Computational Medicine Research Team

Key Institutions

Computational Medicine Research Team is homed at three institutions. Dr Mika Ala-Korpela is a Professor of Computational Medicine at the Institute of Health Sciences, Faculty of Medicine, University of Oulu, Finland (2009-) and at the School of Social and Community Medicine & the Medical Research Council Integrative Epidemiology Unit (IEU), University of Bristol, UK (2013-). In Oulu we focus on the modelling and statistical aspects of the data generated by our serum NMR metabolomics platform as well as on the epidemiological and genetic applications of the quantitative molecular data. Our NMR metabolomics laboratory in Finland is situated in Kuopio, at the University of Eastern Finland and led by Dr Pasi Soininen, Assistant Professor in Metabolomics. In Kuopio we focus on the experimental NMR analyses of serum and other biological samples as well as advanced spectral analysis. Kuopio is the key site for our R&D of new experimental metabolomics methodologies. Collaboration with IEU, a large alliance of research excellence at the University of Bristol, led by Professor George Davey Smith, is bringing in a wide variety of expertise in systems epidemiology. University of Bristol has also recently put up a Metabolomics Core Facility dedicated to serum NMR metabolomics.

Research Focus

The Computational Medicine Research Team takes a life-course systems epidemiology approach on understanding health and disease aetiology. We are interested in systemic metabolism, multi-parametric data analysis methods, metabolic phenotyping as well as risk assessment and diagnostics. We are taking advantage of various ‘omics technologies and data in building up new knowledge on common metabolic disorders (like diabetes and cardiovascular diseases).

We have pioneered the development and applications of quantitative high-throughput serum NMR metabolomics in molecular epidemiology and genetics via a novel serum NMR metabolomics platform developed by the Team in Finland. This methodology has been used to analyse close to 200,000 blood specimens. All the current data have been acquired using two platforms, one operational since January 2009 and the other since February 2013. Based on the present funding and strategic decisions, at least six additional serum NMR metabolomics platforms are expected to be up and running in Finland and in the United Kingdom by the end of 2015, which increases the capacity of the platform analyses to over 250,000 samples per year.

We are phasing an era when extensive sets of samples can be profiled by NMR metabolomics in a short time scale. The resulting coherent quantitative metabolite data can be meta-analysed across multiple cohorts in standard manners. Interestingly, in comparison to the current expenditure on genome-wide arrays, the cost of the quantitative serum NMR metabolomics is only around one-third. It is therefore no longer unrealistic to envision that quantitative metabolomics would be incorporated as a routine for all serum samples in large biobanks and epidemiological cohorts; this would make perfect sense both from the biological research and cost point of view – the standard output of over 200 molecular measures would vastly extend the biomedical relevance of the sample collections. Moreover, keeping in mind that many routine clinical and epidemiological markers, including various cholesterol measures, triglycerides, apolipoproteins A-I and B, creatinine, albumin and glucose are also included in the platform output, the saving from avoiding many separate clinical chemistry assays would simply cover the cost of the metabolomics.

Funding & Support

Our work has been supported by the Academy of Finland, TEKES - the Finnish Funding Agency for Technology and Innovation, the Sigrid Juselius Foundation, the Novo Nordisk Foundation, the Emil Aaltonen Foundation, the Jenny and Antti Wihuri Foundation, the Orion-Farmos Research Foundation, the Finnish Diabetes Research Foundation, Instrumentarium Science Foundation, the Finnish Cardiovascular Research Foundation, the Paulo Foundation, the Emil Aaltonen Foundation, the Yrjö Jahnsson Foundation, the Paavo Nurmi Foundation, and the strategic and infrastructural research funding from the University of Oulu, Finland. In addition, our current endeavours towards large-scale systems epidemiology are funded by the British Heart Foundation, the UK Wellcome Trust, and the UK Medical Research Council and the University of Bristol via the Integrative Epidemiology Unit (IEU).