This page in Swedish

Matej Orešič - new professor 2021

Matej Orešič.

Matej Orešič is professor of medicine, specialising in systems medicine. His research is focused on studying the causes of diseases before they cause symptoms for better treatment and prevention. His research has focused on type 1 diabetes, among other topics. In his research, he applies a systems medicine approach, where the body is viewed as a whole and where metabolomics is viewed as an essential scientific method.


1967 Born in Maribor, Slovenia

1999 Obtained his PhD in biophysics at Cornell University, USA, with his thesis Studies of specific correlations between synonymous codon usage and protein secondary structure

2005 Docent of computational systems biology at Aalto University, Finland

2020 Professor of medical sciences, specialising in systems medicine at Örebro University

Read more about Matej Orešič

Matej Orešič had initially envisioned a career in theoretical physics.

“My supervisor at Cornell University, David Shalloway, was a former theoretical physics also ran a molecular biology laboratory. I was already interested in biology, and he convinced me to apply my knowledge of physics, mathematics and computer science to solve problems in biology,” says Matej Orešič.

And so it was. Matej Orešič’s continued research focused on bioinformatics, with his thesis in biophysics, and studied biochemistry and cognitive science. After the dissertation, it was time for a new step.

“At the time, a large part of the development in bioinformatics and systems biology was underway in the industry, with Boston as a global centre.”

Moved to Europe

Matej Orešič worked for several companies, but at the same time, he had plans to move to continue his research. Not to Slovenia but Europe. It happened to be Finland, and he started in 2003 as a researcher at the state-owned VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland (link) in Espoo. Here, opportunities existed to build research and infrastructure for applications of metabolomics and systems biology.

After two years, in 2005, he was appointed associate professor of computational systems biology at what is now Aalto University in Espoo. He was also affiliated to Bioscience Centre at the University of Turku and, in 2007, appointed a research professor of systems biology and bioinformatics at VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland. In 2017, his latest move brought him to Örebro University.

Matej Orešič’s primary research involves applying metabolomics in biomedicine and system biology. Metabolomics is the scientific study of small molecules, known as metabolites, in the body; how they interact and change in healthy and sick people.

“Metabolomics opens up new opportunities to diagnose and predict various diseases as well as prevent them,” he says.

Interested in lifestyle, genetic factors, and the environment

System medicine is, by definition, interdisciplinary research.

“We see the human body as a whole, and system medicine includes biochemistry, physiology, and environmental impact. For the future, the goal is for system medicine to provide the conditions to make diagnoses based on underlying factors instead of symptoms.”

Matej Orešič has a particular interest in examining how lifestyle, genetic factors and the environment affect health and diseases. This connection applies in particular to metabolism and the immune system, and metabolomics is a fundamental prerequisite for gaining new knowledge about human health and diseases.

In recent years, Matej Orešič has published a series of studies on type 1 diabetes, non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) and neuropsychiatric disorders. He showed over ten years ago that disturbances of metabolism precede the development of type 1 diabetes. Recent studies have confirmed the link and also demonstrated that this effect exists already at birth.

“But we still don’t know how they arise and how they affect the development of the disease.”

The study that provided a clue

But last year Matej Orešič, together with Professor Tuulia Hyötyläinen, came up with a study that provides a clue. It shows that some chemicals in the environment cause the same disruption to metabolism, leading to an increased risk of type 1 diabetes.

“I am now studying how the chemicals interact with the intestinal flora, metabolism and the immune system, and how this, in turn, affects the risk of developing type 1 diabetes and potentially also other diseases affected by the immune system. I hope that new knowledge will be able to provide the opportunity to predict and prevent the disease.”

Matej Orešič has research funding from, among others, the Swedish Research Council, the European Commission, Formas, Novo Nordisk Foundation, and the Academy of Finland. He has led three major projects funded by the European Commission; he has spoken at around 100 international conferences and published over 280 peer-review articles.

In 2018, he hosted in Örebro the first conference of The Nordic Metabolomics Society, which brings together researchers from Nordic countries.

A selection of Matej Orešič’s assignments and appointments:

  • Lifetime honorary fellow of the Metabolomics Society (2016), in recognition of groundbreaking development of metabolomics data processing tools and powerful analytical methods that have enabled systems-level investigations of processes that lead to obesity and diabetes, with a specific focus on type 1 diabetes.
  • Co-founder and current Chairman of the Board of the Nordic Metabolomics Society.
  • Current member of the Board of Directors of the Metabolomics Society
    Panel member of the European Research Council - Consolidator Grants (2012–2020)
  • Member of the Horizon 2020 Advisory Group, Societal Challenge 1 Health, demographic change, and wellbeing (2013 – 2018).
  • Group leader in systems medicine at the University of Turku
  • Guest professor in lipids and nutrition at the Oil Crops Research Institute, Wuhan, China.