The Academy of Finland’s Research Council for Health has decided to fund twelve new research posts as Academy Research Fellow based on applications submitted in the Academy’s September 2016 call. The Research Council received 85 applications for Academy Research Fellow funding, which puts the success rate at slightly over 14 per cent. According to reviewer feedback, the applications submitted were generally of a high quality, and the best ones were internationally competitive.
Research posts as Academy Research Fellow are intended for experienced researchers for independent scientific work following a set research plan. The aim of the five-year funding is to provide a fixed-term, fulltime opportunity for top researchers to gain competence for the most demanding research posts or other expert positions.
The new Academy Research Fellows are Laura Elo-Uhlgren (University of Turku), Ilkka Junttila (University of Tampere), Laura Kerosuo (University of Helsinki), Eija Laakkonen (University of Jyväskylä), Antti Latvala (University of Helsinki), Thomas McWilliams (University of Helsinki), Francesco Noé (University of Eastern Finland), Satu Pekkala (University of Jyväskylä), Katri Pylkäs (University of Oulu), Pia Rantakari (University of Turku), Keijo Viiri (University of Tampere) and Merja Voutilainen (University of Helsinki).
Examples of funded Academy Research Fellows
Laura Kerosuo (University of Helsinki) studies neural crest cells, a transient population of multipotent stem cells in the early embryo. Some 10 per cent of human birth defects, such as the fatal childhood cancer neuroblastoma, are neural-crest-derived. Understanding the mechanisms that control neural crest stem cell characteristics under normal development is of great importance in uncovering the mechanisms behind these defects. Kerosuo combines modern molecular and stem cell biological approaches with classical in vivo experimental developmental biology, using the chick embryo together with human embryonic stem cells as a model. She has established a way to simultaneously analyse the expression of tens of genes on embryonic or cancer samples. Her goal is to understand why some children recover spontaneously while others develop a metastatic tumour, and to identify novel drug targets for treating neuroblastoma.
Laura Elo-Uhlgren (University of Turku) develops robust tools to translate proteome data into patient benefits in health and diagnostics. Despite advances in proteomics measurement technologies, a common problem in protein biomarker studies is that the findings cannot be validated. Elo-Uhlgren will address this challenge by developing a computational framework for proteome data that uses longitudinal follow-up data and is widely applicable to different types of proteome data. The project is anticipated to improve diagnosis, prognosis and treatment strategies for complex diseases such as diabetes and cardiovascular diseases.
Thomas McWilliams (University of Helsinki) studies how mitophagy – defective mitochondrial quality control – and mitochondrial dynamics regulate the growth and degeneration of neural processes in different nerve cells. How we perceive, experience and react to the world is controlled by our nervous system. Trillions of neural connections are formed during development and continually modified throughout our lives. Diseases can cause the connections to break down or degenerate with devastating consequences. Mitophagy has been linked to a variety of diseases, including neurodegenerative disorders such as Parkinson’s disease. McWilliams will use a unique fluorescent reporter mouse (mito-QC) to visualise mitophagy and how mitochondria behave for the very first time within tissues. Understanding how nerve cells form connections may generate innovative strategies for nerve repair and regeneration.
- Science Adviser Heikki Vilen, tel. +358 295 335 135, firstname.lastname(at)aka.fi
Academy of Finland Communications
Vesa Varpula, Communications Specialist
tel. +358 295 335 131
The Academy of Finland’s mission is to fund high-quality scientific research, provide expertise in science and science policy, and strengthen the position of science and research. In 2017, our funding for research amounts to 437 million euros. Part of our funds (€70.7m in 2017) come from proceeds of Finland’s national gaming company Veikkaus.