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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When companies work with scientists, they want the truth

Interview with Outi Vainio, Professor of Veterinary Pharmacology
Department of Equine and Small Animal Medicine, Faculty of Veterinary Medicine

 “I study dogs but I’m actually a cat person” exclaims Outi Vainio in her office located at the small animal hospital in Viikki. “We have over 800 000 dogs in our homes in Finland and only now have we started to scientifically understand them. Dogs have become important members of our society and they have a very close bond with humans. During our convergent evolution, dogs have evolved to read humans and understand our signals. This is something that usually only primates can do and it makes dog behavior a very interesting topic for research. So even though I personally like cats, dogs are still amazing to study.”

What kind of experience do you have in business collaboration?

“The roots of my career go back to the pharmaceutical industry where I studied and developed new veterinary medicine drugs. This was many years ago but some of the sedative drugs I developed back then are still on the market today. As a result of this long career in the private sector, it is easy for me to work with businesses as I understand the business language as well as their way of thinking”, Outi explains.

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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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Interview with professor Olli Peltoniemi, Department of Production Animal Medicine, vice-dean for research, Faculty of Veterinary Medicine

What kind of research do you do?

“Looking at the last 10-15 years, our group’s main focus has been on mammal parturition (birth) and the physiology related to it. We are looking at the biology of fertilization and embryo development and all that follows, the birth and early lactation”, professor Olli Peltoniemi, vice-dean of the faculty, explains over morning coffee in the Viikki EE-building restaurant.

Most of the team’s projects are about pigs. “They are just so interesting and dynamic from the point of view of reproduction physiology”, Peltoniemi smiles.  And indeed, so they are. Among mammals, pigs reproduce efficiently. They have a high rate of success in many ways: they bear a high number of piglets in a litter that usually survive well. However, with purposeful breeding also problems have arisen. As many as 30% of the embryos are now lost in the uterus. During parturition, losing one fetus during the process of birth and one over the next few days is typical. “Our team looks at the reasons for these losses. We also aim to influence the immunology of the newly born piglets.”

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