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Research Council for Biosciences, Health and the Environment emphasised basic research in its Academy Project decisions

22 May 2019

Academy of Finland’s Research Council for Biosciences, Health and the Environment has granted funding for 91 Academy Projects with a total of 116 subprojects. The funding totals around 44,5 million euros. 22 per cent of the applications are funded.

In making its funding decisions, the Research Council wanted to support basic research in its fields and emphasised the scientific quality of the projects.  Other key criteria included the impact and scientific renewal of the research.

 “The majority of the applications were very strong scientifically. However, the Research Council could fund only some of them”, says Ursula Schwab, the chair of the Research Council. All the funded applications received a rating of either 5 or 6 in their expert reviews.

In the September 2018 call, 25 million euros in additional funds earmarked for the Academy of Finland in the state budget were used to support the younger generation of researchers. The Academy decided to distribute these funds in Academy Projects. The Research Council for Biosciences, Health and the Environment used the special budget authority reserved for the younger generation in 22 of the funded projects.

 “Applicants representing the younger generation of researchers were very successful in the scientific reviews for the Academy Project funding. The now funded projects representing the younger generation would have been granted fundingeven without the additional funds. Thanks to the additional budget authority, the Research Council could grant funding to more projects representing the younger generation than before”, says Schwab.

The Research Council also awarded shorter grants to support risky projects of high sientific quality, whose potential was deemed so significant that the Research council wanted to support their launch.  

Examples of research with high scientific and social impact

Silvan Scheller from Aalto University studies the biochemical transformation of methane into carbon dioxide and electricity. Deep-sea microbes can transform methane into carbon dioxide and electricity restoratively, which means the process could be used to transform surplus electricity into methane. The aim of the project is to control this energy conversion process and to understand the biochemistry involved in it.

Jaana Suvisaari from the National Institute for Health and Welfare, Jarmo Hietala from the University of Turku and Jarno Honkanen from the university of Helsinki examine the background mechanisms of early psychosis and their inflammatory phenotypes. According to them, some of the people who develop a psychosis have a prolonged activated state of the immune system, but the activity of certain brain cells is reduced. The consortium studies the connection between gut microbiota and the function of the immune system, as well as their relationship to the structure and function of the brain. The research analyses the significance of inflammatory changes in the development and prognosis of related conditions.

Elina Ikonen from the University of Helsinki studies the regulation of cholesterol distribution and content. Cholesterol metabolism is central to the function of cells. Dysfunctions in cholesterol metabolism can lead to severe diseases, such as Alzheimer’s disease and cardiovascular diseases. This research utilises the information Ikonen has previously gained on the central gene products that affect cholesterol transport and distribution in cells. The project will conduct cell experiments to find out how two membrain proteins functioning in different compartments of the cell can transfer the transport of a cholesterol molecule from one membrane system to another and how the transport is regulated.

Jarkko Hantula from the Natural Resources Institute Finland examines the interaction biology of the viruses in the fungus Heterobasidion. The Heterobasidion fungi are one of the most destructive forest pathogens. The project analyses the interaction between two fungal viruses and their relationship to the Heterobasidion. The hypotheses are tested with virus transmission experiments, growth rate and enzymatic activity measurements of the host mycelium on artificial media, and gene expression analyses. The results of the project may prove useful in forest management.

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Academy of Finland Communications
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Last modified 7 Nov 2019
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