Academic research and pharmaceutical development need one another

The importance of cooperation between academic research and the pharmaceutical industry was emphasised at the celebratory symposium held by the Orion Research Foundation in February 2017. The theme of the symposium was “Building the Future Together – Academic Medicine and Pharma”.



“The purpose of medical research is to help the patient. This calls for the best possible science, which is why we need to work together,” says Reijo Salonen, Senior Vice President, Pharmaceutical R&D at Orion.

At the moment, the fields of cancer and central nervous system diseases have the most significant need for research and new treatments. This is also one of the most difficult fields of medical research.

“We are happy that Orion has excellent academic partners in these fields. We hope we will be able to develop even better drugs through cooperation in the future,” says Salonen.

The symposium featured speakers from top universities around the world. Professors Pasi Jänne from the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute of Harvard University and Karim Fizazi from the Gustave Roussy Institute in France discussed cancer research, particularly with regard to lung and prostate cancer. Pierluigi Nicotera from the German DZNE research institute and Merit Cudkowicz from Harvard discussed the research and treatment of central nervous system diseases, such as Alzheimer’s disease and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS).

All of the speakers work at the interface of academic research and pharmaceutical development.

Major grants to promising researchers

Every year, the Orion Research Foundation awards grants to promising researchers in the fields of medicine, veterinary medicine and pharmacy, as well as in the related natural sciences. This year, a total of EUR 1 million in grants was awarded in conjunction with the symposium to celebrate the centenaries of Orion and Finland.

Professors Johanna Ivaska and Mikko Niemi each received a grant of EUR 100,000. Smaller grants were awarded to 21 doctoral graduates and 73 doctoral researchers.

Academy Professor Johanna Ivaska from the Turku Centre for Biotechnology of the University of Turku and Åbo Akademi University studies the mechanisms of interaction between cancer cells – that is, changes in cells that are related to the creation of metastases. Her research group is particularly interested in breast cancer and its spreading. They are seeking to find out why initially effective cancer treatments become ineffective, why and how cancer spreads and whether its metastases can be treated.

Professor of Pharmacogenetics Mikko Niemi from the University of Helsinki studies the impact of genotypes on the effectiveness of medical treatment. His research group is examining whether the benefits of individual medical treatments can be increased and their adverse effects reduced through the use of pharmacogenetic information. They are seeking to find out whether genetic tests could be used to identify patients who will benefit the most from a drug and patients who will experience adverse effects.


Complete list of grant recipients