A year — and a quarter century — in review
December 14, 2021
As 2021 comes to a close, so too does Van Andel Institute’s celebration of our 25th anniversary. The Institute’s story began with a vision: to make Grand Rapids a world leader in biomedical research and education, for the betterment of human health for generations to come.
Over the years, we’ve made vital breakthroughs in diseases like cancer and Parkinson’s, and in the areas of cell biology, structural biology, and metabolism and nutrition. We’ve found evidence of the origins of Parkinson’s disease in places you wouldn’t expect, such as the nose and the appendix, and are a powerhouse of epigenetics research, investigating the very code that makes us who we are.
Our commitment to translating discovery into the clinic — where it can help people live longer, healthier lives — remains strong. As part of two collaborations — the Van Andel Institute–Stand Up to Cancer Epigenetics Dream Team and the Cure Parkinson’s–Van Andel Institute International Linked Clinical Trials initiative — we conduct and support an array of clinical trials designed to find effective new treatments for cancer and Parkinson’s disease, and are excited to continue and expand this work in the coming years.
We also are steadfastly dedicated to developing the next generation of scientists who will build on the foundations laid by our world-class faculty. The expert educators at Van Andel Institute for Education offer cutting-edge science educational programming for K–12 educators and students, and Van Andel Institute Graduate School trains the scientific leaders of tomorrow through a rigorous Ph.D. program in molecular and cellular biology.
We celebrate these achievements but also know that our work is far from done. The Institute is growing, pushing toward a future of boundless potential and innovation.
After 25 years of growth and innovation, there is an immense number of milestones and achievements we could share with you. Here are just a few recent achievements from the Institute. (For a detailed history of the last 25 years at VAI, including notable achievements, awards and honors, please read the special edition of our magazine, Highlights of Hope, here.)
- In November, five VAI scientists were named to the 2021 Clarivate Highly Cited Researchers List, a distinction marking them as leaders in their fields.
- As of winter 2021, VAI recruited six new faculty members who will expand our research capacity.
- VAI scientists earned record-breaking funding support throughout 2021 for their paradigm-shifting work. These awards include two ASAP Awards from Aligning Science Across Parkinson’s, two Maximizing Investigators’ Research Awards (R35), a Ruth L. Kirschstein National Research Service Award (NRSA) Institutional Research Training Grant (T32), a Specialized Programs of Research Excellence (SPORE) Grant from the National Cancer Institute (NCI), a Transformative Research Award from the National Institutes of Health, and many more.
- In August 2021, the Graduate School — which earlier this year moved into a newly renovated building next to the Institute — welcomed its largest and most diverse student cohort yet: 14 students from eight countries.
- Van Andel Institute for Education deftly responded to upheavals in the educational landscape by tailoring its programs to be available online, in-person or a hybrid of the two — positioning us well as a reliable asset to educators everywhere.
These achievements and others could not be accomplished without community. We thank every person, every school and organization, and every family that has contributed to our success over the years. There are countless who invested their time, energy and resources into our work, and we are immensely grateful for the support of our mission through your generosity.
In large part because of this support, VAI has come so far in just a quarter-century. From those early days, with a staff in the dozens and temporary research space at Butterworth Hospital, we’ve grown into an organization of nearly 500 scientists, educators and staff, with work that is recognized around the world.
The Medical Mile continues to spring up around VAI, and we’re proud to be part of such strong investment and growth in the health and biomedical sciences in Grand Rapids. Our founders’ vision set the pace and tone for a bright future where VAI can help lead the charge into a healthier future for all of humankind.
For the latest news and research breakthroughs from VAI, please click here.