J. Andrew Pospisilik, Ph.D.

Chair and Professor, Department of Epigenetics

Areas of Expertise

Epigenetics, phenotypic variation, metabolism, epigenetic health states, stochasticity, model development, transgenerational effects


Dr. J. Andrew Pospisilik is a leading expert in the study of how the epigenome regulates complex trait variation as well as disease susceptibility and heterogeneity. He earned his B.Sc. with honors and his Ph.D. in Physiology from University of British Columbia, where his work focused on type 1 and 2 diabetes. Later, as a postdoctoral fellow in the lab of Dr. Josef M. Penninger at IMBA Institute of Molecular Biotechnology, Dr. Pospisilik performed the first genome-wide RNAi-screen for obesity in Drosophila, identifying some of the first specific developmental regulators of brown adipose tissue formation, and overturned dogma showing that compromised mitochondrial function actually buffers against diabetes. In 2010, he established his laboratory at Max Planck Institute of Immunobiology and Epigenetics in Freiburg, Germany, where his team made groundbreaking advances, including development of novel sensitized models for understanding epigenetic stability and variation in metabolic disease; the first formal proof for the existence of polyphenism in mammals (including suggestions in humans) and the first mapping of a genetic architecture for mammalian phenotypic buffering. In 2018, Dr. Pospisilik joined Van Andel Institute as chair of its Department of Epigenetics and a founding member of its Metabolic and Nutritional Programming group. He is the recipient of numerous awards and accolades, including the 2016 Novo Nordisk Helmholtz Young Investigator Award, the 2015 GSK Award for Basic Medical Research, the 2013 EASD Rising Star Award and the 2011 RISE1 Award from the Epigenesys Network of Excellence. He also is a member of the World Economic Forum faculty.