MSU names researchers

April 27, 2009
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Two distinguished medical researchers have agreed to join the Grand Rapids faculty of the Michigan State University College of Human Medicine and the Van Andel Institute.

“The research component of our college’s expansion is beginning to materialize, thanks to the support and collaborative efforts of our partners Spectrum Health and the Van Andel Institute,” said Dr. Marsha D. Rappley, dean of the medical school. “We have successfully recruited two highly acclaimed, senior investigators with significant funding.”

Jack W. Lipton and John Risinger are the latest high-level scientists drawn to Grand Rapids by the convergence of the medical school, hospitals and the private nonprofit research facilities now being expanded at the VAI, said Jeffrey Dwyer, associate director of research for CHM.

Dwyer said the medical school plans to hire three to five scientists annually for the next three to five years. Each is expected to employ an average of three to five laboratory staff, he added.

“There have been a couple of appointments, and we anticipate, in the very near future, there will be many more,” Dwyer said.

He said he expects continued growth in cancer and Parkinson’s research, as well as an effort to build research capabilities for digestive diseases and cardiovascular issues.

“They are both very highly thought of in their fields,” Dwyer said of Lipton and Risinger, noting that Lipton in the past has secured National Institutes of Health research funding and Risinger has had support from the U.S. Department of Defense.

Lipton comes from the University of Cincinnati, where he was director of the Division of Neuropharmacology in the psychiatry department. He also worked at Rush University Medical Center in Chicago, and did his master’s and doctoral work at the University of California at Los Angeles.

His research has focused on the effects of drugs on prenatal neurological development as well as Parkinson’s disease, which is a major component of the VAI’s work.

In Grand Rapids, Lipton will chair the CHM’s Division of Translational Science and Molecular Medicine and will recruit additional scientists for research into Parkinson’s. His position is funded through the partnership between MSU and the VAI.

“The addition of Dr. Jack Lipton strengthens the community’s Parkinson’s resources,” said Micki Benz, vice president of development and communications for Saint Mary’s Health Care, which recently opened the Hauenstein Center for Neurosciences, treating 350 Parkinson’s patients.

“The Parkinson’s program at Saint Mary’s is the only comprehensive Parkinson’s diagnosis and treatment center in our community, and we are eager to begin to work with Dr. Lipton. Now we will be able to participate in more research on the disease. It’s a great example of the collaboration among the Van Andel Institute, the Michigan State University College of Human Medicine and Saint Mary's Health Care: research, education and patient care,” Benz added.

Risinger is coming to West Michigan from the sunny shores of Savannah, Ga., where he has served as director of the women’s cancer program at Memorial University Medical Center. He has been a researcher at the Laboratory of Biosystems and Cancer at the National Cancer Institute and at the Laboratory of Molecular Carcinogenesis at the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences. He earned his master’s degree at the University of Virginia and doctorate at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

He joins the CHM as director of gynecologic oncology research in the school’s Department of Obstetrics, Gynecology and Reproductive Biology. He’ll also be director for tissue biorepository at Spectrum Health and will recruit more cancer researchers. Funding for his post is a joint effort of Spectrum and MSU.

Risinger will work out of Grand Valley State University’s Cook-DeVos Center for Health Sciences in the West Michigan Science & Technology Initiative laboratory until his permanent space is ready in the expanding VAI.

Dwyer said Risinger’s work builds on the appointment two years ago of Dr. Richard Leach as chair of obstetrics and gynecology at the CHM. Leach centered his research in Grand Rapids and has close ties to Spectrum Health, Dwyer said. “In all ways, John Risinger is the next logical step in building the program,” he said.

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