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Academy of Finland and Finnish foundations invest €9m in public health research

14 Nov 2017

The Academy of Finland last week made the funding decisions concerning the Health from Science (TERVA) Academy Programme. Starting in 2018, the TERVA programme will be built around consortia that seek bold, new research initiatives to solve major public health problems in Finland. The Academy of Finland’s funding budget for the programme is 7 million euros. The foundations involved in the programme are the Cancer Foundation, the Foundation for Paediatric Research, the Finnish Medical Foundation and the Finnish Brain Foundation, whose combined funding contribution comes to about 1.95 million euros.

Apart from promoting science renewal and long-term impact through the justifiable risks contained in the research projects, the TERVA programme will aim at fostering new kinds of collaborations with foundations that support research into major public health diseases. This is the first time that the Academy of Finland and foundations that fund health research engage in funding cooperation to this extent. The Academy and the foundations have the common objective of funding the most promising and highest quality research that delivers the highest impact.

Professor Mika Rämet, Chair of the Academy’s Research Council for Health, said: “The projects selected for funding were evaluated by using international peer review. The reviewers thought the projects were of a very high scientific quality and that they showed potential for breakthroughs in the treatment, prevention and diagnostics of major public health diseases.”

New treatments for ovarian cancer, remedies for obesity and an EEG hat for newborn brain monitoring

The Health from Science Academy Programme includes seven research consortia. Foundations will co-fund five projects. Five of the consortium directors are women.

Academy Research Fellow Liisa Kauppi heads a consortium that will explore new forms of treatment for ovarian cancer. A major challenge in treating cancer is that tumours often display either initial or acquired therapy resistance. Kauppi’s consortium will develop a model for patient-specific prediction of the most effective cancer treatment.

Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is a common debilitating autoimmune disease. Despite intensive research, its aetiology is only partially understood. Novel biological drugs have improved the treatment outcome, but only half of the patients respond well to these drugs. Docent Satu Mustjoki’s consortium will study the disease mechanisms underlying RA with the aim of enabling more individualised treatment of RA in the future.

Obesity is one of the major public health and economic burdens. Apart from bariatric surgery, few treatment options provide effective and durable results. Professor Kirsi Pietiläinen’s consortium received TERVA funding to develop novel, personalised treatment strategies for obesity by developing a prediction tool for success in weight loss. The tool is based on mitochondrial mass and capacity.

Academy Research Fellow Merja Heinäniemi heads a consortium that will explore early predictors of cardiovascular and metabolic disease development. The consortium will combine state-of-the-art imaging, genomics and multiscale analysis approaches to develop tools to trace macrophage phenotypes, which could be highly valuable for disease prediction.

Associate Professor Noora Kotaja’s consortium received funding to study how fathers’ health at the time of conception may determine the health of their offspring. The consortium will combine expertise in both basic and epidemiological research to provide important information about whether it is possible to prevent harmful epigenetic inheritance by lifestyle interventions or medication.

Professor Sampsa Vanhatalo heads a consortium that will develop wearables for computational diagnostics and mobile monitoring of treatment in infants. The consortium will develop three medical wearables: a disposable EEG hat for newborn brain monitoring; a movement tracker for sleep and respiration monitoring; and a smart jumpsuit for early assessment of cerebral palsy (CP).

Neurodegenerative diseases (NDD) are a major economic burden due to the absence of effective treatment or prevention. Docent Vesa Kiviniemi heads a consortium that will explore the causes and prevention of dementia by studying the glymphatic clearance mechanism, which removes waste products from the brain. The objective is boost this brain clearance so that waste products are more effectively removed to stop brain degeneration.

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Last modified 17 Nov 2017
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