About Turku Bioscience Blog Series

We will start a new Blog series of Turku Bioscience with the purpose to promote and discuss timely topics and to present different opinion points relevant for molecular biosciences. We will have both internal bloggers as well as guest writers. At the time of writing, we are living through the pandemic so at least some of the topics will be related to the highly extraordinary situation, but also other topics will be covered.

Editors of the blog series: Jukka Westermarck & John Eriksson

Feeling the Force: A Dive into Mechanobiology in Paris

I had the opportunity to attend the 5th edition of the International Course on Cell Biology & Cancer on the topic “Cell and Tissue Mechanics” organized by Institut Curie from April 3rd to 7th, 2023. The course aimed to expose participants to cutting-edge concepts in the field of mechanobiology. Although a “course” on paper, all the speakers discussed ongoing and published studies from their labs, making it a perfect hybrid of textbook theory and its real-world application. The speakers had diverse backgrounds ranging from core biology to physics, and the structure of the talks allowed them to delve deep into their science, making the entire enterprise a remarkable learning experience. For me personally, it was possibly the best introduction to the application of mechanics in biology and biological systems and pertinent differential equations we biologists are so terrified of.

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New Affiliated Group at Turku Bioscience

From Health to Cancer: Charting the Gut’s Metabolic Shift using Preclinical Mouse Models

The power of genetically engineered mouse models (GEMMs) and organoid models have radically transformed how we study cancers and the way we identify new targets for cancer treatment. These tools have provided us with a controlled environment to better understand the changes in energy production and metabolism that occur in cancer cells as they transform from a normal cell towards a cancerous state.

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Services by Turku Bioscience, part 3: Bioinformatics develops new methods for researching extensive medical materials 

Medical bioinformatics combines mathematics and computer science with bioscience and medical research. The services of the Medical Bioinformatics Centre are offered especially to biomedical and molecular biology researchers who produce extensive measurement data in their research.

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Shaping the Future of Immunology in Europe

Rahul Birdar, a Doctoral Student in Lahesmaa Lab, wrote about his trip to yEFIS 1st Symposium (10-11 November 2022).

It was my great pleasure to attend European Federation of Immunological Societies young Immunologist Network’s (yEFIS) first-ever conference. Theme of the symposium held in Germany was Shaping the Future of Immunology in Europe.

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What is SynGAP syndrome?

Co-applicants Michael Courtney and Lili Li of the Neuronal Signalling Lab at Turku Bioscience have been awarded a grant from the SynGAP Research Fund (SRF) and Leon and friends e.V. to study targetable defects of SynGAP1 protein variants. Both SRF US & EU are funding this effort.  

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Services by Turku Bioscience, part 2: Proteomics reveals the secrets of proteins

Proteomics is the study of proteomes, or the entire set of proteins produced by an organism. The Proteomics Facility at Turku Bioscience, led by Otto Kauko, offers researchers and companies world-class research equipment and up-to-date expertise on their utilisation.

​​​​​Dr. Otto Kauko joined Turku Bioscience as Head of Turku Proteomics Facility in 2021. Kauko, who did his doctoral thesis in Jukka Westermarck’s group, had been away from Turku for four years – in Stockholm, Cambridge and Helsinki – but a five-year fixed-term assignment as head of the Proteomics Facility brought him back to Southwest Finland.

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Structural biology in the era of artificial intelligence: Excitement and pitfalls

Fig. 1. Difference between an experimental structure determined recently in our group and the structure predicted by AI.

The accurate prediction of the shape (structure) of a protein from just its amino acid sequence, the so-called ‘protein folding problem’, has been one of the ‘Holy Grails’ of science and a computational challenge for the last 50 years or so. Recent advances, however, in the field of artificial intelligence have led to a breakthrough in protein structure predictions, creating a lot of excitement amongst researchers but also raising questions about the future of structural biology, in particular the need for experimental structure determinations.

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Services by Turku Bioscience, part 1: Genomics is the study of genetic variation and genome regulation

​​Genome research is required in many contexts. The Finnish Functional Genomics Centre at Turku Bioscience, led by Senior Researcher Riikka Lund, offers services for both business and academic research. The world-class services provided by the Centre are also used by state research institutes and hospitals, for example.

In recent years, the Functional Genomics Centre has cooperated extensively with different stakeholders and developed its services to better meet also the needs of the private sector and hospitals in addition to the academic users. The Centre has implemented a quality system and has received its first accreditation for a whole exome and whole genome sequencing method, the results of which can be used for clinical diagnostics and to benefit patients.

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The response of the structural biology community to the COVID-19 pandemic

Until now, more than 27 million cases of COVID-19 have been registered worldwide resulting in more than 850 000 deaths. No effective treatment is presently available and there is an intense race to develop drugs as well as vaccines against the COVID-19 pandemic. More than 50 companies and 20 institutions are currently participating in the efforts with some of the around 120 potential vaccines already advanced in phase III of clinical trials.

The development of efficient drugs and vaccines requires a deep understanding of the biological targets and knowledge of the three-dimensional shape of the targeted proteins. Structural biology, within the first days of the pandemic, responded quickly to the new challenges imposed by the coronavirus threat to human health worldwide and provided key information immediately available to the scientific community to help in the fight against COVID-19.

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The Finnish science strategy needs an overhaul

In this Blog, a strong case is being made for improving Finnish science policies and to initiate communations between leading reseachers and ministry representatives

Globally, drug development and health technologies are among the most rapidly growing business fields. Also in Finland, the two biggest pharma companies, Bayer and Orion have been among the biggest tax payers for years and health technologies constitutes the most profitable line of business related to exports of high-end technologies. In order to support the further growth of the field, Finnish government established a growth strategy for health technologies some years ago, but its implementation has been very slow and funding very marginal. However, at the same time the government has made significant investments to the mining, ICT, and technology-related research. In the accompanied video Professor Jukka Westermarck (Turku Bioscience Centre) and Marco Hautalahti  (Director of National Biobanks), discuss the questions why government does not see health technologies as profit-making opportunities, and how big a problem is the underfunding of the growth strategy of health technologies? The panel discussion was held as part of “Mediuutiset” (Medical News) webinar Dec, 15, 2020 “How do centers of excellence change healthcare?”

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