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News 17.09.2018

Creation of novel medicines and better patient care for the future in an ecosystem

Orion Corporation has together with selected university research groups and other companies assembled a New Modalities Ecosystem supported by funding from Business Finland. The new ecosystem is unique multidiscipline collaboration combining high level academic knowledge with drug discovery and development.

"We are delighted that a pioneer company Orion has built up this new ecosystem as a network leader, and the ecosystem is in line with Business Finland's goal of boosting the competence of Finnish actors through cooperation between companies and research organizations. We expect the ecosystem will have a significant impact on the development of knowledge and business. It is nice that Business Finland services as Co-Innovation funding and Personalised Health Program can be helpful here", says Director Minna Hendolin from Business Finland.

More understanding of the causes of diseases and personalized treatment

The aim of this New Modalities Ecosystem is enable improved understanding of disease pathology related to the symptoms and disease progression and better treatments by applying large molecular drugs and diagnostic tools as well as digital wearable patient tools for disease symptom recording. This Ecosystem combines in a unique way high-level academic research with industrial drug research and development.

The Ecosystem participants include in addition to Orion, University of Turku, University of Helsinki, University of Eastern Finland, Folkhälsan as well as the companies PerkinElmer, Syrinx Bioanalytics, AdmeScope, Petsofi, Forendo Pharma and InMe.

Orion intends to provide better personalized treatments for patients and develop new competences in addition to the strong know-how in small-molecular drug development. Monogenic rare disease may provide a more straight forward and rational way of identifying suitable drug target proteins and disease mechanisms as well as implementation of new treatment technologies.

Starting with rare diseases

There is also a great need to identify patient subpopulations with a disease and better understanding of the disease symptoms as well as continuous monitoring of the symptoms (digital 24/7 monitoring technologies). Identified treatment target proteins and developed technologies may be applicable also in more common diseases.

The ecosystem will initially focus on a few rare diseases which are part of the Finnish disease heritage, where excellent genetic and clinical research as well as collaboration networks have been established in Finland.

The scientists participating in the better disease understanding part of the Ecosystem include Academy Professor Anu Suomalainen-Wartiovaara, University of Helsinki, and Professor Anna-Elina Lehesjoki (Folkhälsan and University of Helsinki, lääketieteellinen tiedekunta ja HiLife). They are internationally acknowledged scientists in medical research and their disease mechanistic work has created significant new know knowledge in inherited diseases involving neuronal and muscle degeneration. Professor Reetta Kälviäinen (University of Eastern Finland and Kuopio Epilepsy Center, Kuopio University Hospital) and Professor Pasi Karjalainen (Department of Applied Physics, University of Eastern Finland), and epidemiologist Laura Laakso, Petsofi, participate in the Ecosystem by developing digital wearable patient tools for the measurement and recording of disease symptoms in patients, in relation to the progress of disease and measured biomarkers. PerkinElmer participates in the development of diagnostic tools.

Orion extends its biopharmaceutical capabilities towards biologics (therapeutic proteins) and concomitantly starts systematically evaluate also other advanced treatment modalities. Potential target proteins of some diseases are unreachable for traditional small molecular drugs, which is shifting the pharmaceutical interest also towards large biologics aimed at affecting the protein expression already in preliminary states. This is done in collaboration with the ecosystem technology partners professors Pasi Virta and Urpo Lamminmäki from university of Turku as well as Finnish biopharmaceutical and diagnostic companies having mutual interests.

Professor Pasi Virta (Organic chemistry, University of Turku) and his team aim at finding new ways for chemical modifications of of antibodies to apply them as carriers for the tissue and cell-specific delivery of drugs, primarily of RNA-based therapeutics. Whereas university professor Urpo Lamminmäki (Biotechnology, University of Turku) and his team aim to expand the established recombinant antibody library technology to serve as a lead factory for therapeutics development. Both university groups educate top experts for drug development field being capable to act smoothly between the academic and industrial fields filling the obvious knowledge gap in this drug development field in Finland. Syrinx Bioanalytics aims to develop novel analytical methods for next generation oligonucleotides to be utilized for pharmacokinetic, immunogenicity and biological activity studies during drug development. Admescope develops novel ligand binding assay, drug-drug interaction models and analytical methodology for therapeutic large molecules. Inme collaborates with the University of Turku (Department of Biotechnology) in order to achieve new-generation high-sensitivity immunoassay for hormonal analyses. Forendo Pharma supports the ecosystem with its expertise.

The established New Modalities Ecosystems creates novel capabilities and expertise that can be expanded and utilized more broadly beyond the ecosystem providing competitive edge also for other companies in developing their business models and supporting their growth.

Further information

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
antti.haapalinna (at) orionpharma.com
+358 50 966 7670