Van Andel Research Institute welcomes neuroscientist, Parkinson’s expert

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (Jan. 29, 2019) — Van Andel Research Institute’s newest neuroscientist hopes to find ways to slow or stop Parkinson’s disease progression and he plans to improve the activity of brain cells to do it.

Hong-Yuan Chu, Ph.D., joined the Institute as an assistant professor in January from Northwestern University. He is an expert in investigating how and why dopamine-producing brain cells die in Parkinson’s, a progressive process that eventually leads to the disease’s hallmark movement problems.

Dr. Hong-Yuan Chu

“Dr. Chu’s expertise means that our center now has completely new tools to analyze the electrical activity of nerve cells in the brain using experimental models of the disease. This will allow us to understand what happens to brain function as the disease progresses” said Patrik Brundin, M.D., Ph.D., director of the Institute’s Center for Neurodegenerative Science. “We are thrilled to have him as part of our growing team and look forward to the advances that will be possible because of his research.”

Chu’s lab uses a multi-disciplinary approach to define cellular circuits that cause dysfunction in parkinsonian brains and identify mechanisms that contribute to the death of dopamine-producing cells during disease progression. Using models of late-stage Parkinson’s, Chu has identified several new mechanisms that prompt changes in brain cells that could underlie the motor symptoms of the disease. Going forward, he also plans to investigate if treating the brain with genetic- and pharmacological-based approaches can enhance or reduce connections between neurons, which one day could inform therapies that rescue at-risk cells.

Chu earned his B.S. in medicine from Ocean University of China followed by his Ph.D. in pharmacology from Shanghai Institute of Materia Medica. He then completed postdoctoral fellowships in the labs of Dr. Alexei Morozov at the National Institute of Mental Health of the National Institutes of Health and Dr. Mark Bevan at Northwestern University.

In 2018, the Institute added eight investigators to its roster. Chu is the first investigator to join VARI in 2019.


Van Andel Institute (VAI) is an independent nonprofit biomedical research and science education organization committed to improving the health and enhancing the lives of current and future generations. Established by Jay and Betty Van Andel in 1996 in Grand Rapids, Michigan, VAI has grown into a premier research and educational institution that supports the work of more than 360 scientists, educators and staff. Van Andel Research Institute (VARI), VAI’s research division, is dedicated to determining the epigenetic, genetic, molecular and cellular origins of cancer, Parkinson’s and other diseases and translating those findings into effective therapies. The Institute’s scientists work in onsite laboratories and participate in collaborative partnerships that span the globe. Learn more about Van Andel Institute or donate by visiting 100% To Research, Discovery & Hope®