhancing and expanding the frontiers of medical science, and to achieving excellence in education by probing fundamental issues of education and the learning process.  Van Andel Research Institute (VARI), VAI’s research arm, is dedicated to studying the genetic, cellular and molecular origins of cancer, Parkinson’s and other diseases and working to translate those findings into effective therapies. This is accomplished through the work of more than 200 researchers in on-site laboratories and in collaborative partnerships that span the globe. Find out more about Van Andel Institute or donate by visiting www.vai.org