Research groups

The Faculty of Pharmacy’s research activities focus on drugs. The objectives are to identify new drug targets, create and develop new drugs, establish new drug administration methods, examine the pharmacokinetic and pharmacological properties of drugs, develop new technologies, explore social and economic issues involving drug therapy, and educate leading professionals in the field.

All the faculty's research groups belong to the Drug Research Program (DRP), which is a unique multidisciplinary platform that combines research groups with expertise on different aspects of drug research. See also Drug Research Program Units.

The research groups are presented in alphabetical order by the last name of the group leader.

Marja Airaksinen: Clinical Pharmacy

Clinical pharmacy as a discipline is based on health sciences. The discipline is focused on optimising pharmacotherapy and promoting health. Emphases include rational medicine use and ways to influence it, the development and evaluation of clinical pharmacy services, and medication safety. Clinical pharmacy is based on multidisciplinary collaboration and patients’ involvement in their pharmacotherapy. Clinical pharmacy is a philosophy of practice covering all social and health care settings in hospital and outpatient care where pharmacotherapy is part of patient care (University of Helsinki 2010).

Mikko Airavaara: Brain Repair

We are interested in mechanisms of neurodegeneration, neuroprotection and brain repair, and we try to find new ways to restore the damaged neuronal circuits and neurotransmission. We focus on studying stroke, Parkinson’s disease, and motivation, with the ultimate long-term goal being to develop disease-modifying therapies. We have a curiosity about endoplasmic reticulum homeostasis, protein aggregates, neural development, and biology of glial cells. We have a passion for excellent level research and high-quality international training. Our mission is to provide the highest quality science-based teaching and training. By finding out what is the thing you are most interested in, and then grasping the opportunity you can shape the future.

Tapani Viitala and Al­ex­an­der Bunker: Pharmaceutical Biophysics

Combining experimental and computational methodologies to generate mechanistic insight into drug action and drug delivery systems.

Pharmaceutical research has fallen into a rut known as “Erooms Law”: while the resources expended increase exponentially the number of new approved drugs per year remains constant. This is partly due to the constricting paradigm of conventional drug design, based around finding molecular fits to the active sites of target proteins and high throughput screening: a mostly blind data driven approach. Biophysics represents the perspective that the biological systems in question, and drug delivery devices being developed, can be understood through the multiscale mechanistic paradigm provided by biophysics. This approach involves the application of a combined toolkit of computational and experimental methodologies that, together, can obtain this multiscale understanding that allows for the application of a rational design approach.

Vincenzo Cerullo: ImmunoViroTherapy Lab

The IVTLab is an international and interdisciplinary laboratory promoting cutting-edge research in the field of oncoimmunology and immunotherapy using viruses as platforms to induce and/or orchestrate the tumor-specific immune response.

The laboratory is well supported and funded by prestigious and internationally recognised funding agencies such as the European Research Council Consolidator grant (ERC-CoG), HiLIFE, Jane and Aatos Erkko Foundation and Business Finland.

Anna-Riia Holmström: Medication Safety and Effectiveness

Our goal is to develop prospective medication safety risk management methods for healthcare services systems to reduce medication related risks and patient harm. We explore issues such as the role of hospital and community pharmacies and their services in medication safety promotion, the medication safety of neonates and children, the use of healthcare data lakes as a source of medication risk information, and veterinary medication safety. The findings will be used to develop safe medication processes for patients in Finland and internationally. The research is part of the Helsinki One Health Research Network, and the main collaborators are the HUS-Pharmacy Research Center and the Faculty of Veterinary Faculty of the University of Helsinki.

Michael Jeltsch: Lymphangiogenesis Research and Antibody Development

We do biomedical research in vascular biology (lymphangiogenesis, VEGF-C) and antibody technology development.

Anne Juppo and Mia Sivén: Industrial Pharmacy

Industrial pharmacy research includes manufacturing, development, marketing and distribution of drug products and quality assurance of these activities.

Artturi Koivuniemi: The Lipoprotein LAB (LLAB)

The Lipoprotein LAB (LLAB) is a dedicated research group committed to advancing the field of pharmaceutics through the application of mechanistic principles governing the functions of lipoproteins and their associated enzymes.

Timo Laaksonen: Phar­ma­ceut­ical Nanotechnology

We work on controlled drug release and delivery using modern methods and materials. We are studying bio- and nanomaterials such as liposomes and cellulose nanofibers, the use of new tools to track drug molecules and carriers, and tailored materials for pharmaceutical applications. We are particularly interested in using light to both monitor nanomaterial behaviour and to trigger e.g. drug release processes. We work in close collaboration with the Supramolecular chemistry of bio- and nanomaterials group at Tampere University, as well as research groups in University of Eastern Finland and Tokyo University of Pharmacy and Life Sciences.

Timo Myöhänen: PREP in Neurodegenerative Disorders

Our goal is to find novel drug therapies for neurodegenerative disorders such as Alzheimer's and Parkinson's diseases. We study and characterize common mechanisms in neurodegenerative diseases to discover novel drug targets and then develop novel small-molecular compounds in collaboration with medicinal chemists. One such target is prolyl oligopeptidase (PREP), and we have developed new PREP inhibitors demonstrating preclinical efficacy in several neurodegenerative disease models.

Tomi Rantamäki: Laboratory of Neurotherapeutics

We aim to explore mechanisms of sleep and chronobiology and how they are connected with antidepressant treatments to restore neuroplasticity. We investigate neurobiological mechanisms underlying rapid (ketamine, psilocybin, nitrous oxide) and sustained (SSRIs) antidepressant drug effects. The findings will be utilised to develop novel drugs for depression, a leading causes of disability.

Hélder A. San­tos: Nanomedi­cines and Bio­med­ical En­gin­eer­ing

Nanomedicine, Biomedical Engineering and Controlled Drug Delivery.

Clare Strachan: Pharmaceutical and Analytical Technologies

The Pharmaceutical and Analytical Technologies (PAT) unit specialises in introducing and advancing synergistic technologies that facilitate industrial drug discovery and development.

Virpi Talman: Regenerative Cardiac Pharmacology

We aim to identify new drug targets and to discover new potential therapies for heart diseases, in particular for post-infarction heart failure and cardiomyopathies. We investigate molecular mechanisms of cardiac regeneration and remodelling using modern techniques such as cardiovascular cells derived from human-induced pluripotent stem cells (hiPSC) and high content imaging and analysis. In collaboration with medicinal chemists, we develop, screen and characterise new compounds that may lead to the discovery of new treatments.

Päivi Tammela: Bioactivity Screening

We are experts in antimicrobial drug discovery, exploring new ways to confront the global challenge of emerging drug resistance amongst bacteria.

Arto Urtti: Drug Delivery

Optimal delivery of drugs to their target sites is essential for drug efficacy and safety. Drug delivery unit explores the key pharmacokinetic factors in drug delivery as well as new technologies for delivering drugs, especially to the eyes.

Merja H. Voutilainen: Regenerative neuroscience

Our goal is to identify the therapeutic potential of novel biologicals for neurodegenerative diseases such as amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, Parkinson's and Huntington's disease, and multiple sclerosis, and clarify their molecular mechanisms. We use various approaches to study how to overcome the loss of neurons and remyelination failure. In collaboration with companies, we can take our findings to the clinic.

Shiqi Wang: Intracellular Drug Delivery Lab

We aim to understand how nanoparticles deliver biological drugs inside cells, and use these understanding to develop new nanomedicine for novel biotherapeutics. Our research topics are at the interfaces of chemistry, biology and pharmaceutical sciences.

Biotherapeutics (proteins and genes) provide great opportunities for future medicine development and new treatments of previously incurable diseases. However, our understanding of how biotherapeutics are delivered into cells (intracellular delivery) is still limited, and we need better intracellular delivery tools to maximize the potential of these drugs.

Jari Yli-Kauhaluoma: Medicinal Chemistry

Focusing on drug discovery by applying and developing methods in synthetic medicinal chemistry, the Viikki Biocenter medicinal chemistry team is unique at the University of Helsinki in translating the increasing structural information of drug targets or ligands into the synthesis of novel compounds that do not exist in the current commercial compound libraries. These new compounds serve as valuable probes in the research of new drug targets or as chemical entities in the search for novel therapeutic compounds. Our team is also responsible for teaching organic chemistry related to medicinal chemistry, drug discovery, drug action, and drug metabolism. 

Marjo Yliperttula: Biopharmaceutics

The focal point of Biopharmaceutics group research is the development of the biomaterials for cell culture, drug delivery, and tissue repair together with the relevant detection technology. The developed materials are based on the nanofibrillated cellulose, nanoparticles, and extracellular vesicles.

Henri Xhaard: Computational Drug Discovery

The ultimate goals of the unit are to discover better, more efficient and safer drug candidates against relevant human diseases, to discover chemical probes for studying biological processes as well as to develop innovative pharmaceutical applications and methods.