keynote speaker Marjo-Riitta Järvelin

Marjo-Riitta Jarvelin, MD, MSc, PhD, FFPM
Professor and Chair in Lifecourse Epidemiology
Director of Postgraduate Studies, School of Public Health, Imperial College London

Northern Finland Birth Cohorts

In 1980, I graduated as Licenciate of Medicine (MD) from (Univ Oulu, Finland), Specialist in Paediatrics in 1987, and MSc in Environmental Epidemiology and Policy (Univ London) and PhD in Epidemiology and Medical Science (Univ Oulu).

I am Professor and Chair in Lifecourse Epidemiology at Imperial College London, UK (since 2002), also holding a part-time professorship at the Univ Oulu and consultant position at the Univ Hospital Oulu.  I have been running large-scale population based studies for over 25 years, working on the genetic and early life environmental origins of multi-factorial diseases and disorders, in close collaboration with many international institutions, groups and networks. I am a director of the Northern Finland Birth Cohort (NFBC) research programme (about 20 000 subjects, born in 1966 and 1986 and their 35,000 parents), and have an active role in research training as Director of Postgraduate Studies at School of Public Health, Imperial College London.

The NFBCs represent the world’s largest study from early pregnancy until middle age with clinical, genetic and metabolomic data ( This unique database offers us an unparalleled opportunity to study socio-demographic, environmental, developmental, metabolic, genetic and epigenetic determinants of disorders, diseases, especially their intermediate stages. Consequently, over 400 researchers from all over the world are involved in these studies. The NFBC programme is rapidly growing, with completion of 46-year follow-up data in NFBC1966. As a scientific director of the NFBC, my goal is to facilitate the exploitation of the novel follow-up data, lead research initiatives, strengthen the existing research themes and further develop the NFBCs towards novel areas in genetic epidemiology, including epigenetics.

My areas of research expertise include analyses of life-course (including growth, development), environmental, clinical metabolic/cardiovascular and biomarker data. The NFBC1966 has been the flag-ship in many large candidate gene and genome-wide association studies (GWAS) and more recently now in sequencing efforts. We have published a major role in key papers reporting results on genetic and other determinants of obesity, blood pressure, lipids, other metabolic/hormonal phenotypes and behaviours [e.g. in EU funded EURO-BLCS (coordinator), EU ENGAGE project, EurHealthAgeing, EpiMigrant, Nordic Network on Cardiovascular diseases(NORNET) and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD); among others]. Recently, for the first time, in collaboration with other international groups we were able to identify genetic polymorphisms which link poor early growth and T2D, NFBC studies playing a central role. We have developed many methods which are applicable to clinical practice, such as the obesity calculator, and risk assessment tool for cardiovascular death.

Since 1993 I have supervised 27 PhDs and several other MSc/advanced studies, and been a reviewer for international peer evaluation committees, like The Wellcome Trust Peer Review College, UK, The Research Council of Norway, The Swiss National Science Foundation, Association pour la Recherché  sur le Diabetes.  In 2006, I received an award of Excellence in Genetic Epidemiology at Imperial College London. In 2012, I was honoured by the title, Epidemiologist of the Year in Finland and in 2013 was invited to join, as a member, the Finnish Academy of Sciences.