Mia Sivén is the world’s first associate professor of sustainable pharmacy

The new professorship of the Faculty of Pharmacy promotes the tackling of sustainability challenges in the pharmaceutical sector together with students, researchers, partners and stakeholders. The position was made possible by several endowments to the Fund for Sustainable Development in Pharmacy.

While the Faculty of Pharmacy has for a long time emphasised sustainable development in its operations, the professorship takes them to a whole new level, further focusing goals.

“A comprehensive approach is important in the field of sustainable pharmacy. You have to understand interdependencies and examine sustainability perspectives throughout the life-cycle of medicines,” says Vice-Dean Mia Sivén from the Faculty of Pharmacy, who will assume the professorship in sustainable pharmacy in May 2024. 

Sivén’s background in the field of industrial pharmacy guides research particularly towards the sustainable production of pharmaceuticals and innovative dosage forms, as well as the development of practices that will increase the sustainability and resilience of the pharmaceutical sector. 

“It’s fascinating to study an area that is at the core of pharmacy, while looking forward to unexpected solutions in terms of sustainability,” Sivén envisions. 

Specialists in sustainable pharmacy for society

The professorship in sustainable pharmacy emphasises public engagement through both research and teaching. 

“I consider research collaboration with parties outside the University extremely important, which makes it possible for research in sustainable pharmacy to benefit the field in many ways. Active dialogue with various parties is a natural way to chart current trends and research needs,” Sivén muses.

Through the professorship, versatile specialists in pharmacy and pharmaceuticals will be trained for the labour market and businesses, with the skills to shape the practices of the sector to increasingly take sustainability and the environment into consideration. 

“Students are builders of the future and solvers of sustainability challenges. Alongside expertise and problem-solving skills, we need a hefty dose of curiosity and determination. These are characteristics I would like to inspire in our students,” Sivén says. As a member of the Teachers’ Academy, teaching is close to Sivén’s heart. 

The basis for groundbreaking work at the Faculty has been laid by the Generation Green working group (link in Finnish only), and the professorship will expand the consideration of sustainability and environmental perspectives in the teaching of pharmacy. Sustainability is also evidenced in teaching methods. Sivén’s research-based approach to the development of teaching is particularly targeted at virtual learning environments that enable occupationally and environmentally safe as well as resource-efficient virtual training before real-life situations. 

“The professorship in sustainable pharmacy promotes the tackling of sustainability challenges in the pharmaceutical sector together with our students, researchers, partners and stakeholders. Now, thanks to solid pharmaceutical expertise, we can promote the transition towards a society where both the state of the natural environment and human wellbeing will improve,” says Dean Jari Yli-Kauhaluoma of the Faculty of Pharmacy.

The journey towards filling the position began in 2020 with the establishment of the Fund for Sustainable Development in Pharmacy. Over the years, donations have been received from a number of parties, both businesses and other organisations, as well as from private individuals. Some of the endowments were made under the governmental matched-funding scheme. 

“I am very thankful to all of the donors who have made this possible. It’s a pleasure and honour to be the world’s first associate professor of sustainable pharmacy, an important position,” a jubilant Sivén says. 

The call for applications to the position of professor of sustainable pharmacy was open in summer 2023, and the rector of the University of Helsinki made a decision on the recruitment on 12 March 2024. Applicants to the position, both Finnish and international, numbered 55 in total. Mia Sivén will take up her new position on 1 May 2024.

What is sustainable pharmacy?

Sustainable pharmacy is a new discipline at the University of Helsinki and globally. The goal of sustainable pharmacy is to identify and develop solutions for sustainability gaps in the entire life-cycle of medicines, from drug discovery and preclinical development to the development, production and distribution of pharmaceutical products, digitalisation, sustainable use of medicines and their end-of-life management. Research in sustainable pharmacy provides solutions for comprehensively reducing the environmental footprint of pharmaceutical products, in pharmaceuticals intended for humans and animals in the normative framework of the pharmaceutical sector. Sustainable pharmacy strives to promote corporate responsibility in the sector and develop regulation through research, as well as to promote the resilience of the pharmaceutical sector.