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Academy Professor Markku Laakso wins Finnish Science Award

Academy Professor Markku Laakso of the University of Eastern Finland is the winner of the Finnish Science Award 2015.  The award is granted by the Ministry of Education and Culture, and the award ceremony was held in connection with the Science Forum on 20 May.

Markku Laakso is one of the world leaders in research into the genetics of type 2 diabetes. His research uses several different approaches to study the underlying genetic factors of type 2 diabetes and insulin resistance. Markku Laakso enjoys a position among the world's 400 most influential biomedical researchers.

The Finnish Science Award is granted every second year to a Finland-based researcher or research group in recognition of significant scientific achievement. The award amounts to 85,000 euros. The Finnish Science Award was established in 1997, and this was the tenth time the award ceremony was held in connection with the Science Forum.

Award justifications:

Academy Professor Markku Laakso (born 1949) obtained a doctoral degree in social sciences from the University of Helsinki in 1975, and a doctoral degree in medicine from the University of Kuopio in 1986. He completed his specialist degree in internal medicine in 1985 and was appointed Professor of Internal Medicine at the University of Kuopio in 1995. Laakso was first appointed Academy Professor for the period 2005–2010 and, based on his successful activities, also for a second five-year term for 2011–2015. He has also worked in two US universities.

Markku Laakso is one of the world leaders in research into the genetics of type 2 diabetes. Information relating to the aetiology of type 2 diabetes is of vital importance not only from a scientific, but also from a public health perspective. The prevalence of type 2 diabetes in Finland and elsewhere in the world has increased drastically due to longer life expectancies, changes in lifestyle habits and increasingly common obesity. Insulin resistance is closely linked to type 2 diabetes and obesity, and it increases the risk of cardiovascular diseases.

Markku Laakso's research uses several different approaches to study the underlying genetic factors of type 2 diabetes and insulin resistance. The past few years have witnessed significant improvement in genetic research methods, and Laakso's research group has succeeded exceptionally well in combining theses latest genetic research methods with population cohorts and clinical patient studies. The biobank collected by Laakso and his research group is extremely significant even by international standards, and it serves as a unique foundation for understanding the genetic background of type 2 diabetes and insulin resistance. Furthermore, Laakso's research findings have future use in the treatment of patients suffering from type 2 diabetes, and possibly also in the development of new drugs.

Markku Laakso is a member of the Centre of Excellence in Cardiovascular and Metabolic Disease of the Academy of Finland (2014–2019), and he has also co-led two other Centres of Excellence before. Laakso has supervised a total of 49 doctoral dissertations, and he is currently supervising eight doctoral students. He has served as an opponent in 14 public examinations of doctoral dissertations both in Finland and abroad. Markku Laakso has authored more than 600 original publications and over 100 review articles, text books and letters to scientific journals.

Citations to his research amount to more than 63,000. He is a member in several prestigious medical associations and he's been an invited speaker in international scientific conferences on more than 150 occasions. Laakso's research has been recognised with several scientific awards, including Novo Nordisk Foundation Award (2003), Castelli Pedroli Prize (the European Association for the Study of Diabetes, 2006), Matti Äyräpää Award  (2007), Kelly West Award (American Diabetes Association, 2008), Finnish Foundation for Cardiovascular Research Award (2009), The Jühling Medal (The German Center for Diabetes Research, 2011) and Claude Bernard Award and Lecture (the European Association for the Study of Diabetes, 2013).

Source: Ministry of Education and Culture (Finnish version)

For further information, please contact

Academy Professor Markku Laakso, University of Eastern Finland, markku.laakso(at)kuh.fi, tel. +358 40 672 3338

Director Riitta Maijala, Ministry of Education and Culture, tel. +358 2953 30388

Vice-President for Research Marja Makarow, Academy of Finland, tel. +358 29 533 5002