Epigenetics expert Dr. Derek Janssens joins Van Andel Institute

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (June 27, 2024) — Van Andel Institute has recruited epigenetics expert Derek Janssens, Ph.D., whose leading-edge research explores the nuanced factors that give rise to leukemias.

As an assistant professor in VAI’s Department of Epigenetics, Janssens will continue his efforts to develop an epigenetic roadmap of human blood cancers, which could illuminate powerful new insights that spur breakthroughs and improved treatment strategies. Epigenetics regulate when and how the instructions in DNA are used without changing the DNA sequence itself. Errors in these critical processes can result in cancer and a host of other diseases.  

To date, Janssens’ research has contributed to powerful new methods that enable scientists to better study how healthy cells transform into malignant ones.

“Van Andel Institute is the perfect place to push the boundaries of what is possible using chromatin profiling technology,” Janssens said. “Suddenly we can look at what is going wrong directly in primary patient samples. I’m excited to work with the team at VAI to turn these observations into improved patient outcomes.”

Related: Learn more about Dr. Janssens’ research ➔

Prior to joining VAI, Janssens was a postdoctoral fellow at Fred Hutchinson Cancer Center in Seattle. While there, he contributed to the development of CUT&RUN and CUT&Tag, a pair of methods that offer deep insight into minute epigenetic changes in single cells.

He earned his Ph.D. in cellular and molecular biology from University of Michigan, where he studied the mechanisms that cause stem cells to transform into other cell types. He has earned several awards for his research and scholarship including the Hartwell Foundation Postdoctoral Fellowship, a Transition to Independence Award from the National Cancer Institute (K22) and the Forbeck Scholars Award.