The man behind the research

An Aero Ltd plane lands in Helsinki on a November evening in 1952. After a long journey from Göttingen in Germany, Joachim Alberty has finally reached his destination. He has arrived in the country that will become the home of his family for decades – but he does not yet know this.

Alberty is a pharmacology researcher from the Max Planck Institute, and Orion is planning to make him head of its pharmacological department. This is his first visit to Finland, and the company wants to take good care of the young researcher. On the day of his arrival, he is treated to a delicious meal at the Vaakuna Hotel. Coming from a country ravaged by war, Alberty is impressed with how well Finland seems to have survived.

After the visit, Alberty engages in correspondence with Orion, and the two parties eventually reach agreement: Alberty moves to Finland with his wife and six-week-old daughter in May 1953. His first contract is for three years.

“Visiting Finland was such an adventure that I decided to at least try living here for a longer period of time. After all, I can always go back to Germany,” Alberty said later.

When Alberty begins working for Orion, pharmacology is in its infancy in the company.

“The laboratory had only one permanent employee. Studies were carried out by external researchers alongside their actual jobs,” Alberty reminisced. “On my first day here, there was no one in the laboratory, apart from a girl who was holding a rabbit on her lap and taking its temperature with a mercury thermometer. The rabbit was wrapped in a towel.”

The beginning of Alberty’s term also marks the beginning of a new era: the pharmacological department undergoes a complete transformation in a year, and after this it is possible to carry out modern research at Orion. In 1959, Alberty is appointed director of scientific research operations, and he continues to be responsible for product development until his retirement in 1979.

In the picture here, Alberty (right) examines the formula for new synthetic penicillin with a group of researchers at Orion. The research project was implemented between 1966 and 1970.