Kari Alitalo receives honorary title of Academician of Science

27 Nov 2020

Research Director, Professor Emeritus Kari Alitalo and Professor Emerita Kaisa Häkkinen have been conferred the honorary title of Academician of Science. President of the Republic Sauli Niinistö granted the titles at a presidential session today, 27 November 2020.

The title of Academician can be held by no more than 16 distinguished Finnish scientists and scholars at a time. The title of Academician of Science is awarded by the President of the Republic based on nominations by the Academy of Finland.

“Scientific knowledge has pronounced importance for decision-making in critical times”

Kari Alitalo (b. 1952) is Director of the Wihuri Research Institute (WRI), which hosts seven different research teams that are studying the pathogenesis of cardiovascular and lymphatic diseases. Current WRI projects include investigations into how elevated lipid levels in the bloodstream, obesity and associated metabolic disorder, and tissue inflammation affect the vascular system and the development of many diseases.

Alitalo is also Scientific Director of the iCAN Digital Precision Cancer Medicine Flagship, which brings together cancer scientists, partners from the biomedicine and medicine sector and other actors. The iCAN Flagship is aimed at developing new, more targeted cancer therapies.

Alitalo says that as far biomedical researchers are concerned, the current pandemic situation has brought along a number of changes that affect both the practice of research and the role of scientific knowledge in society and public decision-making:

“In the pandemic, the scientific community has hit the ground running and through its networks put its wide-ranging expertise to the best possible use at the most critical stages. Scientific knowledge has pronounced importance for decision-making at critical times, and it requires that the conclusions of research are put into practice regardless of the political turmoil and that the message is accurately delivered in global communication,” Alitalo says.

One of the concrete effects of the pandemic on scientific research has been a slowdown in researcher exchange. If prolonged, this may spill over into long-term adverse effects on trust and cooperation. The slowdown of economic growth can also be directly reflected in the volume of research funding.

“At the same time, research is continuing to advance at a rapid pace, and the adoption of new technologies and research methods requires constant input to strengthen skills and competencies, to expand the existing knowledge base and to develop research infrastructures. All these areas have also benefited from wide-ranging international cooperation,” Alitalo adds.

Kari Alitalo has been Director of the Molecular and Cancer Biology Research Programme at the University of Helsinki since 1999. He was Professor of Medical Biochemistry at the University of Turku in 1986–1987, Research Professor at the Finnish Cancer Institute in 1987–1988 and Professor of Cancer Biology at the University of Helsinki in 1989–1993. Alitalo was appointed permanent Academy Professor in 1993, and he served the Academy of Finland without interruption until 31 May 2020.


  • Kari Alitalo, Academician of Science, tel. +358 50 500 3572, kari.alitalo(at)Helsinki.fi
  • Heikki Mannila, President of the Academy of Finland, tel. +358 295 335 001, heikki.mannila(at)aka.fi
  • Read about Academician Kaisa Häkkinen

Additional material

Academy of Finland Communications
Riitta Tirronen, Director of Communications
tel. +358 295 335 118

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