Tuomas Lilius, docent of pharmacology, brings to the Faculty of Pharmacy extensive experience of drug effects and toxicology

Lilius’s research focuses on the pharmacological study of the glymphatic system of the brain in the onset and treatment of degenerative brain diseases, as well as the delivery of drugs into the brain.

The Faculty of Pharmacy gained a substantial addition to its roster at the beginning of the year with the appointment of Tuomas Lilius as associate professor of pharmacology and clinical toxicology.

Lilius’s primary position is as the head physician of the Poison Information Center under HUS Helsinki University Hospital, and he brings with him extensive experience of drug effects and the study of toxic substances. The Poison Information Center and the teratological information service at HUS employ approximately 15 specialists in pharmacy. 

“My connection to HUS enables smooth cooperation and the efficient research use of data originating in the Poison Information Center,” Lilius says.

Lilius is a specialist in clinical pharmacology and pharmacotherapy, and a docent of pharmacology. His importance to the Faculty is clear from the fact that he is currently the only researcher and teacher in the unit with a background as a doctor.

Lilius’s research is characterised by a translational approach, which means transferring research from bench to bedside and, at the same time, responding to research questions relevant to clinicians by means of basic research. Lilius conducts diverse pharmacological research, from experimental basic research to clinical drug trials.

Completed in 2014, his doctoral thesis focused on the treatment of pain with opioids and use of new drugs to prevent opioid tolerance.

“I hope to bring new expertise in pharmacology, clinical pharmacology and clinical toxicology to the University of Helsinki,” says the new appointee.


The research team is a specialist in the pharmacological manipulation of cerebrospinal fluid cycle

From 2017 to 2020, Lilius worked as a researcher at Professor Maiken Nedergaard’s laboratory in Denmark. Nedergaard is known for discovering the glymphatic system. 

Lilius’s own research group, Translational Neuropharmacology, focuses on the pharmacology of the glymphatic system.

The group has particularly investigated the neuropharmacology of the glymphatic system, as well as the mechanisms of action and combined effects of analgesics, but its most recent research has related to clinical toxicology, enabled by the study of the Poison Information Center datasets.

The glymphatic system is the brain’s own cleaning system, enabling cerebrospinal fluid to flow into to the brain tissue and remove the waste accumulated in the brain. While this clearance mechanism works best during deep sleep, its functioning can also be pharmacologically affected. Waste accumulated in the brain hinders cerebral function and can in the long term cause degenerative brain diseases, such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s. 

“The flow of cerebrospinal fluid into the perivascular spaces of the brain also offers new opportunities for the effective delivery of drugs into the brain,” Lilius says.

The multidisciplinary research group includes several researchers and students specialised in the pharmacological manipulation of the cerebrospinal fluid cycle. 

In addition to pharmacological research on the glymphatic system, the group aims specifically to promote personalised analgesic pharmacotherapies and the treatment of acute poisonings by developing, among other things, a real-time drug concentration indicator.

“We are also investigating drug-to-drug interaction, which helps to optimise the efficacy and safety of care,” Lilius explains. 


A father’s juggling act – balancing work, hobbies and family life 

Lilius spends most of his free time with his family, which includes children aged 4 and 5. His role as father, he quips, amounts to providing transport, encouragement and financial support.   

“My spouse is also a researcher trained as a doctor, which is why we like to bounce medical research conundrums off one another,” Lilius says.   

In the early morning, you may catch him at the gym. His hobbies also include running and cross-country skiing.  

“I used to play the trumpet for a long spell when I was younger, and I’d like to find time for that hobby once more. My more exotic hobbies include aviation,” he says.