Katja Kivinen, Director of FIMM Technology Center, University of Helsinki, Institute for Molecular Medicine Finland (FIMM) Technology Center
Katja Kivinen, Director of FIMM Technology Center, University of HelsinkiInstitute for Molecular Medicine Finland (FIMM) is a renowned medical research centre hosted by the University of Helsinki. FIMM Technology Centre (FIMM-TC) runs core facilities providing open access research services. FIMM-TC core facilities are members in Biocenter Finland, a national non-profit organisation coordinating life science research services at Finnish universities through a set of technology platforms.

FIMM-TC Genomics Unit leads the national Biocenter Finland Genome-Wide Methods technology platform. The Unit provides both tailored and high-throughput sequencing and genotyping services to users, including academic research groups, hospitals and commercial customers. The Unit is active in international service development and benchmarking activities, including those organised by EATRIS and the Nordic Alliance in Clinical Genomics (NACG), as well as the EU 1+ Million Genomes initiative. The 1+ Million Genomes aims to provide researchers pan-European access to genomic data and associated healthcare information for at least 1 million European citizens. Sensitive data will be stored by each country and shared in a secure way to allow cross-border data meta-analysis and accelerate clinical research.

FIMM-TC Genomics Unit is the biggest Unit in the Biocenter Finland Genome-Wide Methods technology platform and supports national and international research initiatives as well as local research projects. The Unit is very active in technology transfer and has founded a joint genome unit (HUSGEN) with the local university hospital with a focus on clinical sequencing.

The main strengths of FIMM-TC core facilities are highly experienced staff capable of tailoring methods according to each user’s needs and the range of available core facilities, streamlining the completion of multi-omics studies. Core facilities offer services in sample preparation and single-cell analytics, genomics, transcriptomics, metabolomics, drug sensitivity screening, and imaging. Development has also recently started for a new proteomics service platform.

Institute for Molecular Medicine Finland (FIMM) Technology Center: Multi-omics Technologies in Precision Medicine

Our teams are ableto develop customised approaches for our users and provide end-to-end expertise that can be hard to access elsewhere

The range of available services is complemented by those offered by the University of Helsinki (Helsinki Institute of Life Sciences (HiLIFE) research infrastructures) and by other Biocenter Finland host universities.

Elaborating more on FIMM-TC services, Katja Kivinen, Director of FIMM-TC, says, “No single method or technology fits all projects. Our teams are able to develop customised approaches for our users and provide end-to-end expertise that can be hard to access elsewhere.”

In a recently started project, FIMM-TC helps a local hospital treat blood cancer patients who have stopped responding to therapeutics. Katja explains, “FIMM Genomics, Single Cell and High-Throughput Biomedicine Units run whole-exome sequencing, RNA sequencing, and drug sensitivity screening on samples from leukemia patients to help clinicians understand which mutations have provided resistance against ongoing treatment and which drug combinations may have the best chance of working with each mutation. This is an example of personalized medicine, one of FIMM research focus areas .” The vision behind this approach is to develop an AI algorithm that will be able to predict the most successful treatment for future patients with similar mutations.

During the Covid-19 pandemic, FIMM-TC has illustrated its agility and problem-solving capacity in several ways. Genomics Unit has offered free GWAS genotyping of Covid-19 patients for low-income countries as part of the international Covid-19 Host Genetics Initiative with generous support from Illumina. High- Throughput Biomedicine Unit set up a national drug response profiling platform in collaboration with the local university hospital to identify drugs that could be repurposed as Covid-19 therapeutics. Genomics Unit joined forces with a team of virologists at the University of Helsinki and optimised the SARS-Cov-2 wholegenome sequencing process for the Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare. Explaining how its team helped the local hospital and research community, Dr Kivinen says, “The pandemic resulted in a burst of goodwill between previously competing research institutes and hospitals. Information exchange increased massively when everyone was trying to figure out the best ways to help, and we shared consumables, instruments, and experienced staff.”

As an example of the R&D work done by many teams during the first months of the pandemic, High Content Imaging and Analysis team miniaturised and multiplexed a serological test to help accelerate Covid-19 antibody testing in Finland. The same team recently set up a laser dissection microscope to select cells of interest from, e.g. tumors for further analysis.