Bioeconomy goes hand in hand with cancer research in a joint project between UPM and FIMM

Press Release 12.5.2016 11:00 EEST

(UPM, Helsinki, 12 May 2016 at 10:00 EET) - The Institute for Molecular Medicine Finland (FIMM), at the University of Helsinki and UPM Biochemicals have started a joint research project with the purpose of investigating the applicability of UPM's new cellulose-based gel material for cancer research.

The project focuses on growing cancer cells on a three-dimensional culture using UPM's new biomaterial and studying the drug responses of the cancer cells. This exciting research project brings together two growth areas: bioeconomy and personalised medicine.

"One of the key challenges in experimental drug testing is being able to grow cells in a laboratory in an environment that resembles the human body," says Senior Researcher Vilja Pietiäinen, who is responsible for coordinating the project at FIMM.

"We need better three-dimensional models for cell culture so that cells from cancer tissue would retain their distinctive characteristics also outside the body. Creating an environment that resembles tissue requires new types of materials."

UPM concentrates on innovations related to the efficient and responsible use of recyclable and renewable wood biomass. The biomaterial used in this joint research project is a cellulose-based hydrogel developed by UPM. It is highly biocompatible with human cells and tissues and it can be used in three-dimensional cell culture.

"This joint project is a great opportunity for us to collaborate with an internationally recognised expert in their field and find new life science applications for our biomaterial. The hydrogel that will be used in the project is one example of our innovations in the field of bioeconomy. These innovations help us create new business opportunities related to the use of renewable biomass," says Pia Nilsson, head of the GrowDex business at UPM Biochemicals.

FIMM, the academic partner in the research project, specialises in research into personalised medicine. The institute's high throughput screening unit allows researchers to determine the response of different types of cancer cells to hundreds of drugs in only a few days. The constantly increasing amount of data enables researchers to identify cancer cell characteristics that help predict the most efficient drug for each type of cancer. In time, this information will also help patients.

"We foresee that co-operation with UPM can help us build better cell models also for the needs of personalised medicine," Vilja Pietiäinen continues.

For further information please contact:
Pia Nilsson, Senior Manager, UPM Biochemicals, tel. +358 40 558 7829
Vilja Pietiäinen, Senior Researcher, FIMM, University of Helsinki, tel. +358 40 5102546

UPM, Media Relations
9.00-16.00 EET
tel. +358 40 588 3284

UPM Biochemicals offers sustainable and competitive wood-based biochemicals for a variety of industrial uses, without compromising product performance. The principal raw material of our products is certified wood originating from sustainably managed forests. We develop new bio-based materials for the biomedical and other sectors. We aim to expedite the development of new solutions through our collaboration with a number of different partners.

Through the renewing of the bio and forest industries, UPM is building a sustainable future across six business areas: UPM Biorefining, UPM Energy, UPM Raflatac, UPM Paper Asia, UPM Paper ENA and UPM Plywood. Our products are made of renewable raw materials and are recyclable. We serve our customers worldwide. The group employs around 19,600 people and its annual sales are approximately EUR 10 billion. UPM shares are listed on NASDAQ OMX Helsinki. UPM - The Biofore Company -

Follow UPM on Twitter | LinkedIn | Facebook | YouTube | Instagram

The Institute for Molecular Medicine Finland (FIMM) is an international research institute in Helsinki focusing on human genomics and personalised medicine. FIMM integrates molecular medicine research, Technology Centre and Biobanking Infrastructures "under one roof" and thereby promotes translational research and adoption of personalised medicine in health care.

FIMM is an independent institute of the University of Helsinki and part of the Nordic EMBL Partnership for Molecular Medicine, composed of the European Molecular Biology Laboratory (EMBL) and the centres for molecular medicine in Norway, Sweden and Denmark. In 2015, FIMM had a personnel of 220 and a budget of around 17 million euros, with more than 50% arising from external competitive grants. More information: