Press Release

26 Feb 2015

Van Andel Research Institute appoints leading cancer scientist Dr. Stephen Baylin as professor

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GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (Feb. 26, 2015)—Renowned cancer scientist and epigenetics expert Stephen Baylin, M.D., has accepted an appointment at Van Andel Research Institute (VARI) to help lead its multi-institutional VARI-Stand Up to Cancer (SU2C) Epigenetics Dream Team.

Baylin is the Virginia and D.K. Ludwig Professor for Cancer Research in the Oncology Department and co-head of Cancer Biology at the Sidney Kimmel Comprehensive Cancer Center at Johns Hopkins University. He currently serves as co-leader of the VARI-SU2C Epigenetics Dream Team, along with VARI’s Research Director Peter Jones, Ph.D., D.Sc. In addition to his new position at VARI, Baylin will continue his research at Johns Hopkins.

“I’m honored to work with such an exceptional group of scientists and clinicians to make the next generation of cancer therapies a reality,” Baylin said. “In this regard, the vision of Van Andel Institute in making new research possible is truly remarkable. I believe we’re on the cusp of revolutionizing the standard of cancer care, and that targeting epigenetic abnormalities for this purpose will play a leading role.”

In his role as co-leader, Baylin will oversee the VARI-SU2C Epigenetics Dream Team’s research, which leverages the combined expertise of its members to develop new epigenetic therapies for cancer and to move promising treatments into clinical trials. Epigenetics, which is the study of how the packaging and modification of DNA influences which genes are used or kept silent in a particular cell, holds untold potential for treating cancer and other diseases. Through a detailed understanding of how normal epigenetic processes work, scientists can identify erroneous epigenetic modifications that may contribute to the development and progression of cancer. Epigenetic therapies, which work by correcting these errors, have the potential to directly treat cancer and to sensitize patients to traditional treatments like chemotherapy and radiation, making them more effective.

Announced in October, the VARI-SU2C Epigenetics Dream Team is a collaboration between VARI, Johns Hopkins University, Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, Fox Chase Cancer Center/Temple University, University of Southern California and Rigshospitalet/University of Copenhagen. It will build on the work of the original SU2C Epigenetics Dream Team, which was established in 2009 and led by Baylin and Jones. In addition to his VARI-SU2C Epigenetics Dream Team responsibilities, Baylin also was appointed as a professor in VARI’s Center for Epigenetics.

“Dr. Baylin’s intellect and outstanding leadership capabilities are a crucial asset to the VARI-SU2C Epigenetics Dream Team,” said Jones. “We are extremely excited and fortunate to have a scientist of his caliber join our team. In addition to his role as co-leader, we look forward to many fruitful scientific collaborations with Dr. Baylin and his excellent group at Johns Hopkins.”

Baylin and Jones have collaborated on numerous high-impact papers related to cancer epigenetics and shared the 2009 Kirk A. Landon-AACR Prize for Basic and Translational Cancer Research and the 2011 American Cancer Society’s Medal of Honor. Baylin has authored or co-authored more than 350 publications, was associate editor of Cancer Research, and served on the board of the American Association for Cancer Research Board of Directors from 2004 to 2007.

ABOUT VAN ANDEL INSTITUTE

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 www.vai.org. 100% To Research, Discovery & Hope®