Published: 04-02-2015 09:45 | Updated: 04-02-2015 09:47

New research opportunities with Visiting Professorship

Malin Flodström-Tullberg, research group leader at CIM, has been appointed visiting professor at the University of Tampere in Finland.

Congratulations Malin! How do you feel about the appointment?

- Thank you, it is both exciting and honourable. For me, the visiting professorship offers a new exciting challenge and further opportunities to pursue interesting research projects, says Malin, who has just returned from a visit to Tampere.

Have you had previous collaborations with the University of Tampere?

- We have collaborated with several research groups there in recent years. Among other projects, we, together with a group at the University led by Professor Heikki Hyöty, the Finnish company Vactech and one of the world's largest vaccine manufacturers, Sanofi Pasteur, recently developed and tested a new prototype vaccine against enterovirus. We are also collaborating with Associate Professor Vesa Hytönen at the Institute of Biosciences and Medical Technology (BioMediTech) on the mechanisms by which enteroviruses cause disease.

What is enterovirus?

- Enteroviruses are a group of common viruses that usually only leads to an asymptomatic infection or at most a cold. Sometimes these virus types cause more serious infections and lead to, for example, aseptic meningitis, myocarditis and pancreatitis. Infections with these virus types have been associated with the development of Type 1 diabetes, which is the scientific focus of my research group.

What does the visiting professorship mean?

- University of Tampere has been awarded a major grant from TEKES, the Finnish innovation funding organization (which is their equivalent of the Swedish VINNOVA), to recruit me part time. The grant comes from TEKES "Finnish Distinguished Professor (FiDiPro) Programme" which aims to recruit top scientists to team up with Finland's strongest research teams in academia and industry. I will be a visiting professor during the period of our FiDiPro project - to the end of 2017.

Tell us about the project you will work on as a visiting professor!

- Our FiDiPro project aims to study enteroviruses´ possible role in disease Type 1 diabetes. I, and some members of my research group here at KI, will within the framework of this program continue to contribute to the development and testing of novel enterovirus vaccine. One way to test if enterovirus causes Type 1 diabetes is to develop a vaccine and test whether vaccination with this vaccine leads to a reduction of disease incidence. The groups we work with in Tampere has a strong expertise in the development of vaccines, but lack the knowledge and experience of testing vaccines in relevant model systems. Since my research group is expert in various experimental models of virus-induced diabetes, we can help with the missing elements in Tampere.

- My research group at KI has for a number of years conducted exciting research on how enteroviruses affect the body's immune system and cause damage leading to disease. This research, we will continue with at KI but parts of the studies, relating mainly to bioinformatics, will be further developed at the University of Tampere. Within the FiDiPro project we will also focus on developing new diagnostics. Given that the research groups involved have expertise in various areas, I see it as very likely that new projects will be initiated where our collective expertise will provide interesting synergies and innovation, says Malin Flodström-Tullberg.