Vincenzo Cerullo: What if we had a vaccine for tailored cancer therapy?

The Professor of Biological Drug Development wants to understand how we can use our immune system to better fight cancer. Is our pre-existing immunity useful?

What are your research topics?

My main research interest is to develop innovative cancer vaccines using viruses as the starting building blocks. Viruses are a great resource as they have evolved together with us humans. In fact, while tumours are very much obscured from our immune system, viruses are visible. Consequently, we construct viruses that are covered with tumour pieces to trick our immune system into thinking that tumours are viruses and as such have to be destroyed.

Where and how does the topic of your research have an impact?

Hopefully and most importantly, it will affect the lives of cancer patients who will be treated with the new drugs. The drugs my team and VALO therapeutics, a spin-off company I founded together with the University of Helsinki, are developing should be in clinical use starting from the end of 2019.

For me and my laboratory, it is very important that our research has an impact on society. To make that happen, I believe it is vital to promote the commercialisation of our discoveries. This not only affects cancer treatment in general but promotes international capital investment in Finland, like has been the case with VALO therapeutics.

For science dissemination, I’m also organising or participating in events such as TEDx Talks, Fresh from Campus and Slush Y Science.

What is particularly inspiring in your field right now?

A lot of people have inspired and inspire me in my career development, especially my former supervisors and some eminent Finnish scientists. The topic that fascinates me the most is understanding how we can capitalise on our pre-existing immunity and turn it against cancer. 


Vincenzo Cerullo is the professor of biological drug development at the Faculty of Pharmacy.

Read about the cancer vaccine platform.

Learn more about the Immunivirotherapy research group.

Watch Vincenzo Cerullo’s inaugural lecture as a new professor on 29 May 2019.

Get to know the other new professors.