Public Release: 

Van Andel Institute, Saint Mary's Health Care and Mercy Health partners to expand biorepository

VAI Program for Biospecimen Science 1 of 7 CAP-accredited biorepositories in nation

Van Andel Research Institute

Grand Rapids, Mich. (Oct. 16, 2012) - Van Andel Institute (VAI) and two West Michigan hospitals within the national Trinity Health system and members of Mercy Health - Saint Mary's Health Care and Mercy Health Partners - have signed agreements paving the way for the expansion of a world-class biorepository utilizing the infrastructure of the VAI Program for Biospecimen Science.

Biorepositories store tissue and biospecimens, along with health data donated by patients. Both biorepositories and archived data have become crucial engines of genetic, genomic, and other types of medical research, as well as advanced diagnostic procedures and treatment options.

The Van Andel Institute Program for Biospecimen Science (PBS) recently became one of only seven biorepositories in the nation accredited by the College of American Pathologists (CAP). The PBS serves as the coordinating facility for the prospective collection of biological specimens in West Michigan and as a clearinghouse for the processing, storage, and isolation of specimens to fuel biomedical discovery at VAI and partnering institutions. The PBS also conducts scientific evidence-based practices to advance the field of biospecimen science.

"This biorepository agreement is a natural extension of the collaborative relationship we have had for years with the Van Andel Institute," said Phil McCorkle, Saint Mary's President and CEO. "Saint Mary's and VAI have a solid history of bringing research to our patients and community, as evidenced by our Parkinson's disease and cancer research, as well as the Clinical Trial Unit at Saint Mary's."

"We look forward to strengthening our partnership with the Van Andel Institute," said Roger Spoelman, President and CEO, Mercy Health Partners and Regional Executive, Mercy Health. "Through this and our other research efforts here at Mercy Health Partners, we continue not only to provide world-class patient care, but we are providing important opportunities for our patients to participate in groundbreaking cancer research."

Biorepositories require a substantial investment to build and maintain. Sophisticated, prefabricated freezers capable of maintaining the low temperatures required to store blood and other tissue samples can start at $1 million, so it is cost effective for multiple organizations to partner in growing an established biorepository.

Biorepositories also meet the growing demand for reliable, well-documented biospecimens utilized in the field of disease research. A significant obstacle in developing new treatments for diseases has been the lack of well-annotated associated clinical samples and processing data of uniformly collected biospecimen research samples.

"Van Andel Institute's Program for Biospecimen Science also has been designated as the only Comprehensive Biospecimen Resource for the Cancer Human Biobank (caHUB) of the Biorepositories and Biospecimen Research Branch at the National Cancer Institute (NCI)," said Scott Jewell, Ph.D., Director of VAI's Program for Biospecimen Science. "The NCI often relies on experts in fields of science to meet gaps in ability or infrastructure, like biorepositories."

Under the agreements, with patient consent, Saint Mary's Health Care and Mercy Health Partners will collect biospecimens and approved data and transfer them to the Van Andel Institute Program for Biospecimen Science. The Institute will store the biospecimens and data using sophisticated processes and equipment and will make the specimens available to physicians and researchers. Saint Mary's Health Care has already begun operations, and Mercy Health Partners hopes to commence operations within 90 days.

"Over the past five years Saint Mary's has made a significant investment to build the research infrastructure required to bring leading-edge research and clinical trial opportunities to patients in West Michigan," said Susan Hoppough, Ph.D., Director of Research & Innovation at Saint Mary's Health Care. "The Clinical Trial Unit at Saint Mary's is the first in West Michigan to focus on patients interested in early phase research. Research using biospecimen samples like those stored in the VAI Biorepository is critical to early discovery of new therapies that will benefit patients living in the West Michigan region and beyond. We are excited to be working with Van Andel Research Institute and our colleagues at Mercy Health Partners."

"This is another significant collaboration between research and clinical entities of West Michigan's biomedical research and life sciences corridor," said Van Andel Institute Chairman and CEO David Van Andel. "The agreement will help increase competitiveness for research funding, enhance recruitment, produce discoveries advancing the understanding of treatment and disease, and most importantly, achieve improved patient outcomes."

Van Andel Institute Program for Biospecimen Science Attains CAP Accreditation

In September, the Van Andel Institute Program for Biospecimen Science became one of only seven biorepositories in the nation accredited by the College of American Pathologists (CAP) based on results of a recent on-site inspection as part of the CAP's Accreditation Programs. The CAP, first in the industry to offer an accreditation program for biorepositories, bases the program on the principles of its Laboratory Accreditation Program. The U.S. federal government recognizes the CAP Laboratory Accreditation Program, begun in the early 1960s, as being equal-to or more-stringent-than the government's own inspection program. Currently, there is no federal mandate for biorepository accreditation.


About Van Andel Institute

Established by Jay and Betty Van Andel in 1996, Van Andel Institute is an independent research organization dedicated to preserving, enhancing and expanding the frontiers of medical science, and to achieving excellence in education by probing fundamental issues of education and the learning process. This is accomplished through the work of over 200 researchers in more than 20 on-site laboratories and in collaborative partnerships that span the globe.

Saint Mary's Health Care

Saint Mary's Health Care, a member of Mercy Health, is an integrated network of health care excellence offering a unique combination of capabilities to deliver a health care experience that is more complete and personally satisfying. Our commitment to offer the latest technology and most highly skilled physicians in a holistic, patient-centered environment has made us a progressive leader in cancer care, neuroscience, orthopedics, diabetes and endocrine care, kidney transplants, and integrative health care.

The network encompasses more than 2,400 employees, a 344-bed, The Joint Commission-accredited teaching hospital, The Lacks Cancer Center, The Wege Institute: Mind, Body and Spirit, the Center for Diabetes and Endocrinology, the Neuroscience Program, three fitness centers, five community outreach centers and affiliations with home health care, rehabilitation services, and the area's premier primary care network, Advantage Health Physician Network. Saint Mary's has several times been awarded the Governor's Award of Excellence and named one of West Michigan's 101 Best and Brightest Companies to Work For. Saint Mary's is a member of Trinity Health, the country's fourth-largest Catholic health care system.

Mercy Health Partners

Mercy Health Partners, a member of Mercy Health, is a teaching hospital and the second largest health system in West Michigan with nearly 4,000 associates, 21,000 inpatient discharges, and 137,000 emergency/urgent care visits annually. The system has three hospitals, 375 physicians, and offers a number of exclusive specialty physician care services for the region.

Mercy Health

Dedicated to providing more personalized care with easier access to specialists and a seamless patient experience, Mercy Health is a multi-location health care system serving West Michigan with five hospital campuses, 58 physician offices, 1,174 physicians, over 800 hospital beds, and 7,200 associates. Mercy Health includes all Mercy Health Partners hospitals and physician offices in Muskegon, Shelby and Norton Shores; Saint Mary's Health Care locations; and Advantage Health/Saint Mary's Medical Group. The system provides services throughout West Michigan including specialties in oncology, cardiology, and orthopedics. Mercy Health is a member of Trinity Health, the fourth largest Catholic health care system in the country.

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