Research Council for Biosciences, Health and the Environment funds new Academy Research Fellows – emphasis on high quality and potential for scientific renewal

27 Apr 2020

The Academy of Finland’s Research Council for Biosciences, Health and the Environment today decided to fund 24 new posts as Academy Research Fellow. In addition to the high scientific quality of the application and the applicant’s competence, the Research Council also focused on career advancement and the potential for scientific renewal.

The aim of Academy Research Fellow funding is to provide promising researchers with wide and versatile opportunities for independent research, to support them in establishing their own research team and to enable them to advance research in their field. Academy Research Fellows are expected to have effective national or international networks. They are also encouraged to engage in international collaboration.

In this round, the Research Council’s funding for Academy Research Fellows totals around 10.5 million euros. Academy Research Fellows are granted funding for five years. The Research Council received 167 applications, and the success rate was around 14%. Women account for 46% of the funded Academy Research Fellows and for 58% of the applicants.

Professor Ursula Schwab, Chair of the Research Council for Biosciences, Health and the Environment, said: “We granted funding to top-tier applicants with upward career trajectories and good international networks.” All funded Academy Research Fellows had received a rating of either 6 or 5 in the review.

In line with the Academy of Finland’s general funding policies, Academy Research Fellows are required to be closely connected to the Finnish scientific community so that the funding benefits Finnish research and society. This means that the funding will be administered by a Finnish organisation. The granted funding covers the Academy Research Fellow’s own salary. However, the funded researchers will later be invited to submit a separate application for funding for their research costs, where they can apply for funding to cover the costs of the research team.

The Research Council funded several scientifically excellent researchers. Here are a few examples:

Rogerio de Figuereido from the University of Turku aims to develop more effective immunotherapy for the treatment of melanoma. In the advanced stages of the disease, melanoma cells spread from the primary site via the bloodstream to distant organs. At that stage, surgery, radiotherapy and chemotherapy have become less effective options. Immunotherapy boosts the body’s natural defences to eliminate the cancer cells, but many melanoma patients develop mechanisms of resistance to this therapy. Melanoma cells may produce a factor called MIF (macrophage migration inhibitory factor), which turns off the body’s natural defences, impairing the effectiveness of immunotherapy. The aim of de Figuereido’s project is to validate MIF as a tool to identify patients that can respond to immunotherapy. For those that will not respond, the idea is to develop strategies that neutralise MIF to restore the body’s ability to kill cancer cells, unleashing the full power of immunotherapy for an increasing number of patients.

Bartosz Adamczyk from Natural Resources Institute Finland studies biochemical carbon and nitrogen
cycling. It is a very important topic to study. As a result of climate change, northern forest and peatland ecosystems – among the world’s largest land-based carbon sinks – may turn from sinks into sources as they release carbon from the soil. Not much is known about plant-soil interactions and their significance for soil carbon stocks, for example due to limitations in and a lack of research methods. The project will explore the significance of plant secondary metabolites (PSM) in regulating the carbon and nitrogen cycle, both at laboratory scale, in microcosms and with field tests. A better understanding of plant-soil-microbe interactions and the underlying mechanisms will enable us to maintain the productivity of our forestlands and to predict and mitigate the consequences of climate change.

Carita Lindstedt-Kareksela from the University of Jyväskylä conducts research into the evolution of cooperation and conflict. Organisms can often benefit from cooperation, for example in defending themselves against predators or parasites. However, a problem is posed by cheats who do not contribute to the cooperative act but still gain the same benefits. Lindstedt-Kareksela’s project aims to investigate group living and cooperation within groups and how the benefits and costs from this change under various ecological and social conditions. The expected results will shed light on ecological and evolutionary processes that shape the evolution of cooperation. In addition, the research will provide more information on how cooperation can accelerate the adaptation of populations to rapidly changing environmental conditions. The data collected can also be used to predict the population dynamics of pest species under changing environmental conditions. In addition, the research will improve our understanding of the significance of natural enemies in controlling pest populations.

Inquiries and more information:

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