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Van Andel Institute appoints neurobiologist Dr. Laurent Roybon as associate professor

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (August 1, 2023)Van Andel Institute has appointed Laurent Roybon, Ph.D., as an associate professor in its Department of Neurodegenerative Science.

Roybon is a neurobiologist and stem cell expert who studies the mechanisms that give rise to neurodegenerative disorders such as Parkinson’s disease. His research seeks to identify improved treatments that impede disease progression — something not possible with current therapies.

“Our goal is to move forward our understanding of the neurodegenerative processes and develop innovative treatments to help patients and decrease burden on care partners,” Roybon said. “Using induced pluripotent stem cell (iPSC) technology, we can study these diseases in reprogrammed cells from patients, which will greatly aid in the development of personalized treatments. VAI is a fantastic place that is home to globally recognized expert scientists and state-of-the-art research facilities, which will help us implement our projects.”

Roybon initially joined VAI in 2022 as director of the VAI MiND Program’s Induced Pluripotent Stem Cell (iPSC) Platform, which has helped scientists across the Institute implement iPSCs into their research. He will continue to lead the iPSC Platform in addition to his new appointment.

Stem cells are biological “blank slates” that give rise to all the specialized cell types needed to assemble and power the human body, from skin cells to heart cells and everything in between. One of their many important jobs is to maintain the body throughout life by replacing dead cells and rejuvenating damaged tissues.

iPSCs are cells derived from somatic cells such as skin cells that are “reprogrammed” in the lab to return to their earlier, undifferentiated state. From there, they can be coaxed to become other types of cells, making them powerful tools for scientists. For example, using iPSCs, scientists can generate living brain cells in the lab — allowing them to see first-hand the mechanisms underlying neurodegeneration.

“Dr. Roybon’s expertise in developing iPSC-based models to study neurodegeneration has driven new projects and collaborations across VAI,” said Darren Moore, Ph.D., director of VAI’s Department of Neurodegenerative Science and MiND Program. “This new role will allow him to establish his own lab and research program while enabling more extensive iPSC-based research. We are thrilled to welcome Dr. Roybon to our faculty and look forward to his continued contributions.”

Prior to joining VAI, Roybon was an associate professor of neurobiology and head of the Cell and Stem Cell Laboratory for central nervous system disease modelling at Lund University in Sweden. He earned an M.S. in cellular and developmental biology from IBDM in France and a Ph.D. in neurobiology from Lund University in Sweden. He has earned several accolades for his work, including the prestigious Olav Thon International Research Award in Mathematics/Natural Sciences, the Medicine and Lund University’s Young Faculty Award and the Swedish Brain Foundation Award. As a principal investigator, he obtained many competitive grant awards from private foundations and governmental agencies including the Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research, the Innovation Fund Denmark, the Crafoord Foundation, the Olle Engkvists Foundation, the Swedish Research Council and the European Union Joint Program for Neurodegeneration.

ABOUT VAN ANDEL INSTITUTE

Van Andel Institute (VAI) is committed to improving the health and enhancing the lives of current and future generations through cutting-edge biomedical research and innovative educational offerings. Established in Grand Rapids, Michigan, in 1996 by the Van Andel family, VAI is now home to nearly 500 scientists, educators and support staff, who work with a growing number of national and international collaborators to foster discovery. The Institute’s scientists study the origins of cancer, Parkinson’s and other diseases and translate their findings into breakthrough prevention and treatment strategies. Our educators develop inquiry-based approaches for K-12 education to help students and teachers prepare the next generation of problem-solvers, while our Graduate School offers a rigorous, research-intensive Ph.D. program in molecular and cellular biology.