Unique Finnish genomics scene attracts top US scientist to University of Helsinki

University of Helsinki has recruited Professor Mark Daly, of the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard and Massachusetts General Hospital, to lead the Institute for Molecular Medicine Finland (FIMM). Daly is a distinguished scientist who has made major contributions to human genetics and genomics during his 20-year career.

Professor Mark Daly succeeds Academy Professor Jaakko Kaprio, and has been appointed with effect from February 1, 2018. While spending most of his time in Finland, Daly will continue his active role as Institute Member and co-director of the Medical and Population Genetics Program at the Broad Institute, establishing a close partnership between the University of Helsinki and Broad Institute.

"Today is a great day for Finnish genomics, and for science in Finland in general. High quality attracts top researchers. Brain gain instead of brain drain!" says Jukka Kola, the Rector of the University of Helsinki.

"I am extremely pleased that Mark Daly will take the helm of FIMM at this time when lots of interesting things are happening in genomics locally and nationally."

The Finnish genomics scene is indeed bustling. The government has decided to invest in establishing a National Genome Center, envisioned to be a storage point for all genome data which then can be utilized by citizens, health care providers, and researchers. Together with nationally coordinated biobanks and the unique population-wide health registries this will provide enormous possibilities for identifying the genetic basis of common diseases.

During the first ten years FIMM has focused on translational research and utilizing genome data to empower disease prevention and personalised treatment and currently has a staff exceeding 200 and an annual budget of 20 M€. FIMM is also part of the new Helsinki Institute of Life Science HiLIFE at the University of Helsinki.

"Mark Daly's recruitment exemplifies our new strategy to invest into top research and partnerships," comments Tomi Mäkelä, the chair of the recruitment committee and Director of HiLIFE. "The University of Helsinki has made significant investments to create an internationally attractive environment."

"The recently initiated FinnGen research project providing genomic information for 500 000 individuals and 10% of the Finnish population is among the foremost biobank genetics projects in the world," says Daly.

"There are so many new opportunities in which partnership with the Finnish population can advance research and industry in a world-leading fashion – and at the same time Finns, first in the world, receive the medical benefits of genome information in clinical settings. I envision FIMM can become the pre-eminent institution in human genetics in Europe through the new partnership between the University of Helsinki and Broad Institute, together with the Nordic EMBL Partnership in Molecular Medicine. This will provide an outstanding opportunity for FIMM, and research throughout Finland, in the coming years.”

Mark Daly has made seminal discoveries in understanding the details of the structure of the human genome and developing software tools to analyse the impact of genetic variations on various diseases, with special interest in autism, ADHD and other psychiatric diseases as well as inflammatory diseases. He has over 400 scientific publications, and in his new job he will be the top cited scientist in Finland with over 130 000 citations.

Contact information:

Mark Daly, mjdaly@atgu.mgh.harvard.edu

Tomi Mäkelä, tomi.makela@helsinki.fi, tel: +358-50-528 6128

Mari Kaunisto, FIMM Communications Coordinator, HiLIFE, University of Helsinki, mari.kaunisto@helsinki.fi, tel: +358-50-317 5483