Building Bridges: Sharing molecular medicine research technologies across Nordic borders

The 10th Building Bridges symposium: Technologies advancing molecular medicine – focus on Nordic infrastructures, held in December 2021, provided a collaborative look into cutting-edge research technologies and demonstrated how the Nordic community is leading the way.

Hosted by the Institute for Molecular Medicine Finland (FIMM) and organized by researchers and technology specialists from the Nordic EMBL Partnership for Molecular Medicine, the 10th Building Bridges symposium demonstrated significant advances made using the infrastructure available in the Nordic region, bridging research and technology development as well as scientists across borders. 

The one-day event and course for PhD students was supported by a grant from NordForsk to the Nordic EMBL Partnership for a Nordic Research Infrastructure Hub to stimulate training and mobility during 2021-2023.

With 140 registered participants, the symposium brought together scientists and specialists from eight countries including Denmark, Finland, Norway and Sweden.

Wealth of diverse research technologies on display 

The program featured talks, pitches and discussions on a wide variety of research technologies. The bookends of the program featured opening and closing keynote talks from EMBL Heidelberg. Opening the program was Oliver Stegle, DKFZ and EMBL Heidelberg group leader describing single cell resolution from genotype to phenotype. Closing the day was Simone Mattei, team leader at EMBL Heidelberg, putting on display the EMBL Imaging Centre and the development in cryo electron microscopy (cryo-EM) there.

The morning session offered high resolution technologies such as single cell analyses, drug screening, cryo-EM, genomics, metabolomics, and bioimaging. The session was chaired by Pirkko Mattila, FIMM senior researcher and head of the Single Cell Analytics unit, and Vilja Pietiäinen, FIMM senior researcher/team leader and co-director of the High Content Imaging and Analysis unit. 

On display in the afternoon session were model organisms and case studies on characterizations and structures. The session was chaired by Nikolina Sekulic, group leader in structural biology and chromatin from the Centre for Molecular Medicine Norway (NCMM) and Thomas Boesen, senior researcher and cryo-EM facility manager at the Danish Research Institute for Translational Neuroscience (DANDRITE).

Inspired by research collaboration and technology co-development 

A wide range of research and technology collaborations were highlighted throughout the symposium. Speakers, participants and organizers, alike, engaged in the openly collaborative spirit. 

Björn Schroeder, a group leader at MIMS presented his team’s research on dietary effects on gut microbiota metabolites and collaboration with Anni Nieminen head of the Metabolomics Unit at FIMM. Björn reflects on the collaboration:  

"For us it is a great opportunity to build a bridge with the Finnish node and to answer a question that we couldn’t tackle just by ourselves. We are especially excited that our early-career scientists will have the chance to learn about metabolomics in Helsinki."

As a member of the organizing team and a participant of the symposium, Vilja Pietiäinen explains the impact further: 

"I gained a lot of insight into different types of ongoing research and technology collaborations, and also got to know people from different nodes, even though the seminar needed to be held remotely due to the pandemic, in a last-minute change. I enjoyed seeing cutting-edge examples of successful collaborative projects – not only regarding their scientific contributions in molecular medicine, but also the simultaneous co-development of technologies. All this happening through real teamwork is really empowering!"

Molecular medicine and translational research rely on advanced technologies. The diverse research areas in the Nordic region are united through their complementary technological approaches, requiring the sharing of knowledge and core expertise across borders. As Vilja Pietiäinen recaps, “we hope that the meeting gave all the participants new ideas and will open interesting possibilities for future scientific projects, by building bridges between researchers and infrastructure in Nordic countries as well as with EMBL.”

Find out more about these and other research infrastructures at the Nordic EMBL Partnership and get in touch with your collaboration ideas.

Visit the Nordic EMBL Partnership website for the full length version of this article.


The Nordic EMBL Partnership for Molecular Medicine combines the complementary research expertise of the Nordic countries with a common aim to address some of the biggest challenges in biomedicine today. The Partnership comprises four international research institutes in close cooperation with EMBL: 

  • Danish Research Institute of Translational Neuroscience, DANDRITE, Aarhus University, Denmark
  • Institute for Molecular Medicine Finland, FIMM, University of Helsinki, Finland
  • The Laboratory for Molecular Infection Medicine Sweden, MIMS, Umeå University, Sweden 
  • Centre for Molecular Medicine Norway, NCMM, University of Oslo, Norway

The Partnership facilitates scientific collaboration to capitalize on resources within the Nordic region to advance molecular and translational medicine knowledge.