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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Inspirational lectures regarding research infrastructures

Lectures on research infrastructures and core facility career development

Last year Prof. Philip Hockberger, Associate Vice-President for Research (Northwestern Univ., Chicago), visited Turku Bioscience and gave two lectures on how to build sustainable research infrastructures and on the career paths and career possibilities of core facility personnel.

As not everybody could attend these lectures and it has been a while since these lectures were presented, we feature these lectures on our blog pages along with Prof. Hockberger’s comments on these videos to provide an inspirational start of the new year.

With this, we wish you a Happy  New Year 2021!

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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

Proximity rules

The writer is Research Director and Professor of Cancer Biology Jukka Westermarck

Because of Corona, virtual meetings have become an everyday routine for most of us, which is a great thing. I Personally, I have spent late evenings in pajamas on our living room couch listening and participating in live discussions with some of the greatest minds from the bioscience field. This all without having to leave home, suffering from jetlag, and paying thousands of euros for travel. Moreover, we have invited colleagues from Finland and abroad to join our journal club, or former lab member currently working as a post-doc abroad, to join our group meeting to comment on the ongoing work that is based on her important contributions as a PhD student. We also have learned to use other web-based tools such as Slack to clearly increase interactions and smoothen the share of information inside our own group. These are improvements we could have done years ago, but only now had to do due to the Corona situation.

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Is the Biology of Homo Sapiens not Interesting?

The writer is Director of Turku Bioscience John Eriksson.

The ongoing pandemic has given reason to consider the public awareness of bioscience and its general importance. In this respect, it was interesting to check out the mass media and science journals at the turn of the year, as the new decennium, carrying the somewhat prophetic number 2020, spurred an exceptional interest in things to come. There was a cavalcade of interviews, columns, blogs, and debates from experts with presumed crystal balls to portray the future. The predictions included many familiar themes: climate change, consequences thereof and necessary plans for action, digitalization, energy production, new materials, artificial intelligence, different aspects of theoretical physics, astronomy, the future of Earth and the universe, plans for space programs, and also universal themes like politics, traffic, and housing.

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Open Access Technology Centres Transform the Way Research Is Conducted — Turku Bioscience Operates at the Frontiers of Science

Among all the branches of life sciences, cell and molecular biology have often relied upon the development of key enabling technologies. Several significant paradigm shifts in biosciences have their origins specifically in novel and innovative technologies and/or methods.

The writer is Director of Turku Bioscience John Eriksson.

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