Academy Professor Elina Ikonen elected as EMBO member

Academy Professor Elina Ikonen from the Faculty of Medicine, University of Helsinki, has been elected as a member of EMBO, the European Molecular Biology Organization.

Among the 56 new members elected this year, Academy Professor Elina Ikonen is the only Finn.

EMBO is an organisation that promotes and funds research in the life sciences, with currently more than 1,800 researchers from Europe and elsewhere in the world as members. All members are researchers of the most distinguished order, representing the very top of their respective scientific fields. The members are expected to actively contribute to the organisation’s activities, for example, by assessing funding applications and mentoring junior researchers.

The research group led by Academy Professor Ikonen specialises in lipids and proteins that bind with cell membranes.

“Among our research topics are hereditary lipid storage diseases as well as the link between cholesterol metabolism and cardiovascular diseases and metabolic syndrome,” Ikonen explains.

Ikonen also heads the Centre of Excellence in Biomembrane Research which investigates the interaction between proteins and lipids, the primary components of cells, an area about which scientists currently know very little.

“What we do know, however, is that the function of proteins is heavily dependent on their membrane environment – lipid membranes both inhibit and facilitate the mutual interaction of proteins.”

In addition to Ikonen’s group, the Centre of Excellence includes a group led by Professor Pekka Lappalainen at the Institute of Biotechnology in Viikki and Professor Ilpo Vattulainen’s group specialised in biological physics on Kumpula Campus.

“We are working at the boundary of several sciences, a very productive approach in terms of research and also an interesting proposition for us researchers. Our work ranges from the clinical symptoms of diseases all the way to molecular interaction and the level of atoms. It’s pretty astounding,” Ikonen notes.