The Academy of Finland’s Research Council for Biosciences, Health and the Environment announced yesterday 24 new Academy Research Fellow posts and 33 new Postdoctoral Researcher posts.
Four of the newly funded Academy Research Fellows are at the University of Eastern Finland, i.e., Henri Leinonen, Ville Paakinaho, Henri Siljanen and Ursula Strandberg, as well as one Postdoctoral Researcher, i.e., Suvi Linna-Kuosmanen.
Each of the Academy Research Fellows secured 447,650 euros for their project. In this round, the Research Council’s funding for Academy Research Fellows totals around 11 million euros. Academy Research Fellows are granted funding for five years. The Research Council received 176 applications, and the success rate was around 14%. Women account for 42% of the funding recipients and 48% of the applicants.
Funding for Postdoctoral Researcher Suvi Linna-Kuosmanen’s project amounts to 258,326 euros. The new Postdoctoral Researchers will receive funding for three years. The Research Council’s total funding for the new posts comes to some 9 million euros. The success rate was approximately 15%. This year, around 52% of the funding recipients are women, and their proportion was the same among the applicants.
In the selection of the Academy Research Fellows, the Research Council emphasised, besides the high scientific quality of the application and the qualifications of the applicant, the importance of a clear, upward career path that shows signs of increasing independence and solid international engagement. In the selection of the Postdoctoral Researchers, the emphasis of the Research Council this year was, in addition to the high scientific quality of the research plan and the competence of the applicant, particularly on the planned international research cooperation and mobility. All decisions of the Research Council were made taking into account the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on mobility and mobility plans.
New Academy Research Fellows at UEF
Henri Leinonen’s project, Eyes on Systems Pharmacology – Development of a Disease-Modifying Therapy for Retinal Degenerations, focuses on retinal degenerative diseases, which are blinding conditions that generally lack preventive therapies. Age-related macular degeneration, in particular, is a major healthcare burden. A treatment that would slow degeneration regardless of the underlying pathology could lead to a satisfactory resolution fastest, especially if based on clinical drugs approved for use in other indications. Leinonen has spent several years in the US working on a combinational drug treatment concept that capitalizes on drug repurposing, showing that the treatment is effective against retinal degeneration in many disease models. Leinonen’s intent is to continue this research in Finland, working towards intraocularly administered therapy to minimize drug side effects. The aim is to develop the first clinical treatment to slow progression of retinal degeneration. The use of multiple cooperating drugs, repurposing and local administration in a single regimen would become an unprecedented medical advancement.
Ville Paakinaho’s project, Drug, Resistance-Induced Reprogramming of Chromatin and Transcription Factor Activity in Prostate Cancer, investigates changes in the activity of transcription factors during the development of drug resistance in prostate cancer. Over the past few years, many effective cancer medicines have entered the market, but many cancers still develop resistance to these drugs. Paakinaho’s research project will use genome-wide, single-cell genomics and single-molecule live cell imaging in cultured cell lines as well as bioinformatic analyses to build a comprehensive model of transcription factor action during prostate cancer drug resistance. The results will eventually help to better understand the effects of proteins on the emergence of drug resistance. The research may provide new tools for developing cancer medicines and treatments.
Henri Siljanen’s project, Microbial Mechanisms Regulating N2O Metabolism in Above-Ground Vegetation - Significant Northern N2O Sink?, focuses on nitrous oxide (N2O) reduction to dinitrogen, which is the last step of complete denitrification. Thus, it is a globally significant and indispensable component of the nitrogen cycle. There are certain vegetation species in the Boreal region that have the ability to consume atmospheric N2O. Therefore, they have great potential for capturing N2O from the atmosphere and mitigating climate change. However, little is known about N2O-consuming microbes in these environments, even though their climatic potential may be high. Siljanen’s project will examine N2O consuming communities in these environments. The project generates novel ideas and methodologies for sustainable forest and peatland management, as well as technologies for N2O capture.
Ursula Strandberg’s project, Availability and Ecological Role of Vitamin B12 in Driving Phytoplankton Diversity in Freshwater Ecosystems (PhytoVital), focuses on phytoplankton, which have a massive role in aquatic ecosystems because the entire food web, including fish production, is dependent on the energy and nutrients produced by phytoplankton. Therefore, it is fundamental to a gain full understanding of the factors and circumstances that affect phytoplankton biomass and community structure. In this project, Strandberg will investigate the availability and ecological role of vitamin B12 in lakes located in Northern and Central Europe. In marine environments, vitamin B12 can limit primary production and alter the community structure of phytoplankton, but these aspects have not been studied before in any freshwater ecosystem. The research is conducted at the University of Eastern Finland in collaboration with national and international researchers.
New Academy of Finland Postdoctoral Researcher at UEF
Suvi Linna-Kuosmanen’s project, Dissecting Coronary Artery Disease Mechanisms from Human Cardiac Samples at Single-Cell Resolution, focuses on coronary artery disease, which is the leading cause of death worldwide and the main underlying cause of myocardial infarction and heart failure. Reliable early-stage diagnostics and elimination of risk factors would provide significant improvement to the efficacy of its treatment. However, the causal mechanisms leading to the condition remain unresolved, hampering the design of safe and effective therapeutics. The objective of Linna-Kuosmanen’s project is to decipher causal mechanisms that promote coronary artery disease manifestation and progression to identify key targets for diagnostic and therapeutic interventions. To this end, Linna-Kuosmanen will investigate the pathological processes that take place in the human heart to decipher the genetic variations that change gene expression and predispose to the disease. The project combines unique patient samples to novel single-cell and computational methods providing an innovative, novel approach to study coronary artery disease.
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