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Nanoscience expert Olli Ikkala and team part of new flagship project on biopharmaceuticals

The Academy of Finland project brings together Finland’s front-line genetic, cellular, and nanotherapy researchers, as well as clinical actors, leading companies, and third sector players.
Kuva: Lasse Lecklin.
Photo: Lasse Lecklin.

The Academy of Finland has selected four new competence clusters as part of its Flagship Programme. The GeneCellNano flagship headed by Academy Professor Seppo Ylä-Herttuala brings together an interdisciplinary team of dozens of top researchers specialised in biological Advanced Therapy Medicinal Products (ATMP) and nanotechniques linked with their management.

‘Traditional medicines are typically small, synthesised molecules. Classically, it is hoped that they will seek out the right places through blood circulation and perform tasks until they leave the body through the kidneys. The new project uses biological medicines converted from nature's own materials – proteins, cells, and genes. These are targeted with the help of nanotechniques,’ says Aalto University professor Olli Ikkala.

Aalto University researchers will help implement self-assembled nanosystems to steer biological medicines to their targets.

‘My group is specialised in self-assembled nanomaterials. We will study how their structures and functions can be guided through various stimuli and how even the simplest forms of learning processes can potentially be applied to guide their functions. Doctors and pharmacologists, meanwhile, are using their own expertise to develop suitable biological medicines,’ Professor Ikkala says.

‘A significant aim of the project is for the various experts to find a common language.  Our prior interdisciplinary projects provide a strong foundation.’

The Academy of Finland project brings together Finland’s front-line genetic, cellular, and nanotherapy researchers, as well as clinical actors, leading companies, and third sector players. In addition to the University of Eastern Finland and Aalto University, the University of Oulu, University of Helsinki, and Red Cross are involved.

‘The project is very practical, and aims to move from fundamental research directly to clinical applications,’ Olli Ikkala says.

The new project may be of special significance for illnesses linked with the regulation of blood vessels, for example, in cancers and diseases of the eyes and heart.

The aim of the flagship project is to bring new effective forms of treatment to the care of patients with serious chronic illnesses. It will also create new jobs and enterprises in the biotech and pharmaceutical sectors, while significantly advancing development and economic well-being in Finnish society. The total budget of the project is about €5 million.

Further information:

Academy of Finland selects four new Finnish Flagships

Olli Ikkala

Aalto Distinguished Professor

University of Eastern Finland: Flagship for biological drugs develops new treatments for chronic diseases

Selected to the Academy of Finland’s Flagship Programme for the years 2020–2024, the GeneCellNano Flagship seeks to speed up the introduction of new biological drugs for severe chronic diseases. The Flagship is led by Academy Professor Seppo Ylä-Herttuala at the University of Eastern Finland, with Professor Seppo Vainio from the University of Oulu as its deputy director. Other partners in the Flagship include the University of Helsinki, Aalto University and the Finnish Red Cross Blood Service. Read more.

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