Press Release

2 Jun 2015

Van Andel Research Institute, ParkinsonNet explore partnership during historic visit by the King and Queen of the Netherlands

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (June 2, 2015)—Van Andel Research Institute and the Netherlands-based ParkinsonNet today took the first steps toward broadening an initiative that will benefit people with Parkinson’s disease in West Michigan and across the U.S.

At the culmination of the Dutch Royal Couple’s tour of the Institute today, VARI’s Associate Director of Research Patrik Brundin, M.D., Ph.D., ParkinsonNet CEO Bastiaan Bloem, M.D., Ph.D., and ParkinsonNet Managing Director Marten Munneke, Ph.D., signed a letter of understanding that lays the foundation for making Grand Rapids the epicenter for ParkinsonNet’s expansion in West Michigan.

Based at Radboud University Medical Centre, 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 expert care they need. Currently, ParkinsonNet connects more than 3,000 medical and health professionals in the Netherlands with people with Parkinson’s who may have difficulty accessing specialized care.

VARI_SIGN_PNET_NEDParkinson’s disease is a progressive, neurodegenerative condition that most noticeably causes tremors and slowing of movement. It also has a myriad of non-motor symptoms, such as depression, cognitive impairment and constipation. Between seven and 10 million people in the U.S. and an estimated 6.3 million people in Europe have Parkinson’s. Currently, there is no cure, and limited treatment options.

“Bringing ParkinsonNet to West Michigan will be a welcome addition to existing medical resources for patients,” Brundin said. “Although we don’t treat patients at VARI, our labs in the Center for Neurodegenerative Science are focused on developing the next generation of therapies to combat Parkinson’s and on finding ways to better diagnose the disease. ParkinsonNet will not only help patients get better care, it also will facilitate interactions between doctors and patients who wish to participate in clinical trials.”

Distance from neurologists, physical therapists and other medical professionals often is a roadblock for people with Parkinson’s, many of whom live far away from large medical centers that offer specialized care like those in Grand Rapids. ParkinsonNet seeks to lessen the burden by connecting people with Parkinson’s with nearby experts, either online or through face-to-face visits. “Unfortunately there is no cure for Parkinson’s, but we offer optimal support to those people impacted by the disease, aiming to improve their lives and to prevent complications, such as fall incidents,” Munneke said.

“More comprehensive care not only means a better quality of life for people with Parkinson’s, but also markedly reduced healthcare costs, by lowering the risk for secondary complications from the disease, and by improving the efficiency of care. We have convincingly demonstrated this cost-effectiveness with scientific research,” Bas Bloem added.

Signing the letter of understanding is the latest in a series of recent efforts to further strengthen relationships between scientists at VARI and in the Netherlands. Yesterday, VARI, Spectrum Health Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital and the Netherlands hosted a daylong scientific symposium aimed at exploring the latest research, medical advances and potential for collaboration in the fields of epigenetics, Parkinson’s disease and cancer. The symposium was part of the Healthy Aging program of the Economic Mission of the Netherlands to the U.S., and timed to coincide with the Royal Couple’s historic visit to Grand Rapids.


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®


ParkinsonNet, established in 2004 in Nijmegen, The Netherlands, is an innovative and award-winning healthcare concept, consisting of 68 regional and multidisciplinary networks of specifically trained healthcare professionals who deliver integrated care to patients with Parkinson’s disease. Almost 3,000 professionals are now part of this nationwide network. Our goal: to ensure that every person with Parkinson’s disease worldwide receives the best possible care. We accomplish this goal by providing professional training, by developing and implementing evidence-based guidelines, by facilitating an optimal collaboration between professionals, by creating transparency about healthcare outcomes and costs, and by educating patients so they can be involved as partners in our network. To learn more about ParkinsonNet, please visit:


Radboud university medical center, founded in 1951 in Nijmegen, The Netherlands, is an institute for patient care, research and education and training. Our mission is to have a significant impact on healthcare. We aim to be a frontrunner in the development of innovative, sustainable and affordable healthcare. We offer excellent quality, participatory and personalized healthcare, operational excellence and sustainable networks. Our almost 10,000 employees and over 3,000 students do their utmost every day to make a positive contribution to the future of healthcare and medical sciences. For more information, please visit: