Health Care and Human Resources

Van Andel Institute names CSO

December 17, 2013
| By Pete Daly |
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Van Andel Institute names CSO
Peter Jones. Courtesy Van Andel Institute

An internationally renowned researcher with more than 40 years of experience in academia in the field of biomolecular research has been named the chief scientific officer and director of research at Van Andel Research Institute.

Peter Jones

Van Andel Research Institute's parent organization, the Grand Rapids-based Van Andel Institute, announced the appointment Monday, with Peter Jones slated to begin his new position on Feb. 17.

Originally from South Africa, Jones began his career as a research officer/chief research officer there and was a National Institute of Health post-doctoral fellow at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles.

In 1977, Jones joined the faculty of Keck School of Medicine at University of Southern California, where for the last 14 years he has been a distinguished professor of urology, biochemistry and molecular biology.

He was also the director of the USC Norris Comprehensive Cancer Center from 1993 to 2011 and president of the American Association for Cancer Research in 2005-2006.

Jones replaces former Chief Scientific Officer Jeffrey Trent, who left VARI in 2010 to return to the Translational Genomics Research Institute in Phoenix, which he had founded in 2002.

“The appointment of Dr. Jones is a proud day for the advancement of Van Andel Research Institute and is the culmination of much thoughtful planning,” said David Van Andel, chairman/CEO, Van Andel Institute. “We have found a visionary leader in biomedical research, whose experience will bridge basic and translational research and inform the national expansion of the institute for many years to come.”

Research

Jones’ recent research has focused on epigenetics and how epigenetic therapies might benefit people with cancer. Epigenetics is the study of heritable changes in gene activity, which are not caused by changes in the DNA sequence. Epigenetics has recently become “a hot-button research focus,” and it is responsible for new and innovative approaches to personalized cancer therapy, according to VAI.

Jones' pioneering research uncovered basic mechanisms of DNA methylation and its role in cancer.

Jones is interested in how therapies re-organize the epigenome to switch genes on, in order to develop improved therapies.

Jones helped develop the International Human Epigenome Consortium, an organization focused on mapping thousands of human epigenomes to better understand their role in cancer and chronic illnesses like obesity, diabetes and certain mental health disorders.

Jones plans to continue his work on the translational research aspects of epigenetics while at Van Andel Institute, bolstering the institute’s portfolio of cancer and disease research.

While in this role, Jones plans to further define Van Andel Institute’s strategic plan, build a robust clinical program and recruit additional scientists to the institute’s four research centers.

“It is an honor to join Van Andel Research Institute — an organization dedicated to changing the course of biomedical research,” Jones said.

VAI

Established by Jay and Betty Van Andel in 1996, Van Andel Institute is an independent research and educational organization, dedicated to preserving, enhancing and expanding the frontiers of medical science and achieving excellence in education.

Van Andel Research Institute, VAI’s research arm, is dedicated to studying the genetic, cellular and molecular origins of cancer, Parkinson’s and other diseases and working to translate those findings into effective therapies.

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