Professor Jaakko Kaprio succeeded the founding director of FIMM, Professor Olli Kallioniemi, who was appointed as the Director of the Science for Life Laboratory in Sweden in 2015. Jaakko Kaprio obtained his Ph.D. in 1984 from the University of Helsinki. Since 2001, Kaprio has served as a Professor of Genetic Epidemiology in the Department of Public Health, University of Helsinki and during 2001-2017 as a Research Professor at the National Institute for Health and Welfare.
Kaprio has held an Academy of Finland professorship since 2013 until the end of 2017 and he has continued his active research career throughout the busy directorship years. In 2016, most of his group members moved to FIMM. Kaprio is among the most highly cited scientists in the field of molecular biology and genetics and last autumn he reached an extraordinary milestone of 1000 publications that only very few researchers are able to achieve.
During Kaprio’s term as the FIMM interim director, there have been many structural and organisational changes within the University of Helsinki. The Helsinki Institute of Life Science, HiLIFE, was established and the University Services were reorganized. The university level budget cuts and the following recruitment freeze significantly affected the operations of FIMM.
Despite the challenges brought about by the external circumstances, Kaprio has been able to successfully steer the institute forward. Through actively communicating with the staff members he has retained the positive organisation culture and the “FIMM spirit”. The fruitful interaction with FIMM’s international collaborative networks, Nordic EMBL Partnership for Molecular Medicine and EU-LIFE, has been continued. FIMM was proud to host a very successful Nordic EMBL Partnership meeting in Helsinki in 2017.
During his directorship, Kaprio has led many research projects and efforts that have resulted in increased external funding income and helped in developing the state-of-art technology platforms at FIMM. He is one of the principal investigators leading the new Academy of Finland Centre of Excellence in Complex Disease Genetics. Under Professor Kaprio’s leadership, FIMM researchers were able to launch the FinnGen study aiming to produce and analyse genomic data from 500,000 individuals from the Finnish population over six years.
Below Jaakko Kaprio reflects his own experience as the director of FIMM
"These past 2+ years have been busy and challenging but also impactful. Combining a research career with administrative duties is not an easy task, but it is one that is possible to do at a place like FIMM. FIMM has a unique culture and atmosphere of working together for larger common goals. I have enjoyed getting to know many of the FIMM staff members and am thankful for the support and dedication of all of them. At a time of changes and lack of predictability, I believe that we have navigated this time reasonably well. The long term effects of the major organizational changes happening during my term remain to be seen.
The FIMM-EMBL Group Leader model and similar approaches within HiLIFE are a great way to recruit talented international researchers to Finland. However, in the future, it would be important to build collaborative models between institutes and faculties that would ensure better integration and continuation of the career paths. It is essential that the University of Helsinki adopts a true international attitude and opens positions for scientists from all over world with the necessary support and English as the true working language.
My term as the interim director turned out to be somewhat longer than originally envisioned since the organizational changes hindered the opening of the call for the new FIMM director. This was not optimal but now I am happy to be able to leave FIMM in good hands. Dr. Mark Daly is an absolutely fantastic choice as our new Director and I am sure that he will have our unconditional support as he charts FIMM to new heights and achievements.
I take this opportunity to thank all of our collaborators and stakeholders, for their support and commitment to FIMM."