The 5-year Evaluation Report of FIMM
The 5-year Evaluation of FIMM took place on 14-15 May 2013. The task of the Evaluation Committee was to assess the progress of FIMM towards achieving the ambitious aim of becoming a leading molecular medicine research institute.
The evaluation was carried out by the Evaluation Committee comprising of three members of the Scientific Advisory Board (SAB) of FIMM, Professors Kai Simons, Carl-Henrik Heldin and Cornelia van Duijn, EMBL representative Dr Paul Flicek as well as four invited external experts, Professors Sven Cichon, Paolo Gasparini, Gregory Gibson and Ari Helenius.
The whole evaluation report (except for the group-leader specific annex) can be downloaded here.
Overall, the evaluation report was very positive, as reflected in the following quotes:
"The Evaluation Committee is full of praise for what Olli Kallioniemi and his faculty have been able achieve in only five years. It should be stressed that the technologies that FIMM is using are now at the cutting edge of a rapidly moving area of research. Without FIMM in place, it would have been hard to keep pace with developments elsewhere with serious consequences for human genomics and molecular medicine in Finland."
The Evaluation Committee specifically highlighted the following achievements from the FIMM buildup period:
1) A research consortium with the groups of Kallioniemi, Heckman/Knowles, Aittokallio, Wennerberg from FIMM and Porkka from HUCH (Helsinki University Central Hospital) has started a collaboration to stratify the treatment of acute myeloid leukemia. A new method has been designed to test potential drugs in high-throughput with high sensitivity employing leukemic cells from individual patients. The outcome of the first study promises success for the personalized medicine approach that FIMM is pursuing.
2. The efforts to utilize Finnish genome data to improve personalized and predictive medicine have produced several studies that illustrate the value of the Finnish cohorts. Genome-wide association studies have been completed for cardiovascular disease (Ripatti, Saarela), diabetes (Ripatti), puberty (Widén), migraine (Palotie, Saarela), multiple sclerosis, primary immune deficiencies (Saarela), and schizophrenia (Hennah). These studies have been (and will be further) followed up by next generation DNA sequencing to reveal the full potential of genetic variation in different diseases.
3. The group of Lundin has invented novel tools for image-based diagnostics. Pathology has until now been based on the pathologist looking at samples in the microscope. Lundin et al. have digitalized tissue section images and have produced amazing, new ways to display the images on screens and to analyze the digital data. This type of technology called webmicroscopy will revolutionize the field of pathology, medical teaching, and research. The work is backed up by the FIMM IT Unit (Miettinen) that has created an intelligent Cloud-based IT-system with CSC.
The Evaluation Committee also had several recommendations:
The main challenge of FIMM during the next five years is to ensure continued funding.
“The EMBL model that foresees a continuous turnover in research staff demands a budget of the size that FIMM has had in the last five years. In a small country like Finland, international research institutions are difficult to maintain in a competitive state. Attracting the best talent requires funding at a competitive level.”
Furthermore, the Evaluation Committee:
- recommended a consolidation of the research programmes in the next five years to maintain critical mass globally in every research topic undertaken at FIMM.
-stressed that in order for commercial applications to be successful, the technology transfer mechanisms that FIMM has as its disposal at the University of Helsinki will have to be improved.
-recommended that the mentoring system for group leaders at FIMM should be invigorated
- a postdoc programme should be started and central recruitment of PhD students (under the auspices of the Nordic-EMBL Molecular Medicine PhD program) should be increased.
-recommended that FIMM should develop actions aimed at supporting the Finnish medical community to improve the study on inherited diseases.