History and Legacy

Jay and Betty Van Andel founded Van Andel Institute (VAI) in 1996. Together, they envisioned an institute that would have an impact world-wide in enriching and enhancing lives through biomedical research and education. Since its founding, VAI has supported Van Andel Research Institute (VARI), Van Andel Institute Graduate School (VAIGS) and Van Andel Education Institute (VAEI) in fulfilling and sustaining this vision. David Van Andel leads the Institute as Chairman and CEO, continuing the legacy that his parents left behind.

VAN ANDEL INSTITUTE MILESTONES

1996

Jay and Betty Van Andel found Van Andel Institute.

David Van Andel becomes Chairman and CEO. 

Dr. Luis Tomatis appointed first President of Van Andel Institute.

Dr. Gordon Van Wylen appointed first Director of Van Andel Education Institute.

1997

VAEI hosts first Van Andel Educators Institute, a national symposium for school principles and superintendents.

1998

Groundbreaking ceremony for VAI’s facilities in downtown Grand Rapids, Michigan.

1999

Respected cancer scientists and National Cancer Institute Administrator George Vande Woude, joins as Research Director of Van Andel Research Institute. Research begins in temporary laboratory space at Butterworth Hospital in Grand Rapids.

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. 

2000

Phase I of VAI’s construction is completed. 

VARI holds its first scientific symposium.

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.

2003

VARI hosts first undergraduate interns in its laboratories.

2004

2004 sees the passing of Van Andel Institute Founders Jay and Betty Van Andel.

2005

Van Andel Institute Graduate School is founded and receives charter from the State of Michigan to confer master’s and Ph.D. degrees. 

Dale Chihuly, a world-renowned glass sculptor, unveils Life, commissioned in 2004 by Jay Van Andel in memory of Betty Van Andel. The sculpture hangs in VAI’s lobby. 

2006

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

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

Dr. Steven J. Triezenberg appointed Dean of Van Andel Institute Graduate School.

Carol Van Andel introduces the inaugural Couture for a Cure fashion event held to benefit VAI. 

2007

VAEI launches Science on Saturday program.

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

Groundbreaking ceremony for Phase II building expansion.

VARI and the Shanghai Institute of Meteria Medica (SIMM) establish the VARI/SIMM Center for Drug Discovery in Shanghai, China.

First students enter Van Andel Institute Graduate School.

2008

Child authors of the book Kid’s Cancer Stories visit with more than 100 VAI employees for a book signing. 

2009

Phase II of VAI construction completed. 

Dr. Jeffrey Trent named VARI President and Research Director.

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

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

2010

David and Carol Van Andel rededicate the newly renovated Crescent Park. 

2011

VAIGS launches partnership with UNCF (United Negro College Fund).

VAEI begins High School Journal Club, creating an inquiry-based science education program for high school students in West Michigan. 

2012

First students graduate from VAIGS.

Dr. Patrik Brundin appointed the Jay Van Andel Endowed Chair in Parkinson’s Research and works to build the Center for Neurodegenerative Science.

VAEI expands it professional development resources with QPOE2 curriculum products and Partners in Science program for teachers. 

VARI hosts first international Grand Challenges in Parkinson’s Disease symposium for hundreds of Parkinson’s scientists, clinicians and patient advocates. 

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. 

2013

Dr. George Vande Woude and Dr. Peter Jones named as Fellows of the American Association for Cancer Research Academy

VAIGS receives initial accreditation from Higher Learning Commission. 

VAI launches Pathway of Hope, a multifaceted initiative to study tuberous sclerosis complex (TSC).

Dr. Peter Jones appointed VARI’s Chief Scientific Officer. VARI commits to a global epigenetics research hub.

2014

VARI establishes the Van Andel Research Institute-Stand Up To Cancer (VARI-SU2C) Epigenetics Dream Team to foster epigenetics research collaborations and move promising therapies into clinical trials. 

VARI and U.K.-based research charity The Cure Parkinson’s Trust collaborate on 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. 

VAI partners with Spectrum Health’s Frederick Meijer Heart & Vascular Institute in an effort to stimulate regenerative medicine for heart disease resulting in the DeVos Cardiovascular Research Program led by Dr. Stefan Jovinge. The joint effort was made possible by a significant donation from the Richard and Helen DeVos Foundation.

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

2015

Purple Community hosts its first annual Purple Community 5K. 

VARI scientist 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, raised $1,000,000 since its inception in 2005. 

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

Research!America’s Geoffery Beene Builders of Science Award presented to David Van Andel and Dr. George Vande Woude. 

His Majesty King Willem-Alexander and her Majesty Queen Maxima of the Netherlands visit the Institute. 

2016

VARI-SU2C 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 adds new focus on neuroepigenetics. 

VARI significantly expands it structural biology capabilities with the establishment of a Cryo-EM Core and recruits three exceptional structural biologists.