Close to €17m granted to biosciences and environmental research

(14 May 2014)

The Academy of Finland’s Research Council for Biosciences and Environment has granted Academy Project funding to 29 research projects. The funding was open for application in the Academy’s September 2013 call. The Research Council received a total of 222 applications for Academy Project funding. The success rate was 13 per cent. The total funding awarded by the Research Council within this funding opportunity amounted to 14.9 million euros.

The Research Council for Biosciences and Environment also granted a total of 1.9 million euros to five applicants within the Academy Project funding call in long-term environmental changes. This targeted call attracted 46 applications. The success rate was 11 per cent.

Examples of projects funded:

Alexander Plyusnin and his team at the University of Helsinki Haartman Institute, an institute of clinical-theoretical medicine, are studying the genetics, genomics and evolution of hantaviruses, which are important human pathogens. They present a prime example of emerging zoonotic viruses. Finland has globally the highest documented incidence of a human hantavirus infection. Plyusnin’s team has discovered several novel hantaviruses and novel variants of already established viruses. In the present project, the team is going to learn more about hantaviruses, their biodiversity, geographical distribution and evolution. Another aim is to study how hantaviruses interact with target cells in order to find ways to stop hantavirus infection.

Riitta Puupponen-Pimiä (VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland) heads a project exploring the secondary metabolism of berries. Berry secondary metabolites, such as phenolic ellagitannins, act as defence compounds in plants and have positive effects on human health. In Finland, Rubus berries, such as cloudberry and arctic bramble, are very rich in ellagitannins. However, there is a lack of knowledge concerning the biosynthesis of ellagitannins and its regulation in these plants. The focus of Puupponen-Pimiä’s project is to identify complex ellagitannin precursors and end products, and to characterise factors controlling ellagitannin biosynthesis. The results can be exploited in the development of berry varieties more tolerant against climate change and plant pathogens. The project will also create prerequisites for controlled production of valuable berry ellagitannins in cell cultures with applications to the food, cosmetic and pharmaceutical industries.

More information:

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