Van Andel Institute scientist elected to National Academy of Sciences to advise nation on medical and epigenomic policy and direction

Dr. Peter Jones becomes second Van Andel Institute scientist to join the academy

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (May 3, 2016)—Van Andel Research Institute (VARI) Chief Scientific Officer Peter Jones, Ph.D., D.Sc., today joined the nation’s elite scientists as a member of the National Academy of Sciences. He is the second VARI scientist elected into the academy, and joins molecular oncologist George Vande Woude, Ph.D., who has been a member of the Medical Genetics, Hematology, and Oncology section since 1993.

Peter Jones,
Peter Jones, Ph.D., D.Sc.

“I am honored and humbled to be elected into this historic and important society,” said Dr. Jones. “That our distinguished peers voted to recognize our work signals that Van Andel Institute is breaking ground in the search for new approaches to cancer treatment and novel ways to alleviate the suffering imposed by this insidious disease.”

The National Academy of Sciences was established in 1863 by an Act of Congress, signed by then-President Abraham Lincoln as a private, nongovernmental institution to advise the nation on issues related to science and technology. The National Academy of Engineering (NAE) and the National Academy of Medicine (NAM, formerly the Institute of Medicine) were founded under the NAS charter in 1964 and 1970, respectively. The three Academies work together as the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine to provide independent, objective analysis and advice to the nation and conduct other activities to solve complex problems and inform public policy decisions.

Announcement of the academy’s newest members occurred today during the academy’s 153rd annual meeting. Eighty-four members and 21 foreign associates were elected for their outstanding contributions to research.

Dr. Jones specializes in a promising and expanding field of cancer research called epigenomics. He was among the discipline’s early adopters, and his career has included a litany of firsts in biomedical research, including:

  • publication of the first study to prove how epigenetics regulates cellular differentiation
  • development of a class of drugs called DNA methylation inhibitors DNMTis (also called hypomethylating agents); one of these drugs is now in a Phase 3 clinical trial
  • discovery that epigenetics plays a fundamental role in aging
  • elucidation of the biological processes for cellular self-control
  • identification of ways to manipulate endogenous retroviruses at the root of some cancers
  • co-founding the Stand Up To Cancer (SU2C) Epigenetics Dream Team and the Van Andel Research Institute–Stand Up To Cancer Epigenetics Dream Team with Stephen Baylin, M.D.,Virginia and D.K. Ludwig Professor for Cancer Research in the Oncology Department and co-head of Cancer Biology at Johns Hopkins University’s Sidney Kimmel Comprehensive Cancer Center, as well as a professor at VARI

The election of Dr. Jones into the National Academy of Sciences is the latest honor for Van Andel Institute scientists. The Institute is also home to:



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 350 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 about Van Andel Institute or donate by visiting 100% To Research, Discovery & Hope®


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