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Hey there: Samuli Ripatti, new Director of FIMM

Samuli Ripatti has a background in mathematical statistics but his research has always been focused on applying and developing biostatistical methods to address scientific questions in medical and population genetics.

Last year he was appointed Director of the Institute for Molecular Medicine in Finland (FIMM) and NLS asked him about his new role and his future plans.

Did you expect to become the new Director of FIMM?

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“Not at all. I am a scientist at heart and that’s what I enjoy doing. However, when it was time to fill this position, I thought about how much support I have received from FIMM and that it would be great to be able to reciprocate/repay this.”

What are you most looking forward to in your new role?

“I am very excited about it. There are many things that we are already doing well and there are things that we could do much better. However, I am happy to be in a position of mentoring the next generation, letting them flourish and find their way. That is the particular reason why I think FIMM is a pretty exciting place to be.”

I am happy to be in a position of mentoring the next generation, letting them flourish and find their way.”

Describe FIMM and its potential?

“As an institute we are in a pretty good place right now, in many ways. I think we have relatively solid funding and that allows us to hire the brightest young people in the field and offer them group leader positions. We have a strong foundation of world-class infrastructure and research projects that we can harvest and build upon.”

The large-scale data we count on will provide opportunities for the next generation, and that’s pretty unique.”

“Also, the large-scale data we count on will provide opportunities for the next generation, and that’s pretty unique. Right now we don’t have the time to analyze and report all the exciting discoveries hidden in the data. I see the future in data analysis.”

What are your future plans for FIMM?

“What I am focused on now is bringing in more young researchers and helping them grow in a highly international environment. For example, we have a student rotation program where prospective PhD students spend two to three months in different research groups before starting their doctorate project. Another important aspect I’d like to promote is translating the basic understanding of disease mechanisms into clinical care. We could do this much better as researchers. Focusing on translation is key to future success.”

It’s a national effort to collect this data and it’s a very big and expensive ship to move ahead/control. FinnGen could also bring about opportunities for future scientists who want to build their careers on data.”

“Another exciting opportunity is related to the public-private collaborative project FinnGen, where we’re conducting a large-scale genetic research project with half a million Finns (10% of the population), tracking their lifelong medical history, including diseases and medications. The aim of the project is to discover novel disease mechanisms, answer large-scale epidemiological questions, and help in developing new medications or prioritizing existing ones. It’s a national effort to collect this data and it’s a very big and expensive ship to move ahead/control. FinnGen could also bring about opportunities for future scientists who want to build their careers on data.”

Any bottlenecks/challenges?

“We’ve focused on data analysis, but we struggle to find people skilled in interpretation, writing papers, and innovative new deep-dives into the data. Over the past 15 years labs have become offices, marking a rapid change in molecular medicine and human genetics from laboratory-driven science to data-driven science.”

Over the past 15 years labs have become offices, marking a rapid change in molecular medicine and human genetics from laboratory-driven science to data-driven science.”

“This shift must be reflected in the talent search, but competition for these skills is fierce, everybody else is also looking for experts in data science, including statistics, machine learning, and AI experts.”

Photo of Samuli Ripatti: Veikko Somerpuro

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About the Author

Paula Pérez González-Anguiano, M.Sc. in Scientific, Medical and Environmental Communication, is a Science Journalist and Illustrator based in Barcelona, Spain.

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