New associate professor helps build Van Andel Research Institute’s Center for Epigenetics


Grand Rapids, Mich (Oct. 13, 2014) — Van Andel Research Institute (VARI) has recruited Piroska Szabó, Ph.D., to be head of its new Laboratory of Developmental Reprogramming, which will investigate the mechanisms that reprogram the epigenome between generations.

Szabó most recently served as an associate professor at Beckman Research Institute at City of Hope in Duarte, Calif. She also previously served as an assistant professor at City of Hope. Szabó earned her Ph.D. in molecular biology from József Attila University, Szeged, Hungary.

“I thank VARI for the support and the vision to create a Center for Epigenetics,” Szabó said. “I am looking forward to working with a group of outstanding scientists who share the interest in and have compatible expertise in gene regulation.”

As a VARI associate professor and head of the Laboratory of Developmental Reprogramming, Szabó will investigate how the epigenome is reorganized in the germline and directly after fertilization. The epigenome is made up of chemical modifications in DNA and proteins that help control gene expression—that is, it turns genes “on” or “off.” Mapping changes to the epigenome and identifying specific molecules involved in this process will significantly contribute to the understanding of how these changes impact disease and help develop new treatment strategies.

Szabó began work at VARI on Oct. 13.

“Dr. Szabó brings a unique insight to our epigenetics team,” said Dr. Peter Jones, VARI’s research director. “Her experience in studying epigenetic changes during development will provide a new perspective in our rapidly growing Center for Epigenetics.”

Since January, VARI has worked to establish a global hub for epigenetics research. Epigenetics is an expanding focus area in cancer research and provides significant opportunities for developing new, novel therapies.

For more information on VARI’s Laboratory of Developmental Reprogramming, visit