In 2013, FIMM joined the EU-LIFE (European Life Sciences Institutes for Excellence) community. EU-LIFE is an alliance of thirteen top research centres in life sciences to support and strengthen European research excellence. All EU-LIFE partner institutes are research centres that operate with similar principles of excellence, external reviews, independence, competitiveness, and internationality.

Partners discuss latest developments in European science policy and produce documents for policy makers and stakeholders in life sciences. In 2015, EU-LIFE published an open statement on the strategic investment fund to ensure protection of the EU budget for research and supported the statement on protection of animals used for scientific purposes.

EU-LIFE has established eight working groups. FIMM has a representative in the following seven groups: strategy (Jaakko Kaprio), translational research (Janna Saarela), science communication (Mari Kaunisto), funding strategy (Mika Frederiksen), recruitment and training (Gretchen Repasky), IT (Timo Miettinen and indicators (Gretchen Repasky). The working groups define and share best practices, as well as design joint activities, either for the network or for a broader community. In early 2015, members of the translational research working group published a correspondence article in Nature expounding on the importance of bold alliances for translational research success. Furthermore, in an article published in Trends of Molecular Medicine, the members of this working group shared their experiences and suggested recommendations to promote translational research. Read more.

Members of the science communication working group planning future activities.

In October, the launch of the first H2020 funded EU-LIFE Alliance project, LIBRA (Leading Innovative measures to reach gender Balance in Research Activities), was announced. LIBRA aims to develop and implement gender equality in research and thus to increase the representation and participation of women in leadership positions in life sciences. The funding strategy and recruitment and training working groups of EU-LIFE had a key role in preparing this successful proposal. Ten of the EU-LIFE institutes lead this project and three, including FIMM, are associated partners. As an associate partner, FIMM has the excellent opportunity to participate in all activities of the project and share the results and advances that are needed to better gender equality both in the workplace, as well as in the design of scientific research projects. Read more.

In 2015, EU-LIFE organised two main meetings. In October, EU-LIFE members gathered together at the Friedrich Miescher Institute for Biomedical Research (FMI) in Basel, Switzerland for the annual EU-LIFE Community meeting. The overarching topic of the meeting was the challenges and opportunities posed by the interaction of academia with industry. Each of the working groups had their own busy meetings and as a positive result, the year 2016 is going to be filled with numerous EU-LIFE activities.

EU-LIFE Community Meeting 2015 participants.

In May, a Strategy Meeting gathering the Board of Directors, the Strategic group of EU-Life and the Chairs of the EU-LIFE Working Groups was hosted by the Biotech Research and Innovation Centre (BRIC) in Copenhagen, Denmark. Professor Olli Kallioniemi was one of the two Directors invited to give a scientific presentation to the BRIC community as a pre-meeting event. Adjacent to the Strategy Meeting, the second EU-LIFE scientific workshop “Epigenetics and Disease” brought together basic scientists and clinicians/translational researchers from EU-LIFE institutes and their collaborators to explore and discuss epigenetics in relation to disease. Dr. Caroline Heckman and Professor Kimmo Porkka presented their results on epigenetic deregulation in haematological malignancies. Two of our PhD students, Jarno Kivioja and Himanshu Chheda, attended the meeting.

Furthermore, a thorough survey collecting data on many indicators of scientific excellence from all partner institutes was performed. Based on the results of this survey, the number of publications per staff and the mean impact factor at FIMM were shown to be above the EU-LIFE average.