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Building an ecosystem to enhance pharmaceutical research: Orion Veturi Imaging Day brought together imaging experts

Orion’s virtual pharmaceutical research ecosystem project aims to accelerate drug development and deliver cost savings. The project moved towards concrete implementation at the Orion Veturi Imaging Day event, where innovative projects were planned. One of the issues raised was the need to avoid the ‘overprotection’ of data.
3/28/2024 Author / Anni Turpeinen

A year ago, Business Finland granted Orion nearly EUR 10 million in funding to build an ecosystem project for virtual pharmaceutical research. Business Finland has also allocated nearly EUR 20 million for the research institutes and companies participating in the ecosystem.  
The four-year project led by Orion aims to reduce the time needed to research and develop new innovative medicines by using artificial intelligence and enhancing data processing and analysis. Orion is serving as the leader of the ecosystem project by bringing together a network of companies, universities and research institutes in Finland.  
“During this year, we will organise events with themes related to pharmaceutical research, where industry experts and company representatives can get to know each other, plan joint innovation projects and start collaboration,” says Sanna McMullen, who coordinates the project. 

Getting to know the imaging community  

The Orion Veturi Imaging Day event on 15 March 2024 brought together experts focusing on biological imaging. Imaging techniques are actively used in pharmaceutical research and development, as they provide important, specific information about the kinetics and biological impacts of medicines. Imaging techniques accelerate research and facilitate decision-making. There are numerous imaging techniques, and a huge amount of data has already been accumulated.  
At the Orion Veturi Imaging Day event, biological imaging experts had an opportunity to learn about each other’s expertise and discuss new techniques and collaboration opportunities. The goal was to provide a foundation for the creation of co-innovation projects in line with the themes of Orion’s project roadmap and Business Finland’s goals. 
“Around fifty imaging experts from more than twenty organisations, universities and research institutes attended the event. Everyone was enthusiastic about finding new approaches to cooperation,” says McMullen.  

Presentations and lively discussions 

The Orion Veturi Imaging Day event started with an overview of the ecosystem project, followed by presentations by Pasi Kankaanpää, Research Manager at Turku BioImaging, and Pia Bäckström, Development Manager at HUS Biobank. After the presentations, the experts attended group discussions in line with their interests. 
The topics included:

  • Indication/Use case specific imaging 
  • Machine-learning approaches
  • Theory-based approaches
  • Novel imaging methods

    “The aim of the day was to provide plenty of opportunities for discussion, and the group sessions were lively. Many technological commonalities were found between different operators. For example, we found that many solutions for applications can be found by studying other applications,” says Timo Korjamo, Principal Data Scientist. 

Initiating projects and tackling challenges 

The ecosystem project started in the spring of 2023 with the compilation of a roadmap and planning work among partners. The first Ecosystem Day event was held in October, and it was attended by more than 100 interested parties. New cooperation projects have also been initiated.  
Finland has excellent conditions for the formation of ecosystem projects, but challenges have also been identified. These include the ‘overprotection’ of data, which was discussed at the Veturi Imaging Day event.  
“A prerequisite for joint innovation projects is that we find ways to use the results generated by different operators in different contexts, taking IPR aspects into account,” says Korjamo. 
An imaging community network has now been established, and discussions are continuing among experts in biological imaging. The emergence of co-innovation projects depends on the results of further work. Orion’s role is, first and foremost, to accelerate and support the further development of cooperation ideas and to increase the impact of the ecosystem in Finland through its own work.