As Michigan State University’s College of Human Medicine plans for a new biomedical sciences research facility in Grand Rapids, it’s worth noting how many researchers have joined the faculty in the past few years.

Fifteen principal investigators, most with federal grants, have moved to West Michigan to pursue research.

They are studying brain injuries, Alzheimer’s, infertility, ovarian cancer, infertility, Parkinson's disease and a host of other issues, examining how the body works, how things can go wrong, and how to develop better treatments. The research is focused in two areas: women’s health and neuroscience.

Related: How MSU brought researchers to Grand Rapids

Each researcher has an extensive resume and postdoctoral education, in addition to their doctorate or medical degree. Here is a brief look at the scientists' background and their research interests.


Timothy Collier
Director of the Udall Center of Excellence in Parkinson’s Disease Research

Degree: Ph.D in psychology and neuroscience, Northwestern University, Evanston, Ill.

Known for: Collier leads a collaborative research team of four scientists that has been designated a Udall Center of Excellence for Parkinson’s Disease Research. The other researchers are Caryl Sortwell, Dr. Kathy Steece-Collier and Jack Lipton.

Research interest: Benefits of diet and exercise and the biology of lifestyle factors, neurodegenerative disease and the mechanisms of central nervous system aging

Caryl Sortwell
Professor of translational science and molecular medicine

Degree: Ph.D. in anatomy and cell biology, University of Illinois, Chicago

Research interest: Parkinson’s disease treatments, including deep-brain stimulation, gene therapy and new medications, with an emphasis on approaches that may slow degeneration process

Jack Lipton
Chairman, translational science and molecular medicine

Degree: Ph.D. in behavioral neuroscience, UCLA

Known for: Research into effect of fetal exposure to cocaine and ecstasy; drugs of abuse, neurobiology of Parkinson’s

Research interests: Identifying new genetic targets aimed at preventing brain cell loss and minimizing debilitating side effects of Parkinson’s; effect of prenatal exposure to drugs on central nervous system

Kathy Steece-Collier
Professor of translational science and molecular medicine

Degree: Ph.D. in physiology, University of Illinois Medical Center, Chicago

Known for: Past president of the American Society for Neural Therapy and Repair; grant reviewer and progress assessor for the Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research

Research interest: Studying how the brain changes following cell death in Parkinson’s with a goal of developing improved therapies

Scott Counts
Associate professor of translational science and molecular medicine

Degree: Ph.D. in neuroscience, Emory University, Atlanta, Ga.

Known for: More than 50 papers and book chapters on the molecular mechanisms involved in Alzheimer’s disease

Research interests: Neuron loss in Alzheimer’s disease through the study of autopsied brain tissue of subjects who died with normal cognition, mild cognitive impairment and Alzheimer’s. Focus is on potential molecular targets for treatment.

Nicholas Kanaan
Assistant professor of translational science and molecular biology

Degree: Ph.D. in neurological sciences, Rush University Medical Center, Chicago

Research interests: Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s and the role of aging in disease; molecular mechanisms underlying degenerative disease and potential treatment strategies

Fredric Manfredsson
Assistant professor of translational science and molecular medicine

Degree: Ph.D in biomedical sciences-neuroscience, University of Florida

Research interests: Engineering viral gene therapy methods to study and treat neurodegenerative diseases, particularly Parkinson’s

Katrina Paumier
Assistant professor of translational science and molecular medicine

Degree: Ph.D. in neuroscience, University of Cincinnati

Research interest: Cellular and molecular processes involved in Parkinson’s and identifying new targets for treatment

Kenneth Strauss
Associate professor of translational science and molecular medicine

Degree: Ph.D. in molecular biology and biotechnology, Hahnemann University, Philadelphia

Known for: The study of traumatic brain injuries and ways to treat brain inflammation

Research interest: The compounds called eicosanoids that are released after brain injury; focus is on minimizing harmful ones and maximizing production of beneficial ones

Lester Binder
Professor of translational science and molecular medicine

Degree: Ph.D. in biology, Yale University, New Haven, Conn.

Known for: Research into protein biochemistry and the pathology of neurodegneration

Research interest: The role of tau protein in Alzheimer’s disease and related disorders, and its progression from a benign soluble state to a pathological aggregated state


Dr. Richard Leach
Professor and chairman of obstetrics, gynecology and reproductive biology

Degree: M.D., Wayne State University School of Medicine

Known for: In-vitro fertilization, early implantation and causes of infertility

Research interests: Placenta biology, how preeclampsia develops and factors that affect success rates of in vitro fertilization

Dr. Asgi Fazleabas
Professor and associate chairman of research

Degree: Ph.D. in reproductive physiology, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Known for: His role in identifying mechanisms that can prevent the uterus from responding to the pregnancy hormone progesterone

Research interests: Studying the communication between embryo and uterus critical to the establishment of pregnancy.

John Risinger
Associate professor and director of gynecologic oncology research

Degree: molecular biology and genetics, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, 1997

Known for: Identifying microsatellite instability and DNA mismatch repair defects in endometrial cancers that paved the way for a test for determining hereditary cancer risk in certain cancer patients.

Research interests: Understanding the defects that lead to endometrial and ovarian cancer with the hope of being able to detect earlier or treat these cancers.

Jose Teixeira
Professor of obstetrics, gynecology and reproductive biology

Degree: Ph.D, University of Massachusetts Medical School

Known for: Developing models to study early events in the progression of ovarian and uterine cancer with a goal of identifying ways to treat them

Research interests: The development of reproductive organs, uterine fibroids, ovarian and uterine cancer

Jae Wook Jeong
Associate professor of obstetrics, gynecology and reproductive biology

Degree: Ph.D., Korea University, South Korea

Research interests: Infertility and gynecologic cancer, uterine biology, maternal-fetal interactions, endometriosis and ademoyosis

Sue Thoms covers health care for MLive/The Grand Rapids Press. Email her at or follow her on Twitter, Facebook or Google+.