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Vincenzo Cerullo: “Slush gives you the opportunity to think about the importance of your research.”

Researchers brought science into the spotlight at last year’s Slush. This winter you should too. Here’s why.

Text: Kristiina Markkanen, photo: Vilja Pursiainen

If you ask cancer researcher Vincenzo Cerullo to give a minute long pitch on what he’s working on, he will give it to you with zero hesitation in a way a smart pre-schooler could understand. In fact, he can even illustrate it with little cartoons. This is what he did at last year’s Slush Science Pitching. His life hasn’t been the same since. Cerullo’s team has received more than 2.5 million euros worth of research funding from among others Tekes and the European Research Council.

“Slush was super duper! I loved it. Researchers need to experience it in order to start thinking in a new way”, Cerullo says, talking a mile a minute. He was and still is impressed by the go-getter mindset of the startup world and wishes researchers would embrace it as well.

”I think Slush can change your attitude towards science.”

Cerullo hails from the faculty of pharmacy at the University of Helsinki. In recent years he’s been working on masking viruses as tumor cells in order to destroy cancer. Although tumors are invisible to the human body, our bodies fight viruses well and get rid of them in a few days. This research has led to product called PeptiCrad, a vaccination that fights cancer.

Slush can make you a better scientist

The idea for PeptiCrad has been good since day one. However, according to Cerullo, a good idea isn’t enough. In order to push your research as far as it can go, you need a complete package. For Cerullo the complete package consists mainly of Helsinki Innovation Services (HIS), Slush Science Pitching and an open-minded attitude towards other people.

“Don’t ever think you can commercialize your research by yourself. That’s stupid. You have to trust people around you and if the university has a good service, you have to use it”, Cerullo says.

Thanks to his team and the people he met through Slush Cerullo doesn’t have to do much on his own. Instead of having to chase investors for funding, they approached him. He now has a company called ProVince Tx whose CEO Michael Stein he finds perfect for the job. In addition his team consists of researchers Sari Pesonen and Tuuli Ranki from the faculty of pharmacy at the University of Helsinki. Three more people will join the team in the near future. Cerullo seems sincerely humbled and grateful by the opportunities Slush provided.

“I think Slush can change your attitude towards science. It will make you a better scientist since it gives you the opportunity to really think about the importance of your research.”

”Scientists can’t discover things for the sake of discovery.”

Embrace your surroundings

The world is full of good ideas lost in publications and pdf-documents no one reads. Vincenzo Cerullo cringes when he thinks of all the potentially groundbreaking ideas and beautiful thoughts that just sit on desks.

“Scientists can’t discover things for the sake of discovery. If we want to improve the world, we need to push these discoveries further. For me Slush was a way to do that”, he recalls.

Whether it’s the well lit stage at a huge conference hall or a lunch break at the office, it’s crucial to embrace the environment. We’re constantly surrounded by bright minds and inspiring people, so why not take advantage?

“If you stop for a minute and take a look at what your environment is offering you, you can get an excellent chance of getting ahead”, Cerullo says, no doubt thinking about the three minutes on stage that changed his life last November.

Read more about the Slush Science Track program here!

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