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Continued support for clinical research careers

(08.06.11)

The Academy of Finland’s Research Council for Health has decided to provide funding to eight clinical researchers, which is equivalent to 40 per cent of the 20 applications received. The funding is granted for a three-year term. The Research Council has supported clinical research careers since 2006.

The objective of the funding is to support researchers in clinical practice by providing funding for part-time research. The aim is to promote clinical research careers in cooperation with, for example, university hospitals, and to encourage medical doctors working in clinical practice to engage in research so that they can continue to pursue their research career while in specialist training and, upon completion of that training, alongside with clinical practice.

In the October call 2010, the Research Council also decided to provide funding to 11 Academy Research Fellows and 26 Postdoctoral Researchers. The appointees will start their term in September 2011. The Research Council allocated a total of some EUR 4.3 million for the salaries of the new Academy Research Fellows and some EUR 7.2 million for the salaries of the new Postdoctoral Researchers.

The Research Council received a total of 61 applications for research posts as Academy Research Fellow by the October 2010 call deadline. The researchers selected as Academy Research Fellows have completed their doctorate no more than 3–9 years ago. The Academy Research Fellow term is five years and after their term, the researchers are normally employed in demanding tasks at universities and research institutes but also outside the university sector. In August, the Research Council will decide on separate research grants for the new Academy Research Fellows’ research costs.

The Research Council received in all 113 applications for research posts as Postdoctoral Researcher. A three-year term as Postdoctoral Researcher can be granted to researchers who have gained their doctorate no more than four years ago. Besides salary funding, Postdoctoral Researchers are also granted funding for other purposes, such as international cooperation and mobility. Postdoctoral Researcher funding is designed to advance the professional competence and independence of promising researchers after they have obtained their doctorate.

The new Academy Research Fellows are researching e.g. the following topics:

Kaisa Hartikainen (Tampere University Hospital): A number of neurological and psychiatric disorders can cause frontal lobe dysfunction. Even mild disturbances may significantly impair the ability to maintain employment and function successfully in everyday life and social interactions. The aim of Hartikainen’s research is to determine the role of different frontal lobe regions in emotion and executive function interaction. Furthermore, she will aim to develop objective and more sensitive ways to detect affective and behavioural dysfunction as well as novel ways to rehabilitate such dysfunctions.

Kari Kalliokoski (University of Turku): Lack of time is one of the main reasons why people do not exercise enough. Recent findings suggest that people can achieve similar health benefits with both short-duration high-intensity interval training (HIIT) and long-duration moderate intensity exercise. However, there are still many open questions concerning HIIT, such as whether it is tolerable and effective in patients with cardiovascular and metabolic diseases. Kalliokoski’s team will investigate these issues in HIIT training intervention studies in healthy subjects and in patients with type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease. When successful, the project will lead to remarkable possibilities for the prevention and treatment of diseases.

Alberto Sanz Montero (University of Tampere): Population ageing is one of the main problems in today’s Western society. The only way to alleviate the suffering caused by age-related degenerative diseases is to fully understand the driving forces behind ageing. It has been proposed that so-called free radicals cause the accumulation of oxidative damage, which in turn causes ageing. The main objective of the research is to understand mechanisms by which longevity is regulated. Montero aims to identify (and quantify) the relative importance of these processes in the extension of longevity and develop new and specific therapeutic treatments.

The new Postdoctoral Researchers are researching e.g. the following topics:

Tibor Veres (University of Turku): The immune system protects the body from infectious microorganisms. This protection relies on the continuous migration of immune cells throughout the tissues. However, abnormal immune cell migration can cause severe inflammatory diseases such as bronchial asthma. Future drugs that are able to block this abnormal migration could be successfully used to treat patients suffering from asthma and other inflammatory diseases of the airways. For this reason, it is important to understand the cellular and molecular mechanisms governing immune cell migration to the airways. The project will study how the molecules control the migration of immune cells to the airways.

Johanna Jyrkkärinne (University of Eastern Finland): The worldwide prevalence of diabetes is on the rise, in part due to unhealthy lifestyles and increasing obesity. In Jyrkkärinne’s research, molecular modelling, chemical design and synthesis with advanced molecular biology techniques are combined into a multidisciplinary project, in order to develop therapeutic agents for diabetes and dyslipidemia.

The clinical researchers are researching e.g. the following topics:

Outi Mäkitie (Folkhälsan): Obesity is a growing population health concern. Especially concerning is its increasing prevalence in young children. The aim of this study is to elucidate the impact of severe early-onset obesity on metabolism and the bone and central nervous system and to study the interactions between these. The study includes children and adolescents over the age of 10 who have developed obesity before school age and have been followed at the Hospital for Children and Adolescents (Helsinki University Hospital) as well as healthy, age-matched control children who are not obese. The study will collect data on lifestyles and overall health. The results will help in understanding obesity-related complications and developing new therapies.

Terhi Piltonen (Oulu University Hospital): Endometriosis is an oestrogen-dependent disorder in which endometrial tissue is transplanted into the pelvis and ovaries. The specific aim of Piltonen’s project is to investigate histologic and transcriptomic links between endometriosis, atypical endometriosis and endometrioid ovarian cancer. While there have been several studies reporting morphological similarities between endometriosis and ovarian cancer, a direct link between endometriosis and ovarian cancer has yet to be proven. An additional outcome of this pilot study is the definition and development of specific biomarkers of atypical endometriosis and endometrioid ovarian cancer for diagnostic and targeted therapeutic approaches. The project will be carried out in the US and Finland.

More information 

  • Decisions on Academy Research Fellows
  • Decisions on Postdoctoral Researchers
  • Decisions on clinical researchers
  • Academy Research Fellows: Senior Science Adviser Saara Leppinen, tel. +358 40 848 6637, saara.leppinen(at)aka.fi
  • Postdoctoral Researchers: Science Adviser Kaisa Koli, tel. +358 40 162 6929, kaisa.koli(at)aka.fi
  • Clinical researchers: Science Adviser Sara Illman, tel. +358 400 125 236, sara.illman(at)aka.fi

Academy of Finland Communications
Vesa Varpula
Communications Specialist
tel. +358 9 7748 8458
vesa.varpula(at)aka.fi

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