Finnish projects offer holistic approach to health
Researchers in Finland believe exposure to a forest can help to cope with conditions such as anxiety and pain in combination with medical treatment.Terveysmetsä
From making microbubbles adhere to cancer cells to harnessing the healing power of forests, Finnish efforts look to improve public health from a number of angles.
Resistomap in November reported that it has raised two million euros in seed funding for the development of a biosecurity intelligence platform that addresses the complex and intricate challenges of environmental antimicrobial resistance.
The funding round was led by Ananda Impact Venture, with support from Gaingels and Business Finland.
The Helsinki-based startup revealed that the platform will feature early-warning systems, in-depth genetic results, advanced prediction models on the spread of antimicrobial resistance and personalised recommendations for dissemination reduction. Underpinning the platform is an extensive environmental antimicrobial resistance database the startup has built together with its customers since 2018.
Windi Muziasari, CEO of Resistomap, argued that such a platform is required to mitigate the spread of antibiotic resistance worldwide and, as a result, preserve the efficacy of antibiotics.
The startup, though, envisions a greater role for its platform.
“Our vision goes beyond antimicrobial resistance,” added Muziasari. “[It is] to build a comprehensive biosecurity platform that addresses a diverse array of disease-causing pathogens, encompassing both those already identified and those that remain undiscovered.”
Antimicrobial resistance has been called the silent pandemic, with estimates suggesting that it contributed to five million deaths worldwide in 2019. As more and more pathogens develop resistance, infections that were previously manageable with antibiotics will become increasingly challenging, leading to higher mortality rates and healthcare costs.
Resistomap will start developing a comprehensive biosecurity intelligence platform with the help of a funding injection of two million euros it received in November.Resistomap
Indeed, the number of deaths linked to antimicrobial resistance is predicted to rise to 10 million by 2050.
Efforts to rein in the silent pandemic have been hindered by a lack of comprehensive and actionable environmental surveillance data, according to Resistomap.
“For too long, antibiotic resistance has loomed as an approaching storm cloud, and so we take great pride in standing alongside Resistomap in its efforts to break this storm while pushing environmental health to the forefront of decision-making worldwide,” stated Zoe Peden, partner at Ananda Impact Ventures.
Muziasari, who is originally from Indonesia, discussed her journey from academia to entrepreneurship with Good News from Finland in August 2022.
Bubbling under: cheaper and faster cancer diagnostics
Hedar Al-Terke, a researcher at Aalto University, has achieved a breakthrough with the potential to increase the use of microbubble technology in cancer diagnostics, thereby making early cancer diagnostics cheaper, faster and easier.
The feasibility of injectable microbubbles as a contrast agent for ultrasound, a more affordable alternative to CT and MRI, has been explored thoroughly due to their propensity to resonate pronouncedly when exposed to high-frequency sound waves. Their widespread adoption has been hindered by two problems, however: typical microbubbles move uncontrollably and last less than 10 minutes in the bloodstream.
Al-Terke and his colleagues have developed a proprietary coating that extends the lifespan of microbubbles to roughly an hour and enables them to adhere to cancer cells. The coating, he told, effectively improves the spatial resolution of ultrasound.
“With this improvement we have achieved an advantage over other cancer imaging devices at a fraction of the cost,” he highlighted earlier in December.
Hedar Al-Terke won the 2023 Physics Innovation of the Year award at Aalto University’s physics department for his efforts.Gavin Pugh / Aalto University
Aalto University also addressed the safety concerns linked to the injection of air to the bloodstream by highlighting that the microbubbles are produced in a sterile environment and are smaller than red blood cells. The smart coating, meanwhile, is edible and any leftover waste can be processed easily by the liver and kidneys.
The next step in the research project is to explore business opportunities for the innovation, as mandated by the terms of the 800 000-euro injection received from Business Finland.
Al-Terke revealed that with pre-clinical trials already underway, the primary goal will be to secure investments that enable the commencement of clinical trials by 2025. The microbubble technology, he believes, can also have other applications, including as drug delivery modalities.
Rejuvenating the skin and mind
Linio Biotech has raised 4.2 million euros in funding to expand the availability of its regenerative aesthetic solution.
The Helsinki-headquartered startup has developed an injectable tissue that accelerates the natural healing of the skin, making it suitable for the repair of skin defects ranging from ageing and scarring.
“With our new funding, we can develop our innovation further and continue commercialisation towards international markets,” commented Karita Reijonsaari, chief executive of Linio Biotech. “The first phase of the investment round was closed now in order for the company to maintain its ambitious roadmap regardless of the challenging situation in the investment climate.”
Launched in Finland in June 2023, products that make use of the innovation are presently being commercialised across the Nordics.
The innovation is geared toward the 40-billion-euro global market for aesthetics and scar healing. Laura Vartiainen, a board member at Linio Biotech representing Takoa Growth, highlighted that regenerative aesthetics is the fastest growing segment of the market, with a compound annual growth rate of 22 per cent.
Linio Biotech in December announced the closing of a four-million-euro funding round that will enable it to continue to commercialise its regenerative aesthetic solution.Marica Rosengard / Linia Biotech
Also forests are regarded as a tool to foster public health in Finland, reveals a recent report by Euronews.
Since 2015, forests located near healthcare centres have been designated as so-called health forests in Hyvinkää, Kajaani, Kouvola, Lahti and Sipoo. The project marks the continuation of an over decade-long effort to explore the health benefits of forests, with researchers of the opinion that exposure to a forest can, in combination with medical treatment, help to cope with conditions such as anxiety, insomnia and pain.
The City of Sipoo, Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare (THL) and University of Helsinki, for example, recently published a study that demonstrates a clinically significant increase in mental well-being from guided treks in forests.
“A human enjoys the sense of really being in a forest and benefits from that feeling,” Adela Pajunen, a biologist who co-coordinated the network that morphed into the project, stated to Euronews in December. “When you can’t see through a forest, so to speak. When you can experience shelter and being hidden. That there are places where you can lick your wounds.”
Pajunen brought the news outlet along as she guided patients from a nearby healthcare centre for a trek in Sipoonkorpi National Park in Sipoo, a town located some 30 kilometres north-east of Helsinki, in December.
“On this outing, we listened to the stream and watched snowflakes. But it can also be plants, animals, birds, insects and stones. The process of nature, birth and death,” she said.