Published: 13-02-2018 09:33 | Updated: 13-02-2018 09:40

This is how Academic Specialist Centre can attract researchers

In parallel with the introduction of highly specialised healthcare at the new Karolinska University Hospital Solna, and in certain respects a more problematic research and teaching environment, increasing attention has been focused on the Academic Specialist Centre. It is the hope of not only the vice-chancellor, but also politicians, that the newly opened centre will prove to be attractive to both researchers and students.

“Today, we create bonds between Karolinska Institutet and Stockholm County Council,” says Sofia Ernestam, operations manager of the Academic Specialist Centre, which was officially opened on 7 February in front of around one hundred people at Solnavägen 1E.

Here, three healthcare units – specialising in diabetes, neurology and rheumatology – will share premises that are in no way reminiscent of hospital environments. That being said, the Academic Specialist Centre is of course not a hospital, although chronically ill patients with selected diagnoses – diabetes, MS, Parkinson’s and rheumatological disorders – will receive specialist care here. The Academic Specialist Centre, a collaboration between Stockholm Health Care Services and Karolinska Institutet, is a part of the investment in future healthcare aimed at forging stronger links between research and development, education and healthcare.

“The work we are doing is pioneering in how it links research and development to treatment. For example, some of the most cutting-edge treatments for MS are being conducted here,” says Ole Petter Ottersen, vice-chancellor of Karolinska Institutet, during the opening ceremony.

A little while later, he explained why the Academic Specialist Centre is so important to KI:

“We are witnessing a healthcare sector undergoing massive change. New Karolinska Solna has become increasingly highly specialised, we see more internet-based healthcare and research and education must keep pace. Here, we have a concentration of not only expertise but also patients. This means that researchers will be better able to follow patients here compared to when they were widely spread across the Stockholm region,” explained Ole Petter Ottersen.

Among those attending the opening was Irene Svenonius, Moderate Party county councillor, who was of the opinion that the Academic Specialist Centre will be very important to patients and that, in all likelihood, the treatment of many chronic diseases will benefit from earlier access to research.

“I believe that the centre will prove attractive to researchers, offering as it does increased access to point-of-care research. And when we see it working well, I think that the County Council will identify more areas in which this model can be applied,” she commented after the opening.

Another idea behind the initiative is that patient’s will come to the centre at an early stage of their disease and be heavily involved in their own treatment. Even various patient organisations have been greatly involved in the Academic Specialist Centre. Making the Centre attractive to researchers and students is of course vital to ensuring the desired results.

Sofia Ernestam believes that the large numbers of chronically sick patients available to practice on will undoubtedly attract students. “In order for research to be successfully carried out, it is important that the infrastructure works. As soon as the patient arrives, the receptionist will have the opportunity to ask if they would like to provide biobank samples. There are currently three daily runs to Karolinska University Laboratory and CMM. There will also be an opportunity for researchers to attend if they have research subjects who are patients at the clinic,” she says.

Text: Maja Lundbäck