University of Oulu (UOULU)

    ouluThe University of Oulu (OULUN YLIOPISTO (in Finnish), http://www.oulu.fi/english/) is an international research and innovation university engaged in multidisciplinary basic research and academic education. One of the research units participating to this project is the Faculty of Biochemistry and Molecular Medicine (FBMM). The FBMM is a highly research-intensive faculty educating MSc undergraduates in biochemistry, MD and dental undergraduates in medical biochemistry and molecular biology and post-graduates (aiming at PhD or MD-PhD degrees) in the fields of biochemistry and molecular medicine. The main research fields of the research groups of the faculty are on cell-extracellular matrix (ECM), protein science, molecular biology, cellular regulatory and metabolic networks and related diseases. Personnel in the faculty are about 200 and encompassing 23 research groups. Biocenter Oulu of the University of Oulu is the oldest of the Finnish biocenters, established in 1986. Biocenter Oulu is a multidisciplinary umbrella organisation within the Molecular and environmental basis of life-long health research focus area of the University of Oulu. Missions and tasks of Biocenter Oulu are: internationally high-level science, PhD training and research infrastructure core facility services. The total personnel of Biocenter Oulu is about 270, including 23 project leaders, 86 senior and post-doctoral researchers, 110 Ph.D. and M.D. -Ph.D. students in the Health and Biosciences Doctoral Programme, and 56 laboratory technicians and other staff.  Research focus of the Faculty of Biochemistry and Molecular Medicine is Molecular and environmental basis for lifelong health: “We generate greater understanding of the factors that affect health during life and how this knowledge can be translated into the benefit of lifelong health. We explore human life from fetal development to old age, including molecular and physiological properties, and environmental, social and psychosocial factors. In addition, we promote learning into the possibilities of combining ICT with health and service research to create new innovations in connected health”.

    biocenter ouluBiocenter Oulu of the University of Oulu is the oldest of the Finnish biocenters, established in 1986. Biocenter Oulu is a multidisciplinary umbrella organisation within the Molecular and environmental basis of life-long health research focus area of the University of Oulu. Missions and tasks of Biocenter Oulu are: internationally high-level science, PhD training and research infrastructure core facility services. Biocenter Oulu research projects are selected for 4-year terms by international evaluation. Currently there are 13 research projects, one junior investigator project and 6 core facility coordinators’ projects. Biocenter Oulu research infrastructure core facilities are part of the University of Oulu Infrastructure Platform and they belong to the national distributed Biocenter Finland research infrastructure network. The total personnel of Biocenter Oulu is about 270, including 23 project leaders, 86 senior and post-doctoral researchers, 110 Ph.D. and M.D. -Ph.D. students in the Health and Biosciences Doctoral Programme, and 56 laboratory technicians and other staff. Most of the current Biocenter Oulu research groups are working in the Faculty of Biochemistry and Molecular Medicine, in the Faculty of Medicine and the University Hospital. One of the groups is located in the Faculty of Science. Biocenter Oulu administration and the majority of the core facilities can be found in the Main Building of the Medical Campus. The Faculty of Biochemistry and Molecular Medicine houses the core facilities focusing on protein analysis and structural biology.

    cel ouluCenter of Exellence of Cel matrix research where Seppo Vainio is a member is directed by prof. Taina Pihlajaniemi. She is a leading scientist in collagen research, and the Vice Rector responsible for research at the UO. She is the Director of the CoE of Cell-Extracellular Matrix Research 2012-2017, the groups of Myllyharju (Vice Director), Vainio, Eklund and Winqvist being members of this CoE. Myllyharju is the Scientific Director of BCO, Chair of the Board of Biocenter Finland (BF) and the Finnish representative in the ESFRI Health and Food Strategic Working Group. Järvelin is the Scientific Director of the NFBC study and coordinates the EU DynaHEALTH consortium tackling the life course origins of healthy aging. Winqvist is a Professor of Cancer Genetics and Tumour Biology. Uusimaa is a newly-appointed professor and head of pediatric neurology at the Oulu University Hospital. Vainio is the Director of the BCO Doctoral Programme. Eklund  is a consolidating phase PI and a tenure track fellow in FBMM. In fostering women’s careers in science, we note that five of the eight PIs are females, including the Director and Vice Director. The CoE is expected to markedly boost the international scientific careers of the younger PIs Karppinen, Uusimaa and Eklund. Järvelin and Winqvist will reach retirement age near the end of the CoE period, but senior scientists such as Sylvain Sebert, Minna Männikkö (Research Director of NFBC), Katri Pylkäs and new ones recruited by UO to lead the cohort-based work will allow pursuing the CoE goals as planned.

    research environmentResearch environment: UO has launched its new strategy “Science with arctic attitude” for 2016-2020. One of the nominated five focus areas is “Molecular and environmental basis for lifelong health” with the aim to generate greater understanding of the factors that affect health during life and how this knowledge can be translated into promotion of lifelong health. Th CoE is at the core of this focus area. The prospective data collected from the NFBC1966 and 1986 (www.oulu.fi/nfbc) form a unique resource, allowing to study the emergence of diseases based on genetic, biological, social or behavioural risk factors. UO provides strategic support to run and develop these cohorts.

    The clinically well-defined patient cohorts from the genetically distinct population in Northern Finland provide us a competitive edge. Examples of other well characterized population isolates utilized in genetic studies are Icelanders and French Canadians, however, owing to founder effect and genetic drift, each genetic isolate typically has a unique profile of rare disease alleles. Thus, the combination of large extended families from Northern Finland, environmental and phenotypic homogeneity, good medical records and high participation rates in genetic studies are strong features of our patient cohorts, and guarantee the identification of novel disease pathomechanisms. The NFBC project is unique in the world as no other study has collected pre-pregnancy, pregnancy, delivery and child developmental data until adult age, the NFBC1966 reaching now the age of 50 years; combined with dense genetic, metabolic and epigenetic data and samples for expression and functional studies. The younger NFBC1986 is now facing a 31-year data collection point. Järvelin as the head of the NFBC studies has a wide international collaborative network. The international competitiveness of Vainio’s team is illustrated by their participation in e.g. the EURenOmics EU project and a Marie Curie ITN Renaltract. Oulu’s role as a research environment for building a comprehensive picture of genetic and mechanistic basis for metabolic disease, early onset multiorgan diseases and cancer risk integrated with a unique matrix perspective will increase.

    Participating Entities and Major Infrastructure

    biocenter ouluBiocenter Oulu (BCO) provides an extensive array of state-of-the-art open access infrastructure services (www.oulu.fi/biocenter) as part of Biocenter Finalnd (BF) (www.biocenter.fi), a national research infrastructure that provides services to the entire Finnish bioscience community, and the proposed project will particularly benefit from services for generation of gene-modified mouse models, tissue and cell imaging, and genome, proteome and metabolome analyses. The BCO core facilities include e.g. the ESFRI Infrafrontier-affiliated (Finland’s participation lead by Pihlajaniemi/Myllyharju) transgenic mouse core facility, including an SPF barrier, generation and storage of mouse lines (EMMA node) and phenotyping expertise. Eklund coordinates the BCO light microscopy core facility, a member of the BF BioImaging network, which forms the Finnish node for EuBI ESFRI, and the Winqvist group coordinates BCO’s sequencing center. All students belong to the UO Graduate School and the BCO Doctoral Program, which provide a structured framework for the thesis study and a wide curriculum. S Vainio is the project director of BCO.

    infotech ouluBiomimetics and Intelligent Systems (BISG, director,  Prof. Juha RöningFaculty of Information Technology and Electrical Engineering, codirector: Prof. Seppo Vainio). Vainio and Röning serve aa InfoTech Oulu project directors.  The Biomimetics and Intelligent Systems Group (BISG) is a fusion of expertise from the fields of computer science and biology. In BISG, our bread and butter is intelligent systems, and our research areas include data mining, machine learning, robotics, and information security. More precise research topics vary from data mining algorithm development and optimization of industrial manufacturing processes all the way to environmental monitoring with mobile robots. In addition to the group’s long term research strands, it also aims to provide concrete new openings for the purpose of reacting to fundamentals and novelties to integrate better ICT and biotechnology/biomedicine. infotech oulu2The rapid development of ICT and Bio has opened up new unexpected ways to achieve better and concrete synergies and integration of these research fields. BISG is a fusion of expertise from the fields of computer science and biology. In BISG, our bread and butter is intelligent systems, and our research areas include data mining, machine learning, robotics, and information security, with example applications in optimisation of industrial manufacturing processes and environmental monitoring with mobile robots. The group has its roots in intelligent systems research back in year 1985. Activity on secure software started in year 1996. As BISG, the group was founded in 2014 with a cross-disciplinary collaboration with Biocenter Oulu.

    BISG has conducted research in national and international research projects funded by the Academy of Finland, the Finnish Funding Agency for Innovation Tekes and the European Union, also as international collaboration with the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science JSPS and the USA National Science Foundation NSF. Several spin-offs were originated from the above research. Biomimetics and Intelligent Systems Group is a member of Infotech Oulu and Centre for Advanced Steel Research (CASR).

    The Vainio team provides to the FET “Gladiator” OPEN project the cell engineering/syntethic biology expertise. The BCO has also capacities to generate novel embryonic stem (ES) cells from the mouse models. The BCO TIC Core provides the state of art microscopic imaging set ups from stereomicroscope to automated confocal microscope, time-lapse organ and organoid culture imaging and a state-of-the art Nikon A1 RMP-Multiphoton Microscope for in vivo tracking of Exosomes (http://www.oulu.fi/biocenter/lm/multiphoton). The lab has also capacity and expertise for working with chick embryos and embryonic organ cultures. Oulu serves as a repository for the mouse models (EMMA node). This any mouse models can be easily rederived in our facilities.

    Representative Publications & Projects

    Participating Personnel

    Genevieve Bart
    Anatoliy Samoylenko
    Jingdong Shan
    Ilya Skovorodkin

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