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Improving the development of biopharmaceuticals in Finland

Petri dish

Researchers of organic chemistry and biotechnology from the University of Turku are creating new medical technologies in an Ecosystem coordinated by Orion Corporation.

​Together with selected university research groups and other companies, Orion Corporation has assembled a New Modalities Ecosystem supported by funding from Business Finland. One goal of the Ecosystem is to improve the development prerequisites for biopharmaceuticals in Finland. Large molecular drugs, such as antibodies and oligonucleotides, enable the treatment of diseases that cannot be reached with traditional small-molecular drugs.

RNA therapeutics

Two research groups from the University of Turku are studying novel medical technologies. Professor of Organic Chemistry Pasi Virta and his team are developing new modalities for the chemical modification of antibodies, where the aim is to utilise the cell and tissue-specific characteristics in the targeting of other therapeutic molecules.

“The primary target for the delivery are certain medicines based on RNA therapeutics which do not have a functioning targeted drug strategy.  The technology platform aims to develop readily automated synthetic strategies for large biomolecular hybrids, which could be extended further for the library synthesis, facilitating hence biological screening of these drug candidates,” says Professor Virta.

Protein molecules

For their part, Associate Professor in Biotechnology Urpo Lamminmäki and his research group develop modalities for producing protein molecules as targeted drugs. Their central research area is recombinant antibody libraries which can be used in planned and fast production of protein molecules that identify their target precisely.

“In the Ecosystem, we are developing the applicability of antibodies and other binding proteins received from the new recombinant antibody libraries in drug development. Furthermore, we are studying methods for optimising the characteristics of binding proteins as well as ways to produce several binding proteins that contain different kinds of functional activities,” says Lamminmäki.

Useful results

In addition to drug development and research, the results of the Ecosystem are expected to be useful to, for example, other areas of diagnostics research and industry which need high-quality antibodies.

In addition to the University of Turku, the Ecosystem includes Academy Professor Anu Wartiovaara and Professor Anna-Elina Lehesjoki from the University of Helsinki and Professors Pasi Karjalainen and Reetta Kälviäinen from the University of Eastern Finland. The Folkhälsan Research Center is also part of the Ecosystem. The universities’ research groups train top experts for the drug development industry in Finland.

The aim of New Modalities Ecosystem is to enable improved understanding of disease pathology related to the symptoms and disease progression and better treatments by applying large molecular drugs and diagnostic tools as well as digital wearable patient tools for disease symptom recording. In addition to Orion, the other companies in the Ecosystem are Perkin-Elmer, Syrinx Bioanalytics, AdmeScope, Petsofi, Forendo Pharma and InMe Oy.

Source: the University of Turku