People of PhaN: an interview with Professor Timo Laaksonen

Interview series of the Pharmaceutical Nanotechnology (PhaN) people. In these news articles, we will introduce the new members of our team as well as the senior researchers. The interview series starts with the group leader, Professor Timo Laaksonen. New items of the series will appear periodically to introduce the team members in greater depth.

A lot of things are going on in the world and the special circumstances related to the pandemic are affecting the scientific work. So, thank you Prof. Laaksonen for taking your time to sit down and have this interview with us.

First, please introduce yourself and tell us about your background.

I am Timo Laaksonen, Professor of Pharmaceutical Nanotechnology and the leader of the PhaN unit. I am also a Research director in the Chemistry of Advanced Materials group at Tampere University. I did my PhD in physical chemistry but afterwards most of my research has concentrated on pharmaceutical research. So I have a sort of hybrid-background. I try to connect these two fields as well as I can.

Interesting history. How did the Pharmaceutical Nanotechnology group get started?

We founded this group together with Tatu Lajunen this year. We have very similar research interest and a desire to make better drug delivery systems based on nanocarriers and new materials. It was natural to form a larger research unit around these ideas. Even better, we got it started with the best group of people possible. The team has been a lot of fun to work with.

What made you interested in pharmacy in general?

I got here almost by accident. The last paper in my PhD was done together with Professor Arto Urtti and that got me interested in the field. My research had been more theoretical, and it was really motivating to have some clear applications to aim for. A bit later Professor Jouni Hirvonen advertised a post-doc position and I have stayed with pharmaceutical research ever since. That last paper was about light-sensitive liposomes, by the way. It is hard to let go of past research topics.

You mention light-sensitive liposomes. In addition to that, what kind of research have you done?

Many things. Some key terms could be gold nanoparticles, mass transport & drug release kinetics, liposomes, poorly soluble drugs, nanocellulose, light-sensitive compounds, and drug delivery in general. Usually the research has revolved around new materials and how they could be using in advanced drug formulations. But I am interested very broadly in science and I tend to branch out a lot. Sometimes this is not the most effective way to work, but it keeps be motivated to have completely new challenges every now and then.

What research you are working on currently?

There are basically two main research topics at the moment. One is to use light to control drug release, and the other big thing is nanocellulose and its use in drug formulations. I am also excited to bring a lot the past topics together in the new ERC-project.

Let us end on a lighter tone. Do you have hobbies, or possibly some surprising special skills, like sky diving, speaking Latin, or a collection of meteorites?

One of main hobbies is role playing games, which I have done for 30 years. It gives me the needed mental break from time to time, which my other hobby of running just won’t do.

Thank you very much for the interview and have a nice summer.

Contact information of the interviewee: