The research and development initiative ‘Innovation Ecosystem Based on the Immune System (InFLAMES)’ has received significant funding from the Academy of Finland.
The InFLAMES initiative has received €5.6M funding for 2020–2023 from the Flagship Programme of the Academy of Finland. The Flagship aims at identifying new targets for drug development together with biotechnology and pharmaceutical companies. InFLAMES also develops diagnostics so that targeted therapies could be designed for individual patients.
The research and development cluster is led by Professor and Academician Sirpa Jalkanen from the University of Turku, who is an esteemed and award-winning researcher in immunology and an expert in business collaboration in the medical field. The InFLAMES Flagship is a joint effort of University of Turku and Åbo Akademi University, which have collaborated in drug development and diagnostics research profile for several years. Of the funding, the share of the University of Turku is €4.7M and Åbo Akademi University’s €950,000. The Academy is also prepared to fund the Flagships with an additional 20 million euros over the coming years. InFLAMES is the second flagship initiative of the University of Turku.
– Immunological defence that functions normally is vital for our health. If the immune system is too active, people can develop autoimmune diseases, such as rheumatoid arthritis, multiple sclerosis or diabetes. On the other hand, if the function of the system is impaired, people can develop cancer or contract serious bacterial or viral infections. Therapies that affect our immune system are effective against many diseases, but are suitable only for a small number of patients. Therefore, it is important to identify new targets for drug development to treat acute and chronic inflammations, says Professor Jalkanen.
Turku has an internationally highly competitive research ecosystem and a long research tradition in immunology research. The research field of the InFLAMES Flagship is the strength of both the University of Turku and Åbo Akademi University with over 300 scientists working within the field.
– The InFLAMES Flagship is a spearhead project for the strong cluster in the Turku region formed by the higher education institutions, the Hospital District of Southwest Finland, Turku Science Park, and different companies. Through new initiatives, the Flagship promotes the collaboration between the universities and business life, creates new business, and boosts the commercialisation of the discoveries made in laboratories. The planned national drug development centre will be an important partner for the InFLAMES Flagship, says Kalle-Antti Suominen, the Vice Rector responsible for research at the University of Turku.
The Academy of Finland’s Flagship Programme is an instrument that supports high-quality research and increases the societal impact emerging from the research. The Finnish Flagships represent an effective mix of close cooperation with business and society, adaptability and a strong commitment from host organisations. The Flagships create future know-how and sustainable solutions to societal challenges and promote economic growth by, for example, developing new business opportunities.