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News archive

2012 2013 2014 2015 2016



Finnish researchers correct Parkinson's motor symptoms in mice
A research group led by University of Helsinki Docent Timo Myöhänen has succeeded in correcting the motor symptoms associated with Parkinson's disease in mice. These results are promising in terms of treatment, since Parkinson's disease is practically always diagnosed only after motor symptoms appear.


Consumption of Mentha plants may be good for the health (21.12.2015) According to Karmen Kapp's doctoral dissertation, water extracts of peppermint teas were active against C. pneumoniae in vitro. Water extracts of Mentha plants showed in antibacterial activity against Staphylococcus aureus. Essential oils and mint flavouring hydrodistilled extracts inhibited the growth of Escherichia coli and S. aureus.

Prof. Risto Kostiainen and Prof. Arto Urtti awarded decorations by the President of the Republic(3.12.2015) The President of the Republic, Sauli Niinistö, has decided to award Professor Risto Kostiainen and Professor Arto Urtti the decoration of the Knight, First Class,
of the Order of the White Rose of Finland on the Finnish Independence Day, 6 December.

Customer relations are essential for successful pharmaceutical product launch(1.11.2015) A successful pharmaceutical product launch should focus on appropriate relationship marketing activities conducted in a timely manner to achieve customer acceptance and financial launch performance, says Minna Matikainen in her doctoral thesis.

Alfred Kordelin Prize for Professor Jari Yli-Kauhaluoma (6.11.2015) Professor Jari Yli-Kauhaluoma has been awarded the Alfred Kordelin Prize for his work in drug development. The € 30,000 prize was handed out on 6 November in Helsinki.

More efficient derivatives of betulin for drug development (5.11.2015) In her doctoral thesis, Raisa Haavikko has synthesized betulin derivatives aiming for example at medication against a protozoan parasite Leishmania donovani and aggressive prostate cancer.

The future of drug development: A stem cell-derived liver(29.9.2015) PhD Yan-Ru Lou is developing a 3D liver derived from stem cells. Her work could speed up the drug discovery process considerably and eventually pave the way to personalised drugs.

Blending experiences: new tools in pharmacy teaching(21.9.2015) Adyary Fallarero's course combines face-to-face and online lectures, audio feedback and online assignments.

Computer modelling helps creating drugs that reach even the retina(6.9.2015) Eva María del Amo Páez developed new computer models for systemic and ocular pharmacokinetics and drug delivery. These models will hopefully speed up the development of new medications. It takes usually 12 to 15 years before a drug candidate reaches the market.

Three innovative projects get "risk-taking funding" from the Academy of Finland (6.9.2015) The Academy of Finland has launched a funding trial to support particularly innovative and high-quality projects confirmed to involve promising risk-taking in terms of research. Out of the ten projects funded , three belong to the Faculty of Pharmacy. Leena Kontturi (Light triggered and pH sensitive liposomes with gold nanoparticles for posterior eye drug delivery), Yan-Ru Lou (Stem cell-derived, three-dimensional liver: the missing link in drug discovery) and Tapani Viitala (Real-time label-free cell based in vitro models for mechanistic understanding of emerging nanomedicines).

Oral medication for type 2 diabetes one step closer (31.8.2015) A multifunctional nanocarrier holding anti-diabetic drugs slips right through the biological barriers along the gastrointestinal tract and delivers the medicine to the target.

Oluwaseun Oyemade to receive a Faculty for the Future grant (16.7.2015) PhD student Oluwaseun Oyemade from Nigeria has been awarded a Faculty for the Future grant of the Schlumberger Foundation. The grant is intended for the 2015-2016 academic year to study under Professor Marja Airaksinen. More than a thousand applications were submitted and only 155 grants were awarded. Oluwaseun Oyemade's project concentrates on urban Nigerians and their coping with different health problems.

Nanocrystals: more tools for delivering poorly water soluble drugs (16.6.2015) Nanocrystal technologies have been introduced as advantageous formulation approaches for poorly water soluble molecules. Annika Tuomela studied for her doctoral dissertation both liquid and solid nanocrystal dosage forms and prepared high-quality nanocrystal suspensions using wet milling technique. She also developed an in vivo effective nanocrystal suspension formulation for ocular delivery to treat elevated intraocular pressure.

Researchers discover weak spot in malaria-causing protozoan (15.6.2015) The cell membrane of the protozoan that causes malaria has an enzyme that humans lack. Researchers are now designing a drug that would block the functioning of this enzyme in an effort to destroy the protozoan without impacting its human host.

Professor Arto Urtti nominated to the CRS advisory board (11.6.2015) CRS (Controlled Release Society) is an international organisation covering the field of controlled release: scientific and technical efforts to regulate the spatial and temporal effects of agents in for example human and animal health as well as non-pharmaceutical areas.

Rheumatoid arthritis: biologic drugs at least as safe and efficient as methotrexate(28.5.2015) Rheumatoid arthritis is treated with synthetic disease-modifying anti-rheumatic (sDMARDs) and biologic drugs. More than 20% of Finnish patients with rheumatoid arthritis are using biologic drugs based on the inhibition of tumor necrosis factor, with a majority of them in combination therapy with sDMARDs. Kalle Aaltonen found out in his doctoral thesis that the efficacy and safety of biologic drugs are comparable to methotrexate and only few differences between individual agents could be observed.

Rhazya stricta: biotechnological methods developed for alkaloid production(26.5.2015) Amir Akhgari developed the first simple and efficient gene transfer method  for Rhazya stricta, a traditional medicinal plant in the Middle East and South Asia. Rhazya stricta  produces a large number of terpenoid indole alkaloids, and some of them have important pharmacological properties. He also established new analytical methods which made possible a comprehensive investigation of the alkaloids.

Best Thesis Award to Dongfei Liu (22.4.2015) Dr Dongfei Liu has been awarded with the Best Thesis Award of the University of Helsinki. In his doctoral thesis, Porous Silicon-Based Multicomposites for Controlled Drug Delivery, he developed a method for manufacturing medical composite nanomaterials with an ability to control the exact contents of the composites.

Excellence in Research Award by the ASGCT to Mari Hirvinen (15.4.2015) Mari Hirvinen has been awarded an Excellence in Research Award by the American Society of Gene & Cell Therapy (ASGCT). Mari got the award because of her excellent abstract Boosting the Immunogenicity of an Oncolytic Vaccinia Virus By Expression of DAI Can Enhance Anti-Tumor Immunity in Humanized Mice, which was chosen as one of the top six amongst thousands of abstracts submitted for the ASGCT Annual Meeting.

Creating homogenous tunable nanoparticles(8.4.2015) A microfluidic platform created by Dr Santos' and Dr Sikanen's groups produces homogeneous nanoparticles with tunable properties with the helpo of a high throughput synthesis.

Unique technique helps building innovative nanomedicines for cancer therapy(16.3.2015) A new multi-stage nanocomposite for cancer therapy has been produced by nanoprecipitation.

New information on Parkinson's disease and GDNF (4.3.2015) Recent Finnish study overturns results from seven years ago. Neurotrophic factor GDNF is not needed by the midbrain dopamine system.

Testing the possibilities of porous silicon nanoparticles for cancer therapy (24.2.2015) Anticancer drugs kill the rapidly dividing cancer cells, but they can also cause severe damage to healthy tissues. Nanocarriers can be modified for targeted drug delivery applications. Chang-Fang Wang modified the surface structures of the porous silicon nanoparticles in different ways to enhance their uptake in tumour cells.

Porous silicon nanoparticles: surface modification has significant effects (11.2.2015) Mohammad-Ali Shabhazi's doctoral dissertation points out that surface structure can affect the toxicological profiles the, cellular interactions and the therapeutic effects of the porous silicon nanoparticles.

Memorandum of Understanding signed with the Guangdong Pharmaceutical University, China (23.1.2015) Joint research topics, researcher and teacher exchange and educational collaboration have been discussed with the GDPU in China. More detailed mutual agreements on different activities are still needed.

An Iranian research prize for Mohammad-Ali Shahbazi (16.1.2015) Mohammad-Ali Shahbazi has received prize of the Best Young Researcher of Pharmaceutical Sciences in The 20th Razi Medical Sciences Research Festival, Iran.


World-class research in pharmacy at the University of Helsinki (3.12.2014) Research in pharmacy was rated highly in the Academy of Finland Tieteen tila (The State of Science) report for 2014. Successful recruitments and new technology provide opportunities to further improve the University's international cooperation and funding base.

Reward for exceptionally productive research work for Hélder Santos (6.11.2014) The Dean of the Faculty of Pharmacy has decided to reward Dr. Hélder Santos for his exceptionally productive research work in 2014. Dr. Santos has published 29 articles in peer rewied journals by the end of October.

€ 283.000 grant for a molecular nanomachine for Hongbo Zhang (28.10.2014) Dr. Hongbo Zhang has been awarded a Jane and Aatos Erkko Foundation grant to build a porous silicon-based multifunctional nanoshuttle for cancer therapy. The grant is for three years.

Vincenzo Cerullo awarded the Outstanding Young Investigator Award in Gene and Cell Therapy (27.10.2014) Assistant professor Vincenzo Cerullo has been awarded the Outstanding Young Investigator Award in Gene and Cell Therapy 2014 by ESGCT, European Society of Gene and Cell Therapy. The € 1,000 award is given to a young investigator from PhD through to 9 years post doc.

Monitoring steroids and vitamin D: new methods (2.10.2014) For analyzing steroids, vitamin D and oxysterols, Linda Ahonen has developed new methods based on mass spectrometry. These compounds, members of the lipid group, are important in the function of the human body. In many cases, the monitoring of these analytes can be of high value.
"With some additional development, some of the presented methods could be implemented for example in routine laboratories", says Linda Ahonen in her doctoral thesis.

New tools for cell therapy developed (3.9.2014) Leena-Stiina Kontturi found out in her doctoral dissertation that hydrogel made of cross-linked collagen and interpenetrating hyaluronic acid is promising in capsulating cells producing anti-angiogenic protein for the treatment of retinal neovascularization. She also developed a cell-encapsulating device and a PK/PD model that could be used to predict therapeutic responses after intravitreal anti-angiogenic drug delivery.

Porous silicon-based multicomposites can carry simultaneously different therapeutical molecules (2.9.2014) There is a huge interest for creating multicomposites that could carry several different kinds of therapeutic molecules simultaneously for controlled drug delivery. Dongfei Liu's doctoral dissertation shows how a promising porous silicon-based multicomposite carrier was designed, prepared and characterized. Multicomposite systems represent a promising platform for future targeted combination therapies.

Wood-derived nanofibrillar cellulose hydrogel suitable for 3D culture of liver cells (1.9.2014) New organotypic liver cell cultures are needed to predict the metabolism, excretion, and safety of chemical compounds. Melina Malinen has in her doctoral dissertation developed 3D culture methods for licer cells. In 3D structure, the cells can function more normally than in nowadays more typical 2D cultures.

Professor Heikki Ruskoaho a new chairman of the Board of the Academy of Finland (29.8.2014) Professor Heikki Ruskoaho has been appointed a chairman of the Board of the Academy of Finland. The term lasts till the end of 2018.

Finnish research into ocular medication: FDA funding secured for the first time (27.8.2014) Research into ocular medication carried out in Finland has secured a significant 250 000 dollar funding from the US Food and Drug Administration, FDA, which oversees the use of drugs and drug approval.

New peptides, new means to treate prostate cancer (25.8.2014) Kristian Meinander has synthesized peptides which are able to activate a protein that limits the growth of prostate tumours.

Molecular dynamics simulations help developing targeted drug delivery (22.8.2014) Aniket Magarkar's doctoral thesis helps to understand how artificial bubbles of lipids called drug delivery liposomes (DDLs) can interact with proteins of the blood plasma and immune system. Once these interactions are better understood , the novel DDLs can be designed for specific drug delivery purposes.

New hope for AMD patiets (20.8.2014) Astrid Subrizi has in her doctoral thesis reconstructed a working retinal pigment epithelium using stem cells and synthetic polymer polyimide as supporting scaffold. Destruction of the retinal pigment epithelium is a cause of disabling age-related macular degeneration (AMD) which affects one in three people older than 75 years in western countries. The artificial pigment epithelium could in the future be used to replace the non-functional one. It is also useful for screening new drugs for AMD.

The tenth Globalization of Pharmaceutics Education Network (GPEN) meeting in Helsinki 27-30 August (23.7.2014) Graduate students, postdoctoral fellows, and faculty representatives from 50 member institutions across five continents will convene at the University of Helsink for GPEN 2014. The program presents global pharmaceutical research via student podium and poster presentations, and short courses delivered by academic and industrial experts.

Also CRS Nordic Local Chapter symposium on drug transport and delivery takes place in Helsinki in late August.

Researchers discover Achilles' heel of cancer cells (2.5.2014) Cancer cells can be stopped by shutting down their vital cell mechanism, explains Professor Marikki Laiho who leads this research project and works both at Johns Hopkins University in the United States and in the Faculty of Pharmacy at the University of Helsinki.

International doctoral thesis award for Luis Bimbo (30.4.2014) Luis Bimbo has been awarded with the Award for the Most Outstanding Doctoral Thesis in the Pharmaceutical Sciences. The € 5,000 award was given by the International Association for Pharmaceutical Technology (APV).

New heart and brain cells through medication (31.1.2014) A new Finnish research project lead by Professor Heikki Ruskoaho aims to discover methods that enable the heart and brain to fix the damage themselves.



Optimized wet media milling effective in producing nanocrystals (11.12.2013) Poorly soluble drugs are often a challenging problem in drug formulation. Wet media milling is one of the most popular techniques to prepare the nanocrystals. Peng Liu optimized the preparation conditions and characterization methods of nanosuspensions for poorly water-soluble drug compounds, then formulated the nanosuspensions into suitable pharmaceutical dosage forms, and finally tested the efficacy in in vivo.

Doctoral dissertation prize to Niina Suni (9.12.2013) Niina Suni (Faculty of Pharmacy) and Jonna Saarimäki-Vire from the Faculty of Biological and Environmental Sciences have receved the Viikki Research Group Organization's (VRGO) best dissertation prizes, both worth € 1,000.

The MAREX project trawls the world's oceans for useful compounds (5.12.2013) The world’s seas and oceans may yield significant new products for the needs of pharmaceutical and other industries. Led by Professor Heikki Vuorela, an international project collects, analyses and processes samples from around the world.

Professor Jouni Hirvonen to continue as the Dean (2.12.2013) Professor Jouni Hirvonen continues as the Dean of the Faculty for 2014–2017.

Hélder Santos's group joins Biocentrum Helsinki (20.11.2013) Hélder A. Santos's group has been chosen to join Biocentrum Helsinki, a large umbrella organization hosted by the University of Helsinki and Aalto University. Biocentrum Helsinki coordinates, establishes and supports research infrastructures on the campuses on which the memeber research groups are situated. It also coordinates research training by supporting weekly seminar series as well as relevant lectures and symposia in the University of Helsinki and Aalto University. Hélder Santos's group is going to be a member of the BCH from 2014 till 2016.

Structurally more simple group of C1 domain ligands found – possible effects for Alzheimer's research (4.11.2013) Diacylglycerol (DAG) -mediated signalling controls many cellular processes that are often deregulated in cancer. The protein kinase C (PKC) family is the best-characterized member of DAG effectors with a DAG-responsive C1 domain. Activation of PKC is considered a potential future therapeutic strategy for the treatment of Alzheimer’s disease. The C1 domain thus represents a well-recognized drug target. However, the existing C1 domain ligands are extremely complex. Virpi Talman found out in her doctoral dissertation that derivatives of 5-(hydroxymethyl)isophthalic acid could be a promising novel group of C1 domain ligands.

New LAAPPI method for studying neutral and nonpolar compounds in MSI. Anu Vaikkinen focused in her doctoral dissertation on direct open air surface sampling and ionization mass spectrometry methods. She developed LAAPPI, a method using a novel laser ablation atmospheric pressure photoionization ion source. The method enables analyses of at  about 300 μm resolution.

Drugs used for Alzheimer's activate the growth factor system in the brain. One promising approach to tackle the Alzheimer's disease (AD) is the protection of neurons and restoration of synaptic connections with neurotrophic factors. Henri Autio found in his doctoral dissertation that donepezil and galantamine, drugs commonly used to treat AD, activate neurotrophin receptors in the mouse brain.

Steroid glucuronides found in the brain for the first time. Using the capillary liquid chromatography-electrospray-tandem mass spectrometry (CapLC-MS/MS) method, steroid glucuronides were observed for the first time in thebrain. Another method showed that the concentrations of 36 targeted steroids and steroid glucuronides as well as the mostly unidentified C21-steroid glucuronides clearly altered during the pregnancy. The concentrations of the steroids and steroid glucuronides gradually increased during pregnancy, decreased rapidly just before or during delivery, and returned to control sample level five days after the delivery, says Sirkku Jäntti in her doctoral dissertation.

Professor Marja Airaksinen chosen as the Pharmacist of the Year 2013 (25.9.2013) Professor Marja Airaksinen has been chosen as the Pharmacist of the Year 2013 by the Finnish Pharmacists' Association.

Polymer and lipid based nanocarriers are suitable for drug and gene delivery.The composition and architecture of nanocarriers have a crucial impact on DNA condensation, stability of the complexes and transfection efficacy. In liposomal cancer drug targeting, PEG shield may hinder the targeting efficiency of small molecular peptides. Julia Lehtinen states in her doctoral dissertation that Intraperitoneal administration of liposomal drugs seems to be promising route for targeting to tumors located in the peritoneal cavity.

SPR and QCM excellent techniques for nanoparticle characterization. When in vitro characterization and evaluation of the targeting of nanoparticle drug delivery systems is needed, surface sensitive non-labelled surface plasmon resonance (SPR) and quartz crystal microbalance (QCM) biosensors are excellent choices, says Huamin Liang.

Feeling of pain has also a genetical background. People carrying a certain mutation of COMT gene can tolerate pain longer than the others. Substances preventing the COMT action can alleviate neuropathic pain which is generally difficult to treat.

Betulin derivatives: antiviral and antibacterial effects in vitro.Outer birch bark has up to 30% dry weight triterpene betulin which can easily be isolated. Sami Alakurtti synthesized and screened two sets of betulin derivatives for antiviral, antileishmanial and antibacterial agents for his doctoral dissertation. Several derivatives proved effective against Semliki Forest virus and Chlamydia pneumoniae in vitro. Most of the derivatives also weren't toxic to the host cell lines.

Professor Arto Urtti receives an EUFEPS award. European Federation for Pharmaceutical Sciences (EUFEPS) has given for the first time the Distinguished Service Award. The award was given to professor Arto Urtti for exhibiting exceptional and valuable professional service to EUFEPS, also demonstrating initiative and dedication in their roles.  Arto Urtti was the editor-in-chief of European Journal of Pharmaceutical Sciences, the journal of EUFEPS, for 10 years.

Aniket Magarkar amongst the 30 under 30 in Scientific American. PhD student Aniket Magarkar from CDR is attending the Lindau Nobel Laureate Meeting together with PhD Tiina Sikanen. Aniket Magarkar, dealing with drug delivering liposomes, was chosen by the Scientific American to be amongst the 30 under 30 to be presented in the magazine.

Hélder A. Santos receives the Faculty's Young Researcher's Award. This year's Faculty of Pharmacy Young Researcher's Award goes to Hélder A. Santos. The EUR 10,000 award was given now for the second time. Altogether six applications were sent to the nomination committee.
Doctor Hélder A. Santos has previously been awarded for example with the European Research Council (ERC) Starting Grant for five years.

Doctoral dissertation 7th March 2013: The research of metabolic enzymes may enhance the development of new medicines. Many medicines and body's own molecules are soluble in fats. That's why they cannot easily be exctreted and may accumulate in the body. The human UDP-glucuronosyltransferases (UGTs ) are able to modify fat-soluble substances towards being more soluble in water.
– The development of new medicines may be speeded up by results gained from the UGT research, says Nenad Manevski.



Doctoral dissertation: A rare sugar is suitable for protecting protein-structured drugs.Melibiose is a disaccharide that can be extracted out of sugar beet commonly grown in Finland. In the future it may keep rheumatism and cancer drugs longer in good working order.

Doctoral dissertation: Nanofibrillar cellulose quarantees an even drug delivery. Nanofibrillar cellulose (NFC) is becoming an effective tool when slow and even release of medicinal substances is needed. NFC can be used for example in transdermal patches or gynaecological devices, says Ruzica Kolakovic in her thesis.

Two 1.5 million euro ERC starting grants to the Faculty of Pharmacy researchers. This year, first time ever, two of the researchers in the Faculty of Pharmacy get an ERC starting grant. Hélder A. Santos is focusing on nanovectors prepared of porous silicone. Tiina Sikanen received her grant for producing micro total analysis systems for chemical analysis.

New associate professor Vincenzo Cerullo: Personalized drugs are on the way. Vincenzo Cerullo started in the beginning of September as a tenure track associate professor in the Faculty of Pharmacy. He focuses on personalized drugs – drugs that work only for a specific tumor in a specific patient.