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VARI scientist elected to National Academy of Sciences

May 4, 2016
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Van Andel Institute names CSO
Peter Jones. Courtesy Van Andel Institute

A scientist from the Van Andel Research Institute has been elected to be a member of the National Academy of Sciences to help advise on national policy.

Grand Rapids-based Van Andel Research Institute, or VARI, the research division of the Van Andel Institute, or VAI, said yesterday that Peter Jones, chief scientific officer, is now part of the academy.

Jones will advise on national medical and epigenomic policy and direction.

Epigenomics is the study of epigenomes — or the network of chemical compounds surrounding DNA that modify the genome without altering the DNA sequences — and their roles in gene expression. Epigenomics is Jones’ cancer research specialty.

He was among the discipline’s early adopters, and his career includes a “litany of firsts” in biomedical research: publication of the first study to prove how epigenetics regulates cellular differentiation; development of a class of drugs called DNA methylation inhibitors, or DNMTis, also called hypomethylating agents, including one that is now in a phase three clinical trial; and discovery that epigenetics plays a fundamental role in aging.

“I am honored and humbled to be elected into this historic and important society,” Jones said.

Jones said being elected is a signal that VAI is “breaking ground” in the search for new approaches to cancer treatment and novel ways to alleviate the suffering “imposed by this insidious disease.”

Jones is the second VARI scientist to be elected into the academy.

He joins George Vande Woude, who has been a member of the academy’s Medical Genetics, Hematology and Oncology section since 1993.

National Academy of Sciences

The National Academy of Sciences elected 84 members and 21 foreign associates during its 153rd annual meeting. All were elected based on their “outstanding” contributions to research.

The academy has 2,250 members and nearly 440 foreign associates, including about 200 Nobel prize winners, according to its website.

The National Academy of Sciences was established in 1863 by an Act of Congress and signed by President Abraham Lincoln as a private, non-governmental institution to advise the nation on issues related to science and technology.

The organization works together with the National Academy of Engineering and National Academy of Medicine, which were created later, as the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine.

The nonprofits provide independent, objective analysis and advice to the nation and conduct activities to solve complex problems and inform public policy decisions.

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