Leena Peltonen-Palotie was considered one of the world's leading molecular geneticists. She contributed to the identification of 15 genes for Finnish heritage diseases, including arterial hypertension, schizophrenia, lactose intolerance, arthrosis and multiple sclerosis.
Peltonen-Palotie (1952 -2010) ran research groups at the University of Oulu, the University of Helsinki, the National Public Health Institute of Finland, the University of California Los Angeles, the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard in Boston and the Sanger Institute in Cambridge, UK.
She held several professorships and other significant positions at research organisations both in Finland and abroad. E.g. she was the project director in the EU project GenomEUtwin that was formed to define and characterize the genetic components in the background of different diseases.
Peltonen-Palotie published over 500 research articles and almost 80 invited articles. She played a pivotal role in training a new generation of gene researchers in Finland and the United States as she mentored over 70 PhD students. In 2006, Peltonen-Palotie was awarded the the European van Gysel Prize and the Nordic Fernstrom Prize and in 2009, she was awarded the honorary title of Academician of Science in Finland.
The Leena Peltonen Prize (The Paulo Foundation) was established in winter 2010 to recognize scientists who are in the early phases of their independent careers. The first prize was awarded to Dr. Cecilia Lindgren in 2013 for her work in on applying genetics and genomics to dissect the etiology of type 2 diabetes, obesity and fat distribution. The second recipient in 2016 was Dr. Benjamin Neale who was awarded for his contributions in developing statistical genetics and applying these methods to cracking the genetics of neuropsychiatric diseases.
Henna Tyynismaa is the rising star of genetic research, making impressive progress in helping us understand causes of diseases. Her research is making important new breakthroughs for personalised medicine.
She praises pioneers such as the late Leena Peltonen-Palotie. "Leena was a tremendous inspiration to many of us. Finland has had great people spearheading our genetic research right from the start," she says.
The Academy of Finland decided to fund twelve Centres of Excellence for the period 2018‒2025 and Tyynismaa´s research group was one of them in Stem Cell Metabolism.