Historic Timeline of Van Andel Institute

Our second throwback blog post takes us on a journey through Van Andel Institute’s history. Below you will find a historic timeline from 1996 to 2016. We have accomplished so much in the past two decades and are excited to see the impact we can have 20 years from now!


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[gdlr_tab title=”1996″]

VAI Founders, Jay and Betty Van Andel

Jay and Betty Van Andel founded Van Andel Institute (VAI).

David Van Andel became Chairman and CEO.

Dr. Gordon Van Wylen, appointed first Director of Van Andel Education Institute (VAEI).

Dr. Luis Tomatis, appointed first President of Van Andel Institute.[/gdlr_tab]
[gdlr_tab title=”1997″]educators institute, story 3VAEI hosts the first Van Andel Educators Institute: a national symposium for school principals and superintendents.
[gdlr_tab title=”1998″]Groundbreaking PhaseI, 1998Groundbreaking ceremony for VAI’s facilities in downtown Grand Rapids, Michigan.[/gdlr_tab]
[gdlr_tab title=”1999″]Respected cancer scientist and NCI administrator Dr. George Vande Woude, joins as Research Director of Van Andel Research Institute (VARI).

Research begins in temporary laboratory space at Butterworth Hospital.

medical mile 1999
Grand Rapids’ Medical Mile

VAI helps to establish Grand Rapids’ Medical Mile – a health sciences and medical corridor that serves as a source for innovative biomedical research, cutting-edge clinical care and economic growth in West Michigan.[/gdlr_tab]
[gdlr_tab title=”2000″]

Phase I grand opening, 2000
VAI founder Jay Van Andel, and his son David Van Andel, during the Phase I grand opening ribbon cutting ceremony.

Phase I of VAI construction is completed.

VARI holds first scientific symposium.

Scientific seminar series established, later renamed in memory of
Dr. Han-Mo Koo, a VARI scientist who died of cancer in 2004.[/gdlr_tab]
[gdlr_tab title=”2001″]VAI creates signature special event Hope on the Hill to recognize donors and their charitable gifts to the Institute.

Dr. Gordon Van Harn, appointed Director of VAEI.[/gdlr_tab]
[gdlr_tab title=”2003″]undergrad interns, 2003 VARI hosts first undergraduate interns in its laboratories.[/gdlr_tab]
[gdlr_tab title=”2004″]Jay Van Andel  Betty Van Andel

2004 sees the passing of Van Andel Institute founders Jay and Betty Van Andel.[/gdlr_tab]
[gdlr_tab title=”2005″]Chihuly 1, 2005Dale Chihuly, a world-renowned glass artist unveils “Life”, a glass sculpture commissioned in 2004 by
Jay Van Andel in memory of
Betty Van Andel. The sculpture hangs in VAI’s lobby.

Van Andel Institute Graduate School (VAIGS) is founded and receives charter from the State of Michigan to confer Master’s and Ph.D. degrees.[/gdlr_tab]
[gdlr_tab title=”2006″]Carol Van Andel introduces the inaugural Couture for a Cure fashion event held to benefit VAI.

VAEI begins its inaugural Out-of-School-Time Cohort Program.

VAI signs agreement with Michigan State University to support the creation of a medical school in downtown Grand Rapids.

Dr. Steven J. Triezenberg, appointed Dean of Van Andel Institute Graduate School.[/gdlr_tab]
[gdlr_tab title=”2007″]
Science on Saturday 1, 2007VAEI launches Science on Saturday program.

VAEI holds first annual West Michigan Regional Undergraduate Science Research Conference for students and professors.

First students enter Van Andel Institute Graduate School.

Groundbreaking ceremony for Phase II building expansion.

VARI and the Shanghai Institute of Materia Medica (SIMM) establish the VARI/SIMM Center for Drug Discovery in Shanghai, China.[/gdlr_tab]
[gdlr_tab title=”2008″]

Child authors of the book Kid’s Cancer Stories visit with more than 100 VAI employees for a book signing.[/gdlr_tab]
[gdlr_tab title=”2009″]

phase II ribbon cutting, photo essay
Phase II ribbon cutting ceremony

Phase II of VAI construction is completed.

VAI hosts first Origins of Cancer symposium, which brings together experts from across the U.S. and U.K.


Purple Community, Van Andel Institute’s grassroots fundraising and awareness program, is established.

VARI scientists identify two genes MET and LRP6 as potential drug targets for basal breast cancer – one of the most aggressive forms of the disease.

Jeff Trent appointed VARI president and research director.[/gdlr_tab]
[gdlr_tab title=”2010″]

Crescent Park dedication, 2010
David and Carol Van Andel at the Crescent Park dedication.

David and Carol Van Andel re-dedicate the newly renovated Crescent Park.

VARI scientists identify an enzyme that could help diagnose and treat cholangiocarcinoma, a form of liver cancer that affects more than 3,000 people every year in the US.[/gdlr_tab]
[gdlr_tab title=”2011″]
UnitedNegroCollegeFund, 2011VAIGS launches partnership with the United Negro College Fund.

VAEI begins the High School Journal Club – creating an inquiry-based science education program for high school students in West Michigan.[/gdlr_tab]
[gdlr_tab title=”2012″]VAEI expands its professional development resources with QPOE2® curriculum products and Partners in Science program for teachers.

Dr. Patrik Brundin

VAI hosts first international Grand Challenges in Parkinson’s Disease Symposium hosting hundreds of Parkinson’s researchers, clinicians and patient activists.

Dr. Patrik Brundin, appointed the
Jay Van Andel Endowed Chair in Parkinson’s Research and works to build the Center for Neurodegenerative Science.
VAI and area partners collaborate to create a world-class biorepository following the Program for Biospecimen Science’s accreditation by the College of American Pathologists.

First students graduate from VAIGS.

The National Cancer Institute select Dr. Brian Haab, to lead a $2.3 million project to develop new molecular biomarkers for pancreatic cancer.[/gdlr_tab]
[gdlr_tab title=”2013″]Dr. George Vande Woude and Dr. Peter Jones named American Association of Cancer Research (AACR) Fellows.

VAI scientists develop new method that aids in the diagnosis of pancreatic cancer – demonstrating more than 90% accuracy.

Dr. Peter Jones

Dr. Peter Jones appointed Van Andel Research Institute’s Chief Scientific Officer. VARI commits to becoming a global epigenetics research hub.

VAIGS receives initial accreditation from Higher Learning Commission.

VAI launches The Pathway of Hope, a multifaceted initiative to study tuberous sclerosis complex.[/gdlr_tab]
[gdlr_tab title=”2014″]

Vande Woude_George_255x187
Dr. George Vande Woude

Dr. George Vande Woude receives Fellowship Award in Biological Science from the American Association for the Advancement of Science organization.

VAI partners with Spectrum Health’s Frederik Meijer Heart & Vascular Institute to establish the DeVos Cardiovascular Research Program to stimulate regenerative medicine for heart disease. The joint effort was made possible by a significant donation from the Richard and Helen DeVos Foundation. Dr. Stefan Jovinge, a world-renowned cardiologist and scientist, is recruited to lead the program’s innovative laboratory and clinical efforts.

VARI establishes the Van Andel Research Institute-Stand Up To Cancer Epigenetics Dream Team to foster epigenetics research collaborations and move promising therapies into clinical trials.

VARI and UK-based Parkinson’s charity The Cure Parkinson’s Trust spearhead the Linked Clinical Trials initiative. This effort aims to repurpose medications that have already been approved for use, and significantly reduce the time and cost required to bring new and more effective therapies to market.[/gdlr_tab]
[gdlr_tab title=”2015″]Purple Community hosts first annual Purple Community 5K.

Dr. Gerd Pfeifer named a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

Winterfest, VAI’s signature special event benefiting Parkinson’s disease research raises $1,000,000 since its inception in 2005.

royal visit, 2015
David and Carol Van Andel with His Majesty King Willem-Alexander and her Majesty Queen Mάxima of the Netherlands.

Country and pop music star Sheryl Crow performs at the Hope and Denim event in Nashville to raise funds for cancer and neurodegenerative disease research at VAI.

Launch of NexGen Inquiry® – VAEI’s web-based science education platform.

VARI scientists, Drs. Peter Jones, Stephen Baylin and Stefan Jovinge, played key roles in discoveries that were hailed as notable advances of 2015 by Nature Medicine.


Research!America Award presented to David Van Andel and Dr. George Vande Woude.

His Majesty King Willem-Alexander and her Majesty Queen Máxima of the Netherlands visit the Institute.[/gdlr_tab]
[gdlr_tab title=”2016″]

Dr. Peter Jones and Dr. Steve Baylin attend Stand Up To Cancer’s New York Standing Room Only event.

Van Andel Research Institute-Stand Up To Cancer Epigenetics Dream Team begins clinical trials on promising new therapies for cancer.

Terra Tarango appointed VAEI director and education officer.

Dr. Peter Jones elected into the National Academy of Sciences.

Center for Neurodegenerative Science begins new focus on neuroepigenetics.