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ELIXIR Finland showcases its impact on research and innovation

A new publication demonstrates how ELIXIR Finland, operated by CSC - IT Center for Science, supports life science research, biotechnological innovation and its translation into the knowledge economy. The publication features 19 user case stories, presenting the full breadth of infrastructure services offered by ELIXIR Finland.

"In 2018 ELIXIR Finland has supported more than 300 life science research projects, spanning from DNA analysis and cancer research, to plant breeding and climate change", stated Tommi Nyrönen, the Head of ELIXIR Finland.

"The research topics of these project are very diverse, but the all have one in common: they all need to store, maintain, combine and analyse life science data. The 19 stories compiled in our publication present concrete ways how ELIXIR Finland drives forward life science research."

One example of the impact of ELIXIR on life science research is project led by Mikko Niemi from University of Helsinki. Mikko Niemi is developing an algorithm to help predict the necessary dose of adverse effects of a drug, based on patients' healthcare data combined with their genome information.

To systematically use genomic data in health care and link it with patient records, ELIXIR Finland collaborates with national partners to combine genetic data stored in the Biobank of the National Institute for Health and Welfare, with patient documentation in the Helsinki University Hospital. The goal is to create a secure framework for storing genomics data and interpreting them in clinical practice.

Another example comes from the Finnish National Plant Phenotyping Infrastructure (NaPPI). NaPPI produce and analyse a massive amount of plant phenotyping data; they are collected and digitised automatically and then combined with genomic data to breed novel varieties of plants with increased crop yields or improved resistance to drought or diseases.

However, data on plant phenotypes has not been standardised, so every research group has been producing and categorizing phenotypic data on their own; as a result data coming from different laboratories could not be compared and combined.

ELIXIR Finland is in unique position to offer their own storage and analysis capacities to plant scientists in Finland. At the same time, they can benefit from the results of the ELIXIR Plant sciences Community, which has developed universal standards for phenotypic data and metadata. It has now become possible not only to produce standardized data at national level, but also to link it to comprehensive Europe-wide database.

Storing and analysing genomic data at the scale of millions and connecting there data with other resources, such as lifestyle data or health records, will transform our understanding how diseases are born, how they progress and how they can be cured through individual treatment. Bringing together massive life science datasets in Europe and making them reliably accessible is the core mission of ELIXIR.

Merja Särkioja, Senior Science Adviser at the Academy of Finland, stated: "High-quality research requires top-flight infrastructure services, which few countries can provide on their own. International cooperation makes it possible to provide world-class services to Finnish researchers and other actors. The multidisciplinary services offered by the ELIXIR infrastructure meet the ever increasing needs of research for storing, maintaining and analysing research data."

The ELIXIR publication is available online.