Orion Corporation and University of Helsinki join forces in developing new treatments for Mitochondrial Diseases and Progressive Myoclonus Epilepsy

Significant funding from Business Finland to a unique ecosystem concept, bringing together high-level academic research and industry.

The ”New Modalities Ecosystem” focuses on rare diseases of the Finnish disease heritage manifesting as degeneration of the nervous system. MIRAS and Progressive Myoclonus Epilepsy are such disorders: one out of seventy to eighty Finns carries mutations of either disease. However, a disease manifests only, if an individual inherits a mutation from both parents.

“Our research clarifies molecular characteristics of these disorders, both disease-specific and shared ones. We aim to discover exact metabolic pathways contributing to disease progression and to use this information, in close collaboration with industry, to improve diagnostics and develop new treatments, also for common degenerative diseases”, state Academy Prof Anu Suomalainen-Wartiovaara (Medical Faculty, University of Helsinki, HUSLab, HiLIFE) and Prof Anna-Elina Lehesjoki (Medical Faculty, University of Helsinki, Folkhälsan Research Center, HiLIFE).

Suomalainen-Wartiovaara and Lehesjoki are internationally renowned experts in energy metabolism and neurodegenerative diseases. Their work on the disease mechanisms of MIRAS and Progressive Myoclonus Epilepsy has uncovered new knowledge on degenerative diseases affecting both the nervous system and muscle. Within the Ecosystem Wartiovaara and Lehesjoki are responsible for the discovery science of mechanisms of pathogenesis, and together with Orion, for the application of the results for the benefit of patients. Business Finland will fund the future work of Wartiovaara and Lehesjoki on these diseases with over 2.1 million euros over the coming three years.

The Ecosystem develops digital wearable patient tools for the recording and reporting of disease symptoms at patients’ homes (CEO Laura Laakso Petsofi Oy; Prof Pasi Karjalainen, University of Eastern Finland; Prof Reetta Kälviäinen, University of Eastern Finland, Epilepsy Center, Kuopio University Hospital), tools for diagnostics (Perkin-Elmer) and new drug technologies based on modified antibodies and oligonucleotides (Profs Pasi Virta ja Urpo Lamminmäki, University of Turku). Companies Syrinx Bioanalytics, AdmeScope, Forendo Pharma and InMe also participate.

The “New Modalities Ecosystem”, coordinated by Orion, encompassing several universities and companies is unique in its kind in Finland.  Its “early discovery” principle aims to efficient identification of novel diagnostic tools and drug targets from molecular data. The Ecosystem, supported by Business Finland, trains top experts in development of new treatment modalities for human diseases. It boosts collaboration and international competitiveness of both universities and industry.

Additional information:

Academy Professor Anu Wartiovaara
tel. +358 40 5936386 (AW) or +359 50 415 5262 (Project Coordinator Maija Komonen)
Email: anu.wartiovaara@helsinki.fi

Professor Anna-Elina Lehesjoki
tel: +358 50 505 8894
Email: anna-elina.lehesjoki@helsinki.fi

Professor Antti Haapalinna, Vice President, Research and Development
Global Head, Therapy Area Rare Diseases &  Biologics, Biomarkers and New Modalities Global Function; Orion Corporation ORION PHARMA
Email: antti.haapalinna@orionpharma.com or  mobile +358 50 966 7670