Cancer Unit for Research on Experimental Drugs

The Unit CURED aims to co-develop novel class of anti-cancer immunotherapy combining fundamental science on transcription factors and extracellular vesicles with translational approaches. The unit consists of more than twenty researchers and it is very well founded with both national and international research grants; Academy of Finland, Jane and Aatos Erkko Foundation, ERCs among others. Unit's principal investigators are listed below.
Vincenzo Cerullo, Unit Leader

Vincenzo Cerullo, Vince, is a tenure-track professor of University of Helsinki and the Head of the Drug Research Program at the Faculty of Pharmacy.

Vince got his PhD at Centre for genetic Engineering (CENIGE) at University of Naples, Federico II in 2004, then he returned to Houston Texas (USA) for a postdoc. In 2009 he moved to University of Helsinki where he worked as senior researcher until 2012 when he was awarded the tenure-track professorship and started the ImmunoViroTherapy Lab.  In these years IVTLab has raised more than 4 million Euros for research, including the prestigious ERC Consolidator Grant, HiLIFE fellow and Jane and Aatos Erkko Foundation grant. The group has produced tens of scientific papers and patents and has co-founded a multimillion spin-off company together with the University of Helsinki (VALO therapeutics). Vince has been awarded the Outstanding Young Investigator award in 2014 by the European Society of Gene and cell Therapy and the Excellence in Research award by the American Society of Gene and Cell Therapy in 2015.

Within the Unit, IVTLab aims to combine to translate into clinical application the fundamental discoveries of the other members of the Unit.

Marikki Laiho

Dr. Laiho is an internationally recognized expert in cancer molecular biology. She has provided groundbreaking contributions to the research on growth factors, tumor suppressors and DNA damage biology. The main focus of her current research is on developing new therapeutic agents targeting cellular transcriptional programs altered in cancer.

Within the Unit, Lahio’s group is providing the basic knowledge in cancer biology to improve the efficacy and the selectivity of our approaches.

Pia Siljander

Pia Siljander (Adj. prof, PhD, university lecturer) works with extracellular vesicles (EVs). The current focus of her EV group is to identify novel EV inducers in platelets and cancer cells with the aim of characterizing their cargo changes for biomarker discovery and understanding the functional effects of EV-mediated communication. The work has been funded by the Academy of Finland project grant and by Finnish foundations. Pia has extensive EV networks and collaborations through her chair positions in the EU COST Action BM1202 “Microvesicles and exosomes in health and disease” and having been a co-chair of the Scientific Standardization committee (Microparticles) in the International Society of Thrombosis and Haemostasis.

To enable progress and expansion of EV research within the University of Helsinki, Pia has also set up the EV core facility, as a joint cross-disciplinary effort of the Faculty of Pharmacy and Department of Biosciences together with FIMM (led by Dr. Maija Puhka) in 2016. EV core –related research has already generated several published methodological advancements and innovation disclosures. EV core development was realized through the funding from TEKES Salwe Get it done (co-PI with Prof. Marjo Yliperttula) and the Academy of Finland project. In 2017, she was awarded as the Scientific Conference Power Player for EV conference organization.

Pia gained her MSc and PhD from the University of Helsinki and worked in the University of Cambridge as a post doc 2000-2004. Upon returning to Finland, she held Academy of Finland -funded positions before becoming a University lecturer in the Biochemistry of Health in the Faculty of Bio- and Environmental Sciences.