ImmuDocs to train immunology specialists

The University of Turku, together with the InFLAMES Flagship and consortium partners, has applied for funding for the ImmuDocs pilot project for 81 doctoral researchers. The pilot will be carried out in 2024–2027. Its aim is to train doctors with strong immunology expertise for the pharmaceutical and diagnostics sector.

Picture: University of Turku / Suvi Harvisalo

In 2024–2027, the Ministry of Education and Culture will provide funding for a national doctoral training pilot which tests new doctoral training practices in Finland. The pilot also aims to promote the employment of doctors widely in different sectors of society. To this end, the Research Council of Finland organised a call for pilot projects in November, in which the universities that are part of the Finnish Flagship Programme and consortia formed by these universities applied for funding for pilot project costs.

The ImmuDocs consortia are coordinated by the University of Turku and the InFLAMES Flagship. Funding was applied for a total of 81 doctoral researcher positions for three years. These positions are divided between universities as follows: University of Turku: 59, Åbo Akademi University: 6, University of Helsinki: 10, University of Oulu: 2, University of Eastern Finland: 2 and University of Tampere: 2. In addition, ImmuDocs’ consortium partners include the wellbeing services county of Southwest Finland and Finnish Vaccine Research, which contribute to doctoral training with their own extensive experience. 

There is a constant and growing need for immunology expertise

Infections, autoimmune diseases and inflammatory diseases are major challenges for healthcare in the future. These diseases are caused by abnormal immune responses and consequently, influencing the immune system is at the core of the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of diseases. Therefore, healthcare urgently needs specialists who understand the possibilities and costs of immunological treatments.

The business world also needs immunologists. Already more than a hundred companies operating in the rapidly growing field of life sciences in the Turku region have a major, constant need for immunological expertise. This need is not limited to Turku only: the situation is the same in other life science companies operating in Finland. The majority of Finnish universities participate in the ImmuDocs pilot, and thus Turku’s strong immunological expertise benefits the whole country.

Doctoral researchers are supported in many ways

The aim of ImmuDocs is to renew doctoral training with measures that will enable doctoral researchers to complete their dissertations in 3–4 years. These measures include the careful advance assessment and planning of the doctoral dissertation project. In addition, doctoral researchers will be offered a clear, personal, scheduled and structured study plan. Researchers can benefit from enhanced motivation and support activities, their work will be closely monitored and the administrative processes related to studies will be streamlined. When applying for the participation in the programme, doctoral researchers and their supervisors must commit to new practices.

Half of the positions of ImmuDocs doctoral researchers will be filled from the beginning of August 2024 and half from the beginning of January 2025. There will therefore be two application processes during 2024.

The application process has two stages. In the first stage, research groups submit their doctoral dissertation research plans to the ImmuDocs Board, which selects the plans to be advanced. The selected doctoral dissertation projects and their descriptions will be published on the ImmuDocs pilot website and an open application process will be launched for doctoral researchers to participate in them. The details will be defined in spring 2024.

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