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Unique genetic study launched in Finland

Aarno Palotie

The research study, FinnGen, plans to tap into 500 000 unique blood samples collected by a nation-wide network of Finnish biobanks and aims to deepen our understanding about the origins of diseases and their treatment.

”All breakthroughs that arise from the project will eventually benefit health care systems and patients both locally and globally. The study will, for instance, help us find new areas for drug discovery and ways to prevent disease. The FinnGen study will most definitely have a positive impact on the attractiveness of Finland as a global pioneer for medical research and innovation,” says Research Director Aarno Palotie, from the Institute for Molecular Medicine Finland (FIMM) at the University of Helsinki.

The study is expected to continue for six years, securing funding of 59M€.

The research project is based on matching genome information with digital health care data from national registries. FinnGen is coordinated by researchers from the University of Helsinki and the Helsinki University Central Hospital.

“FinnGen is globally an unprecedented research project – a similar study has never been performed at the same scale. Due to the unique heritage of the Finnish population, our genome data can be analysed faster and more effectively than in populations of more heterogenous origins – significantly improving the chances of breakthrough findings. Finland offers a great foundation for nation-wide genome research. The FinnGen study is also characterised by exceptionally broad and open cooperation between biobanks, universities, health care districts, the health care industry and hopefully hundreds of thousands of Finns,” says Kimmo Pitkänen, Director of Helsinki Biobank.

In addition to biobanks and research organisations, the Finnish Funding Agency of Innovation TEKES, nine Finnish enterprises and seven international pharmaceutical companies take part in the study: Abbvie, AstraZeneca, Biogen, Celgene, Genentech, a member of the Roche Group, MSD and Pfizer.

”Tekes wanted to support the project, because of its potential to promote healthcare innovation and support the growth and internationalisation of local businesses. In addition, the project makes Finland more attractive in the eyes of global businesses and investors,” says Development Director Minna Hendolin, who is responsible for Health and Wellbeing at Tekes.

Photo of Aarno Palotie: Linda Tammisto