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Honorary Doctor Tuomas Tenkanen is inspired by the integration of technologies

Tuomas Tenkanen, CEO of Mobidiag Oy, a company focused on infectious disease diagnostics, has been named an honorary doctor of Aalto University, in the field of technology. Tenkanen's pioneering work represents key areas of research at Aalto University, life sciences and health and well-being technologies, combining expertise in enzymatics, diagnostic hardware and IT.
Mobidiagin toimitusjohtaja Tuomas Tenkanen hymyilee kameralle, yllään sininen puku.

From an early age, it was clear to Tenkanen that he wanted to go into engineering. As a young high school graduate, he planned to apply to study either physics or electrical engineering. However, he happened to read an article on biotechnology in the Finnish newspaper Suomen Kuvalehti and gained an interest in the subject.

"I should probably contact the author of the article because it changed my life. When I read about biotechnology, I thought it was really interesting. So, I applied and got a place to study biotechnology at the Chemistry Department of TKK, which later became a part of Aalto University," says Tenkanen.

During his studies, in 1987, Tenkanen got to know Pekka Mattila and Kari Pitkänen, who had founded a biotechnology company called Finnzymes.

Very soon Tenkanen joined Finnzymes and went to do his Master’s thesis at New England Biolabs in Massachusetts, a pioneering molecular biology organisation. On his return to Finland, Tenkanen became an equal partner with the others in Finnzymes. In 2010, Finnzymes was sold to the American company Thermo Fisher Scientific.

The ownership of Tenkanen’s current company Mobidiag has also been sold to the US. Mobidiag was acquired by the health technology company Hologic in 2021 for around €668 million.

"People often think that such an acquisition would be a loss for Finland, but we are growing our operations and production capacity in Espoo at a very fast pace. The Hologic deal has given us a new gear to move much faster than we could ever have done ourselves," says Tenkanen.

Honorary doctorate in recognition of work in technology development

The networks gained through Aalto have enabled Tenkanen to continue working with VTT and other organisations in the field over the years. Tenkanen says he is delighted and honoured to be appointed an honorary doctorate by Aalto.

"I see it as recognition for the work I have done in developing technologies. And perhaps I have been involved in the development of quite unique things, even from a global perspective, so it is great to receive this kind of recognition from Finland and from Aalto."

Tenkanen praises Aalto's entrepreneurial attitude, which he says is not found in the same capacity at many other universities. Aalto's emphasis on interdisciplinarity has, according to Tenkanen, given him a good ability to combine different technologies and advance as an entrepreneur.

"I believe that a very large proportion of successful companies today are successful precisely because they understand how to combine technologies. That's what we did at Finnzymes – we started out as an enzyme company, but then we also developed DNA amplification equipment and reaction vessels with thin walls that could pass heat quickly. All these projects were put together from different areas of technology."

An entrepreneur must have the courage to go boldly forward

Tenkanen stresses the importance of a positive attitude and courage for an entrepreneur. You have to have the nerve to move forward, even if the road ahead is difficult to see.

"In Finland, I think we often try to see a little too far into the future and get stuck in the analysis phase. The fact is that our path is extremely rarely similar to what we think it will be. But when you keep moving forward, new doors open up. And if you don't dare to move forward, those doors will never open. You have to tolerate the uncertainty and move forward with a positive attitude."

Another entrepreneurial trait Tenkanen demonstrates is a genuine curiosity about technology. Tenkanen is very interested in combining different technologies.

"If you take the Novodiag platform that we developed at Mobidiag, for example – it combines biotechnology, microbiology, microfluidics, optics, mechanical engineering, algorithms and software development, among other things. Production automation also plays a very important role. Exploring technologies outside one's own specialisation can offer completely new opportunities for advancement."

Who?

  • CEO of Mobidiag Oy. A pioneer in molecular diagnostics, the company develops and provides molecular diagnostics for infectious diseases and antibiotic resistance. Mobidiag was acquired in 2021 by the health technology company Hologic for approximately €668 million.
  • Honorary Doctor (Technology) at Aalto University in 2022.
  • Alumni of the School of Chemical Engineering.
  • Has been actively engaged in competitive sailing since childhood. Still participates in about 5-6 races a year.

Honorary doctors in technology 2020 - 2022

Aalto University has granted ten Honorary Doctorates of Science in Technology. The new honorary doctors have all made significant impact in science, technology and society.

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