Sirpa Jalkanen laboratoriossa.

InFLAMES Flagship – Solution is in Immunity

The InFLAMES Flagship (Innovation Ecosystem based on the Immune System) is a joint effort of the University of Turku and Åbo Akademi University aiming at being an internationally recognized, top-level, immunological research and development cluster which will be globally attractive both for the researchers and business partners.

In 2020, the InFLAMES initiative received €5.6M funding for 2020–2023 from the Flagship Programme of the Academy of Finland. The Flagship aims at identifying new targets for drug development together with biotechnology and pharmaceutical companies. InFLAMES also develops diagnostics so that targeted therapies could be designed for individual patients.

The research and development cluster is led by Professor and Academician Sirpa Jalkanen from the University of Turku, who is an esteemed and award-winning researcher in immunology and an expert in business collaboration in the medical field.

– Immunological defence that functions normally is vital for our health. If the immune system is too active, people can develop autoimmune diseases, such as rheumatoid arthritis, multiple sclerosis or diabetes. On the other hand, if the function of the system is impaired, people can develop cancer or contract serious bacterial or viral infections. Therapies that affect our immune system are effective against many diseases, but are suitable only for a small number of patients. Therefore, it is important to identify new targets for drug development to treat acute and chronic inflammations, says Professor Jalkanen.

Turku is the Leader of Finnish Immunological Research

The InFLAMES Flagship is a joint effort of University of Turku and Åbo Akademi University, which have collaborated in drug development and diagnostics research profile for several years. Turku has been the foundation and leader of Finnish immunological research for the past 50 years and has also generated major economic activity. The InFLAMES Flagship will transform the immunological research and innovations into economic and societal empowerment in joint efforts with biotech and pharmaceutical companies.

In cooperation with the scientific community and biotech and pharmaceutical companies the overall goals of the InFLAMES Flagship are to integrate the immunological and other research activities to develop and exploit new diagnostic and therapeutic tools for personalized medicine, to introduce new avenues for the collaboration between the universities and industry by boosting public-private companionship, and to enhance entrepreneurship and the translation of new inventions into commercial products.

Turku has an internationally highly competitive research ecosystem and a long research tradition in immunology research. The research field of the InFLAMES Flagship is the strength of both the University of Turku and Åbo Akademi University with over 300 scientists working within the field.

– The InFLAMES Flagship is a spearhead project for the strong cluster in the Turku region formed by the higher education institutions, the Hospital District of Southwest Finland, Turku Science Park, and different companies. Through new initiatives, the Flagship promotes the collaboration between the universities and business life, creates new business, and boosts the commercialisation of the discoveries made in laboratories. The planned national drug development centre will be an important partner for the InFLAMES Flagship, says Kalle-Antti Suominen, the Vice Rector responsible for research at the University of Turku.

The Academy of Finland’s Flagship Programme is an instrument that supports high-quality research and increases the societal impact emerging from the research. The Finnish Flagships represent an effective mix of close cooperation with business and society, adaptability and a strong commitment from host organisations. The Flagships create future know-how and sustainable solutions to societal challenges and promote economic growth by, for example, developing new business opportunities.

Juha Laine and Timo Veromaa Appointed as Professors of Practice

Docent Juha Laine has been appointed as Professor of Practice in Pharmacoeconomics and Dr. Timo Veromaa Professor of Practice in Drug Development. The appointments strengthen the operations of the InFLAMES Flagship and support it in achieving its goals.

The purpose behind the professorship of practice in pharmacoeconomics is to increase the societal impact of research and collaboration between the University and pharmaceutical companies. The purpose of the professorship of practice in drug development, on the other hand, is to introduce more life science business and innovation expertise to the University of Turku, increase collaboration between the University and pharmaceutical companies, and help enable commercialisation of innovations.

– It was clear to us already when building InFLAMES that appointing professors of practice would be a central tool for us in recognising the commercial potential of the discoveries made at the University and finding suitable partners in the industry sector to further develop them. We are very happy to have Juha Laine and Timo Veromaa in our team, says Jalkanen.

InFLAMES Welcomes Four Visiting Professors

The InFLAMES Flagship has invited four top-level visiting professors to strengthen the initiative. The position of visiting professor at the University of Turku has been granted to Professors Mark Ansel, Janne Lehtiö and Lawrence Steinman as well as to Director Teng-Leon Chew.

To reach its goals, the Flagship needs strong international networks. The InFLAMES Flagship wishes to strengthen its international recognition as a top-level centre for immunological research and become an even more important partner for top international researchers.

– InFLAMES offers interesting short-term visiting professorships in immunological research and drug development for top researchers in the field. The visiting professors inspire new ways of thinking and encourage our researchers to seek new research avenues through open discussion and sharing ideas. The visiting professors also play an important role in consolidating our international networks and the recognition of InFLAMES. Furthermore, they significantly promote international collaboration and mutual researcher mobility, says Jalkanen.

The visiting professors of the InFLAMES Flagship come to Turku each year according to a separately arranged schedule. Their key responsibilities include student mentoring and lectures especially in the InFLAMES doctoral programme.