Forging collaborations across the Nordics

Finnish Nordic EMBL partner node, FIMM, hosted the 12th annual Nordic EMBL Partnership meeting in Helsinki between 11-14 September 2023

Group photo of the participants of the 12th annual meeting of the Nordic EMBL Partnership for Molecular Medicine in Espoo, Finland.
Group photo of the participants of the 12th annual meeting of the Nordic EMBL Partnership for Molecular Medicine in Espoo, Finland. Credit: Jouko Siro

By Nóra Lehotai, Nordic EMBL Partnership for Molecular Medicine

The Nordic EMBL Partnership annual meetings strategically connect Nordic- and EMBL-based researchers on a mutual basis. These events facilitate expansion of knowledge through scientific presentations and break-time discussions, while also providing opportunities to broaden networks and spark future collaborations.

The Institute for Molecular Medicine Finland (FIMM) hosted the 12th annual Nordic EMBL Partnership meeting in Helsinki between 11-14 September 2023. “It’s great to host our friends in the Nordic countries here and from the rest of Europe as well, and hearing about the cutting-edge research work,” said Samuli Ripatti, Director of FIMM. “I think at the end of the meeting, we will go home and think about how to do things together and how to utilise the novel information we got.”

FIMM Director Samuli Ripatti on the benefits of the Nordic EMBL Partnership.

Nordic EMBL annual meetings boost connections for the benefit of science

Over 200 participants travelled just outside of Helsinki to Aalto University’s main building, Dipoli, for the meeting. The building’s organic architecture, once a radical design trend, set the ideal atmosphere for nurturing collaborations that will push the boundaries in addressing current challenges in molecular medicine.

Apart from members of the host node, FIMM, members of the other three nodes – Danish Institute for Translational Neuroscience (DANDRITE), The Laboratory for Molecular Infection Medicine Sweden (MIMS), Centre for Molecular Medicine Norway (NCMM) – and EMBL participated.

Over the course of the meeting, 30 Nordic EMBL Partnership, EMBL, and guest scientists introduced their research to the audience. The meeting was opened by Professor Ewan Birney, Deputy Director General of EMBL and Director of EMBL-EBI. He addressed the current EMBL Programme 2022-26 ‘Molecules to Ecosystems’, which aims to understand ecosystems at the molecular level, thus studying life in its natural context. He also discussed how well this resonates with the mission of the Nordic EMBL Partnership.

Ewan Birney, Deputy Director General of EMBL & Joint Director of EMBL-EBI, on the synergies in the Nordic EMBL Partnership for Molecular Medicine.

The scientific presentations were grouped into five sessions within the themes of “I) EMBL and Nordic EMBL Partnership, II) Multi-omics and precision medicine, III) Data-driven approaches, IV) Advances in neuroscience, and V) Emerging imaging technologies”. In addition to the research presentations, the annual event provides a platform for the node directors to deliver updates on the progress of each node to the broader community.

Introducing a fresh concept for the Partnership meeting this year, tandem talks showcased cutting-edge technologies that facilitate research collaborations across the nodes. These connections have been strongly supported by the fact that the Nordic EMBL Partnership has served as an Infrastructure Hub since 2021, when the Partnership was awarded funding from NordForsk to help increase knowledge transfer and interactions across the Partnership.

Four examples highlighted successful cross-node collaborations on gut microbiota and metabolomics (MIMS-FIMM), long COVID (FIMM-MIMS), Zebrafish model for neurological diseases (DANDRITE-NCMM), and phenotyping rare neurological disease variants with high content analysis (NCMM-FIMM).

The event programme also featured round table discussions, flash talks and poster sessions, forging connections among the participants at all levels. Around 70 scientific posters were presented during two interactive poster sessions.

Dedicated programme for young investigators and group leaders

This year’s meeting featured two additional programme components that took place just before the main meeting, on 11-12 September. The 2023 Young Investigator Meeting (YIM) embraced the theme of “Sailing into the unknown: building bridges and forging collaborations”.

One of the organisers of the YIM meeting, Johanna Lehtonen from NCMM, said: “I think it is really important that we have these Young Investigator Meetings where we, young researchers, can meet and maybe find some future collaborations.”

Johanna Lehtonen on the value of international exchange for young scientists in the Nordics.

The second component was the half-day Group Leader satellite workshop. Its primary emphasis was knowledge sharing and identification of new collaboration opportunities.

“The group leader meeting is basically giving us an opportunity to network with each other, and it is also giving us practical advice regarding ERC funding and what are the career choices you need to make. So, this is very helpful. What brings me here is the opportunity to network with a lot of people,” said Anne-Marie Fors Connolly, Clinical Research Fellow at MIMS.

Anne-Marie Fors Connolly, Clinical Research Fellow at MIMS, on the impact of the Nordic EMBL partnership on the clinics.

Under the guidance of FIMM and DANDRITE Directors Samuli Ripatti and Poul Nissen, a session on peer-mentoring engaged group leaders in reflecting on their experiences, and drawing upon the insights of ERC grant holders and present directors. Another session explored joint funding possibilities for collaborative scientific projects, such as ERC Synergy grant and COFUND by Marie Skłodowska-Curie Actions.

Increasing collaborations will leverage the diverse strengths of the Nordic EMBL nodes

“It’s been good to meet with the other group leaders, who are at different stages of their career, to get some quick advice,” said Thomas Kim, who recently joined DANDRITE as a new group leader. “I’m getting a new idea of what to do and how to organise my lab. I think collaboration, which is a theme for this year, is a good take-home message.”

DANDRITE Group Leader Thomas Dong Won Kim on value of collaboration in the Nordic EMBL Partnership.

“Many of the research projects presented during the meeting would not have been possible without Nordic collaborations,” concluded Oliver Billker, Speaker of the Nordic EMBL Partnership, Director of MIMS, at the closing of the event. “Our partnership is evolving; each node is involved in several research areas which drive today’s molecular medicine research forward. I see us collaborating more and more in these areas, using our complementary strengths in different new ways, already exemplified in the ongoing tandem projects across the nodes.”

The annual Nordic EMBL Partnership Meeting serves as a highly anticipated event for members of the Nordic nodes and EMBL alike. It represents an important forum where colleagues come together, fostering new synergies and collaborative efforts to drive advancements in the field of molecular medicine.

This article has been adapted from the Nordic EMBL Partnership for Molecular Medicine. Please find the original article here.

Tags: denmark, finland, international collaboration, international relations, nordic embl partnership, nordics, norway, sweden


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