Neurodegenerative disease experts join Van Andel Research Institute’s growing roster of scientists

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (Dec. 18, 2018) — Van Andel Research Institute (VARI) has welcomed Rita Guerreiro, Ph.D., and José Brás, Ph.D., to its growing team of investigators dedicated to finding improved therapies for diseases such as Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s.

José Brás, Ph.D.

Together, Guerreiro and Brás investigate the genetic changes that contribute to neurodegenerative disease onset and progression in common forms of these disorders as well as rare variations passed down through families.

“In the coming decades, the numbers of people with Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s diseases are expected to significantly increase, underscoring the importance of deciphering exactly what goes wrong in these disorders and devising ways to fix it,” said Patrik Brundin, M.D., Ph.D., director of the Institute’s Center for Neurodegenerative Science. “Drs. Guerreiro and Brás have exceptional expertise that will be incredibly valuable as we continue searching for ways to slow or stop disease progression.”

To date, Guerreiro and Brás have identified a number of genetic risk factors for Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s, and pinpointed disease-causing genes in several familial forms of these disorders. Among the most significant are variants in a gene called TREM2, which is a strong risk factor for Alzheimer’s.

Rita Guerreiro, Ph.D.

Additionally, they lead an international consortium that aims to understand the genetic bases of dementia with Lewy bodies, a condition marked by cognitive decline that shares many similar features to Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s.

Prior to joining VARI as associate professors, Guerreiro and Brás were tenured principal investigators in the Department of Molecular Neuroscience at University College London, and served as program leaders for the United Kingdom Dementia Research Institute.

In total, VARI has added eight new investigators in 2018, significantly expanding its scientific capacity and impact.


Van Andel Institute (VAI) is an independent nonprofit 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 400 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 onsite laboratories and participate in collaborative partnerships that span the globe. Learn more by visiting vari.vai.org. 100% To Research, Discovery & Hope®