Van Andel Institute (VAI) is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit medical research institute in Grand Rapids, Michigan. VAI was founded by Jay and Betty Van Andel in 1996 and is composed of two institutes: Van Andel Research Institute (VARI) and Van Andel Education Institute (VAEI).VARI scientists study the genetic, cellular, and molecular origins of cancer and other several other degenerative diseases, notably Parkinsons.VAEI offers various science education programs for students K-12, professional development for science teachers, and a graduate school for college students pursuing biomedical research.
VARI’s primary work has been in basic research – looking for what occurs to cause disease in individual cells, and using that information to identify biomarkers that can help predict and diagnose diseases, and lead to the development of safer, more effective drugs The research at VARI has primarily focused on cancer, but is expanding into other diseases such as osteoporosis, Parkinsons, and diabetes. The Institute’s Phase II building expansion included the addition of space for the new Jay Van Andel Parkinson Research Lab.VAI co-founder Jay Van Andel suffered from Parkinson disease for over 10 years before his death in 2004.
From 1999 until 2009, former National Cancer Institute administrator George Vande Woude, Ph.D., served as VARI’s research director and helped to build the research programs that exist today. Before joining VARI, Dr. Vande Woude was Director of the Basic Research Program at the Frederick Cancer Research and Development Center as well as the Director for the Division of Basic Sciences at the National Cancer Institute. In the early 1980s, Dr. Vande Woude’s laboratory discovered the human MET oncogene, which is now an important target in the development of anti-cancer drugs The Science Academy offers several hands-on programs for both students and teachers. Through the Out-of-School-Time Cohort Program, groups of students learn to think and act like scientists over the course of three years, asking their own questions about different species, ecosystems, and genetics and answering them with the tools of science.
Science on Saturday is a one-day program in which students and adults form two-person teams and explore some aspect of the natural world. Teachers learn alongside their students through Classroom Science Investigations, a unique professional development program tailored to each teacher’s needs