Three Van Andel Research Institute scientists named to list of most cited researchers in the world

Hand pouring into measuring container in science lab

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (Dec. 21, 2018) — Van Andel Research Institute-affiliated scientists Peter W. Laird, Ph.D., Stephen B. Baylin, M.D., and H. Eric Xu, Ph.D., are included in this year’s Highly Cited Researchers list, which identifies scientists who have published multiple papers ranking in the top 1 percent of citations by field and year worldwide.

Citations of one’s published work by other researchers is universally considered to be a measure of influence and impact in the scientific community. This list, published annually for the past five years by Clarivate Analytics, includes more than 4,000 scientists across 21 fields.

“The advancement of scientific endeavor represents a critical activity for individual research institutions and entire nations,” Annette Thomas, CEO of the Scientific and Academic Research group said in a statement. “The Highly Cited Researchers 2018 list helps to identify the researchers who are having the greatest impact on the research community as measured by the rate at which their work is being cited by others and that contributes so greatly to extending the frontier and gaining knowledge and innovations for society — contributions that make the world healthier, safer, richer and more sustainable.”

The rankings are based on Clarivate’s Web of Science, the world’s largest publisher-neutral citation index, which includes more than 1.4 billion cited references going back as far as 1900.

Peter W. Laird, Ph.D.
Professor, Center for Epigenetics

Laird is a world-leader in cancer epigenetics, a growing field that explores how changes to the way genes are regulated give rise to cancer. He played a major role in The Cancer Genome Atlas (TCGA), a National Cancer Institute-led effort that molecularly mapped 33 different types of cancer, providing a powerful resource for scientists seeking new ways to prevent and treat these devastating diseases.

He joined the Institute in 2014. 

Stephen B. Baylin, M.D.
Director’s Scholar, Co-leader, Van Andel Research Institute–Stand Up To Cancer Epigenetics Dream Team
Virginia and D.K. Ludwig Professor, Johns Hopkins University Sidney Kimmel Comprehensive Cancer Center

Baylin is a leading cancer scientist who holds an appointment at the Institute in addition to his primary affiliation at Johns Hopkins University. He, along with VARI Chief Scientific Officer Peter A. Jones, Ph.D., D.Sc. (hon), serves as co-leader of the VARI –SU2C Epigenetics Dream Team, a multi-institutional, collaborative effort to move promising new combination therapies in to cutting-edge clinical trials.

Baylin accepted a joint appointment at the Institute in 2015. 

Eric Xu, Ph.D.
Professor, Center for Cancer and Cell Biology, Structural Biology Program

Xu is one of the foremost experts on a group of molecules called G protein-coupled receptors (GPCRs), which are targeted by approximately 30 percent of medications currently available in the clinic. As a structural biologist, he seeks to determine the architecture of these important molecules in order to develop new therapies for a host of diseases.

Xu joined the Institute in 2002.

What is a citation?

When scientists make a discovery, they publish it in peer-reviewed journals (after their work is reviewed and vetted for by a group of experts in the same field). Other scientists can then build on these findings and, when they publish their own discoveries, they include a reference list of citations detailing ever scientific article that informed their own work. These lists often comprise dozens and, sometimes, more than 100 other scientific articles.

To be highly cited means that many other researchers use work from a particular scientist to conduct their own investigations. It is widely considered to be a strong indicator of scientists’ contributions to the research community.


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®