Lauri Louhivuori, Senior Scientist, joined Orion in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic. He considers the fact that his and the company’s paths crossed to have been “written in the stars”.
“I was working in Sweden at the Karolinska Institutet but as our children got nearer school age, the idea of returning to Finland felt more and more inviting. At the same time, Orion was recruiting for a research scientist, so I ended up here in Turku,” he says.
Louhivuori works in the Pain Research team and his area of interest is targeting pain signals. The aim is to find methods to relieve chronic pain that are as safe and as effective as possible.
“One key goal is to better understand the causes of pain. Another goal is to directly affect nerve cells and how the pain signal is transmitted to the brain,” Louhivuori explains.
In line with Orion’s strategy, the company focuses specifically on neuropathic and osteoarthritic pain.
A team with a strong background in neuroscience
Louhivuori finds that one of the best assets of Orion’s Pain Research team is the diversity of the team members’ educational and career backgrounds. Some have been with Orion for a long time while others have earned their spurs in academia. All share a keen interest in neuroscience.
Louhivuori completed his doctorate at the University of Helsinki and has worked for two decades in neuroscience, with a special interest in neurobiology and neurophysiology.
“I think I have a fairly broad understanding and experience of how the behaviour of nerve cells can be studied and how they can be affected.”
Different disciplines necessary in all stages of drug development
The Pain Research team is involved in drug development from the early stages of identifying potential targets until the drug is ready for clinical human trials.
“The work is immensely rewarding, because we learn something new every day. Problem solving in our field involves several other experts besides the Pain Research team, we need the contribution of all units,” Louhivuori says.
In addition to having experts in medicine and chemistry work in close cooperation to test a drug molecule, the business development and marketing departments are also involved from the beginning of the process.
“Besides our own initial ideas, we also keep an eye on the competition and patenting opportunities. These, too, are areas where learning and development never stops.”
Orion in the vanguard of pain research
The most important inspiration for Louhivuori is that, in the best-case scenario, an idea conceived by a small team may evolve into a drug that changes the lives of numerous people.
“Orion has a good track record of successful projects. When you hear how a drug you have helped develop makes a real difference to a person’s quality of life or life expectancy, it is highly rewarding. What is more, the creation of wellbeing does not stop with that one patient, as their families and ultimately the whole of society also benefit from the achievement.”
Louhivuori sees Orion’s position in the area of pain research as very favourable, and he believes that the long-term investment will bear fruit. According to him, many large pharmaceutical companies have downshifted their research into diseases affecting the central nervous system, while Orion has kept this area a priority.
This choice has now become a clear advantage and Orion has been offered new partnership opportunities with top research laboratories around the world.
“I firmly believe that Orion will soon feature as a leader in global pain research and an expert in pain relief,” Louhivuori says.
An employer that supports a good work-life balance
A researcher thrives on problem solving and innovation. “Orion has faith in us, and I applaud that. New ideas and approaches are supported,” Louhivuori says.
He also appreciates how the teams look after their members.
“Our people are genuinely interested in each other. I think it is important that somebody asks you, ‘How are you doing today?’. Interaction is an important element of research because we work and make decisions as a team.”
He also values the fact that working hours are respected and employees’ free time is not interrupted by work e-mails or phone calls.
“But when we are at work, we give it all we have got. The team is simply magnificent.”
Louhivuori’s motto: Interaction is a central part of research work. Team work means making decisions together and accepting compromises.