Leena Peltonen, an internationally renowned molecular geneticist, is the first woman to be the sole recipient of the Fernström foundation's Nordic prize. Dr. Peltonen is active at the University of Helsinki and the Finnish National Institute of Public Health. Her current research focuses on finding the genetic variants that contribute to common diseases such as multiple sclerosis, schizophrenia, bipolar disease and elevated lipids. Some of these diseases are particularly common in certain parts of Finland.

In the past, Dr. Peltonen's studies have included special hereditary diseases found in Finland, which because of its many centuries of relative isolation has an unusually homogeneous population. As recently as the 12th century it was believed that only about 50,000 people lived in the country, and the sparse population led to many cases of intermarriage. Consequently, as many as 35 hereditary diseases occur more frequently in Finland than anywhere else. In more than half the cases, Dr. Peltonen and her colleagues have successfully identified the genetic variant underlying these diseases and developed a method of establishing a DNA diagnosis for them. Research about the molecular background of these unusual diseases has also provided new knowledge of the body's complicated metabolic network.

The Eric K. Fernström foundation annually awards its Nordic prize to a medical researcher from one of the Nordic countries, as well as local prizes to young scientists at each medical faculty in Sweden. The prize, which is for SEK 1 million, is one of the biggest Scandinavian research prizes in the field of medicine.

MEDICA.de; Source: Lund University