VETCARE: A BUSINESS-UNIVERSITY COLLABORATION SUCCESS STORY

Interview with Vetcare CEO Kalevi Heinonen and R&D Director Vesa Myllys

I arrive at Vetcare on a beautiful and cool October day in the pleasant town of Mäntsälä. Looking from the outside, the buildings blend calmly into the scenery and there is nothing to suggest that this tranquil place is where the innovative Finnish animal drug development meets international and ever growing markets. Yet, this is the case, and Vetcare is one of the key collaboration partners of the Faculty of Veterinary Medicine and a great industrial success story of its own.

I meet CEO Kalevi Heinonen and R&D Director Vesa Myllys first for lunch. I learn that Vetcare was founded 26 years ago by three veterinarians, of which Kalevi Heinonen was one. Vetcare employs 45 staff and has doubled its budget every five years so far. They market animal drugs in Finland and develop new medication in their Mäntsälä laboratory for Finnish and international markets. Today, they export all over the globe except Africa and South America.

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A RACE AGAINST TIME: ANTIMICROBIAL RESISTANCE IN THE FOOD CHAIN

Interview with Annamari Heikinheimo, University Lecturer, Division of Food Hygiene and Environmental Health  

Annamari Heikinheimo studies antimicrobial resistance (AMR), the ability of some microbes to fight drugs such as antibiotics. This is a phenomenon parallel to climate change in severity. Resistance develops at an accelerating rate because antibiotics are used so much in today’s world 

 I meet Annamari in a coffee room in the EE building in Viikki. A PhD student is tapping away on a PC in the corner. ”We need the space”, Annamari says matter-of-factly, and with the same tone continues: ”In 2050, we’ll all know people who have died of infections immune to any medicine. Then, more people will die of these superinfections than of cancer”. We will have entered a post-antibiotic era, she says.  

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FROM ECOLOGY IN A BOX TO REDUCING FOOD WASTE

Interview with Johanna Björkroth, professor, Department of Food Hygiene and Environmental Health, Faculty of Veterinary Medicine

Packaged food is a man-made ecological niche for spoilage bacteria. The microbial community within it follows ecological succession, a phenomenon more familiar to most of us in the context of a forest: the process of change in the species structure of an ecological community over time. A slice of fresh meat is home to a million species of bacteria, approximately 10 000 individuals per gram. This microbial community begins to grow the minute the meat is packaged in protective gas. The carbon dioxide atmosphere inside the package blocks the growth of 90% of the species. When the food is spoiled, there are 100 million microbes per gram but only less than a thousand microbial species have grown. Because the food is stored at cool temperatures, the remaining species are cold-tolerant lactic acid bacteria, enterobacteria and a few others.

I meet Johanna Björkroth, award-winning professor of food hygiene, in her room on a summer day on Viikki campus. What is so exciting about spoiled vegetables and meat?

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Dialogue Laboratory: research and experimenting in decision-making

A year ago, ten experts from different fields participated in training of dialogue skills at the Aretai Dialogue Academy. After the 4-month-long training, we felt we were on to something and decided to keep meeting and sparring one another in using dialogue as a tool in our work lives.

Eventually, we decided we wanted to do more. The idea of “Dialogue Laboratory” was born.

Dialogue Laboratory is a way for us to continue learning the principles of dialogue while, at the same time, offering a time, place, and facilitation for visiting experts to discuss important phenomena. We organise these events every few months, and the theme for the first one was “Research and experimenting in decision-making”. Our first guests were Elina Nikkola from the Knowledge and Research Unit at the Ministry of Forestry and Agriculture and Virve Hokkanen from the Experimenting Finland project at the Prime Minister’s Office.

You can read the whole story (in Finnish) here!