GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Van Andel Institute has been awarded $7.9 million to continue serving as the biorepository for the Cancer Moonshot Biobank study.

It received the money as part of a five-year contract from the National Institutes of Health’s National Cancer Institute.

As the biorepository for the Cancer Moonshot Biobank study, VAI said it sends kits to hospitals and medical centers across the country to collect samples of tumor tissue, blood and other biospecimens. The samples are sent to the VAI to be either stored for later study or sent to organizations for analysis.

Specimens from more than 1,000 participants are expected to be collected as part of the Biobank study. It will help further research into blood, lung, skin, prostate and gastrointestinal tract cancers, according to the VAI.

“Biospecimens are foundational for discovery. They allow us to study cancers in deep detail and are crucial for the development of new prevention, diagnostic and treatment strategies,” Scott Jewell, Ph.D., director of VAI’s Pathology and Biorepository Core, said in a release. “We are honored to be a part of the Cancer Moonshot Biobank study and look forward to contributing to a greater understanding of cancer.”

Since 2020, VAI had served as the Cancer Moonshot Biobank Biorepository when it was subcontracted to develop the framework and protocols for the study.

“We have a fairly long history of being able to provide this biospecimen core resources to the federal government,” said Scott Jewell, the director of pathology and biorepository core for the VAI. “This is a project that we were very anxious to be involved in and competed for back in 2020,”

VAI was the only biobank selected for the study. The institute, which has gained respect nationwide and internally, is benefitting West Michigan.

“VAI is a gem in West Michigan, it’s not maybe as well-known as it should be. But it’s gaining lots of prominence with a lot of great leadership,” Jewell said. “A lot of the great science that is produced here at VAI helps the local community as well. It helps to attract really good physicians where they can collaborate with the scientists here.”

— News 8’s Madalyn Buursma contributed to this report.