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The Skolar Award goes to… Virpi Virjamo and her groundbreaking research on antibiotics!

Six postdoc researchers pitched their work at Slush at the Skolar Award science pitching finals. The prize went to Virpi Virjamo from the University of Eastern Finland who develops drugs out of coniferous trees.

Text: Kristiina Markkanen, photo: Vilja Pursiainen

Researchers took the stage at Slush on Thursday at the Skolar Award science pitching finals. The 100 000 euro prize for basic research went to postdoc researcher Virpi Virjamo from the University of Eastern Finland.

Virjamo’s research aims at developing novel antibiotics from spruce and pine. She digs into alkaloids, a compound found in coniferous trees that hasn’t been researched much yet. The need for new drugs that could replace defunct antibiotics is crucial since antibiotic resistance is a growing global problem.

”In the best case scenario this research could save countless lives.”

“Antibiotic resistant bacteria are an alarming problem now and in the future. We have a real need for finding functional new medecine. In the best case scenario this research could save countless lives”, Virjamo says.

The 100 000 euro prize renders the researcher speechless in the best way possible.
“It’s very difficult to receive research funding in Finland. It requires a long and detailed research plan that explains specifically what the research entails. The pitching competition was about research ideas and it was a completely different way of presenting them.”

The choice was unanimous: Virjamo won by an eight vote margin. It was important to the jury that the winning pitch took equally into account what had been done in the field before and what can be done in the future. Since Finland has an abundance of coniferous trees Virjamo’s research could prove useful in the forest industry as well.
“The winning research idea has the potential to provide groundbreaking results both in the field of research and business”, says judge and neurologist Kiti Müller.

The Skolar Award semifinals took place on Tuesday November 29th at the Päivälehti Museum. There the jury chose six researchers out of ten to proceed to the final round. The jury consisted of Markku Wilenius, Minna Martikainen, Liisa Välikangas, Kiti Müller, Kalevi Ekman, Johan Lundin, Sampsa Hautaniemi and Nicklas Bergman. Further information on the judges here.

The Skolar Award is a 100,000 euro research grant for a post-doc researcher who comes up with a new, groundbreaking research proposal and has the spirit to test that idea on the pitching stage. The competition is held by Kaskas Media. The award is funded by seven Finnish foundations: Duodecim, Helsingin Sanomat Foundation, Liikesivistysrahasto, The Paulo Foundation, The Runar Bäckström Foundation, Tieteen tiedotus ry and Walter Ahlström Foundation. The Skolar Award competition is a part of Slush Science Track.

Skolar is a school for researchers, created by researchers. Skolar teaches researchers how to communicate their beautiful science in an interesting way.

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