ERC Consolidator Grant projects and researchers

14 ongoing projects at the University of Helsinki are currently funded with a Consolidator Grant awarded by the European Research Council (ERC). Read about the projects and researchers here.
What are ERC Consolidator Grants?

The ERC Consolidator Grant is a grant scheme targeted at successful researchers for consolidating their research group and establishing an impactful career in Europe.

Consolidator Grants are available to distinguished researchers who have conducted research for 7 to 12 years after their doctoral graduation. In addition, grant recipients are required to have a scientific track record that shows great promise and an excellent research proposal.

Their field of research is not restricted.

Blue light releases the pharmaceutical agent from its nanocarrier – Timo Laaksonen

In his ERC-funded project, Timo Laaksonen investigates how to release, in a controlled manner, drugs in the body using blue or UV light.

Compared to more commonly used red light, blue light offers broader opportunities for drug release. For example, the energy of blue or ultraviolet light is enough to detach the drug molecules attached to the surface of a nanocarrier.

Laaksonen’s project aims to understand how to safely target blue or UV light to the site where the drug should be released. Previously, the challenge in using UV light has been its penetration depth in tissue, which even at its best is roughly the breadth of a single hair. In addition, UV light can damage the body.

Blue light could be precisely targeted by upconverting photons to a higher energy level inside the body or by utilising various drug implants activated by light.

Through photodynamic activation, drugs could be released, for example, at a certain time every morning, in addition to which the release rate could be continually adjusted to suit the patient.

Project name and duration

PADRE, Photoactivatable Drug Releasing Implants, 2021–2025.

Photodynamic activation can potentially be used to release drugs precisely at the moment when another dose is needed.
Developing two-faced particles from natural polymers: Kirsi S. Mikkonen

Kirsi S. Mikkonen’s ERC-funded project aims to develop nano-sized particles that have two differently behaving faces, so called Janus particles. Such architecture makes the particles function in a special way at material interfaces, like stabilizing an oil droplet surface in an emulsion. To achieve this, the project will utilize sustainable biopolymers and green technologies.

The main aims of the project are to:

  1. predict emulsion stability by visualizing the emulsified droplet interface
  2. prepare two-faced particles in a sustainable way.

Mikkonen’s project will create new understanding of emulsions, which are key materials in food, pharmaceuticals, cosmetics, and various chemicals. The project will develop a green route to new materials, which allows using our natural resources more sustainably. In the future, this research will help companies produce daily used commodities with less burden for the environment.

Kirsi S. Mikkonen explores the combination of wood-based raw materials in food matrices. Her earlier research showed that hemicelluloses efficiently stabilize food structures. Hemicelluloces can be recovered from side streams of wood and grain production. Mikkonen also develops fungal biomass for value-added materials, and studies active packaging to prevent food waste. Active packaging interacts with its contents to e.g. increase shelf life.

Project name and duration

Green route to wood-derived Janus particles for stabilized interfaces (PARTIFACE) 2020–2025.

Sustainable technologies and efficient valorization of bioproduction side streams are key in achieving balance between consumption and sufficiency of natural resources.
Emergence of treatment resistance in ovarian cancer: time travel on cellular level - Anna Vähärautio

ERC funded project by Anna Vähärautio studies how past stress encounters induce treatment resistance in ovarian cancer cells. The project will explore the histories of individual cancer cells. How previous adaptations to stressors shape the adaptation and fate of individual cancer cells during anti-cancer treatment? Is it possible to block treatment induced adaptation by correctly timed co-treatments?

Main objectives of the project are

  • To develop a novel methodology that combines sister cell lineage tracing to stress recording in individual cancer cells. This enables cellular time travel across the period where treatment resistance develops.
  • Apply the results from this time travel to block both pre-existing and induced, adaptive resistance by sequential therapies

In the future, the project’s results will help to identify effective and personalised sequential treatment strategies for patients with poor response ovarian cancer. The project is grounded on previous method development from the group, and the discovery of a stressed cellular state that is associated with both pre-existing and induced chemotherapy resitance in ovarian cancer.

Project name and duration

What doesn’t kill you: Overcoming primed and adaptive resistance in ovarian cancer (STRONGER), 2024-2029.

Project’s results will help to identify effective and personalised sequential treatment strategies for patients with poor response ovarian cancer.
How do different modes of expression work together in communication and interaction? - Tuomo Hiippala

Tuomo Hiippala’s ERC-funded project investigates the way human communication and interaction rely on intentional combinations of multiple modes of expression. This phenomenon, known as multimodality, is an inherent feature of communication and interaction. Empirical research on multimodality requires datasets with systematic and detailed descriptions that capture how the use of modes of expression varies across contexts. As such datasets are laborious to produce, they are typically very small.

Hiippala’s project develops new methods for empirical research on multimodality that leverage crowdsourcing and neuro-symbolic artificial intelligence. Crowdsourcing is used to produce larger datasets, whereas neuro-symbolic AI is used to synthesise the human insights gained through crowdsourcing with output from AI models. The new datasets and methods enable the critical examination of key concepts of multimodality research. The project data include textbooks, news broadcasts and social media videos.

The project will develop new knowledge about multimodality as a phenomenon. The results are applicable in researching literacies, designing learning materials and developing AI algorithms.

In his previous research, Hiippala has focused on applications of computational methods, such as machine vision and learning, in multimodality research. In addition, he has investigated a broad range of modes of expression and their co-operation in everyday texts.

Project name and duration

A Foundation for Empirical Multimodality Research (FOUNDATIONS), 2024-2029.

Multimodality is an inherent feature of communication and interaction.”
Gravitational waves from the mergers of supermassive black holes: Peter H. Johansson

Peter H. Johansson’s ERC funded project studies what happens, when supermassive black holes merge.

Johansson’s project aims to model, at unprecedented accuracy, the small-scale dynamics of merging supermassive black holes in global galactic-scale simulations of massive galaxies. The project uses a new Helsinki-developed simulation code KETJU and Finnish national supercomputers to run simulations.

The main aims of the project are to

  1. resolve the small-scale dynamics of supermassive black holes in global galactic-scale simulations
  2. calculate a prediction of the cosmological gravitational wave background signal.

Johansson’s project will create a more complete understanding of how merging supermassive black holes affect the evolution of massive galaxies. The project will provide simulated predictions of the expected electromagnetic and gravitational wave signals from merging supermassive black holes. These predictions provide a comparison point for observations by current and future space-missions.

Johansson’s research has showed that mergers of supermassive black holes are responsible for producing diffuse low-stellar density cores in massive galaxies by ejecting stars in complex three-body interactions. Johansson works broadly on many topics in theoretical astrophysics, including the formation and evolution of supermassive black holes, massive early-type galaxies and massive stellar clusters.

Project name and duration

Post-Newtonian modelling of the dynamics of supermassive black holes in galactic-scale hydrodynamical simulations (KETJU) 2019–2025.

Understanding the detailed dynamics of supermassive black holes is a key to understanding the evolution of galaxies.
Greener Urban Travel Environments for Everyone - Tuuli Toivonen

Green urban areas are known to have a significant impact on both the comfort of urban spaces and the wellbeing of residents. However, the significance of green environments has been investigated primarily from the perspective of spending time in the park or the comfort of housing. The GREENTRAVEL project takes a completely new perspective to urban green as well as pleasant and healthy urban environments. The project focuses particularly on the quality of travel environments, also in different seasons, in four major European cities.

The project aims to:

  • Understand the relevance of the quality of travel environments for human wellbeing and travel experiences
  • Develop ways to map out the greenness of travel environments from the human perspective and in different seasons
  • Explore the accessibility of travel environments during everyday travel, taking various residential groups into consideration

The project produces regional data on the quality of travel environments and the accessibility of green travel environments. It identifies areas whose greening can produce good travel environments in cities as equally as possible. Methodologically, the project includes a number of new initiatives in terms of both experimental designs based on virtual environments and big data describing mobility.

The GREENTRAVEL project will be carried out as part of the research conducted by the Digital Geography Lab research group headed by Toivonen. For 10 years, the group has been investigating people’s mobility and physical accessibility, particularly from the perspective of the sustainability, healthiness and equality of urban areas and regions.

Project name and duration

Greener Urban Travel Environments for Everyone: From Measured Wellbeing Impacts to Big Data Analytics (GREENTRAVEL), 2023–2027.

How animals affected ancient hunter-gatherers’ identities – Kristiina Mannermaa

Kristiina Mannermaa’s ERC funded project investigates social links between humans and animals in hunter-gatherer burial sites in north-eastern Europe, ca 9,000–7,500 years ago. The project combines various bioarchaeological research methods to study the life histories of humans, animals and animal-derived artefacts in prehistoric burial sites.

The main aims of the project are to:

  1. understand the social identities of the deceased hunter-gatherers in large cemeteries
  2. understand how animals, their parts, and artefacts played an active role in the life and death of early hunter-gatherers.

Mannermaa’s project provides new understanding of how northern hunter-gatherers created their cultures and identities together with animals which they were dependent on. The project investigates how this prehistoric identity developed and how it has transmitted to modern cultures in northern areas. Knowledge about past human-animal relations from thousands of years ago can also help understand and evaluate our own attitudes towards animals.

Mannermaa has previously studied the roles of birds in prehistoric societies, and carried out pioneering work in the early faunal history of mammals and birds in Fennoscandia, the Baltic region and Russia. Mannermaa is internationally known, for example for her extensive research and skills in analysing burnt and fragmented osseous materials. Her research group has developed a method to find and identify hairs and feathers in thousands of years old soil samples.

Project name and duration

The Animals Make Identities: The Social Bioarchaeology of Late Mesolithic and Early Neolithic Cemeteries in North-East Europe (AMI) 2020–2025.

I am deeply fascinated about the unknown that covers the life and death of ancient hunter-gatherers.
Jet Energy Corrections for High-Luminosity LHC - Mikko Voutilainen

In his project entitled ‘Jet Energy Corrections for High-Luminosity LHC’, Mikko Voutilainen investigates particle physics phenomena measured with the LHC particle accelerator at CERN, the European Organisation for Nuclear Research.

The 2020 update of the European Strategy for Particle Physics puts the HL-LHC at the focal point, “together with continued innovation in experimental techniques”. Its primary goals include searching for new physics at high energy, exploration of the Higgs potential and precision tests of the Standard Model.

At a hadron collider such as LHC, practically all measurements rely on jet energy corrections (JEC). Many important benchmark channels, such as top quark decaying to b jets and ud or cs jet pairs and inclusive jets produced with numerous gluon jets, have JEC as their limiting uncertainty. At present, the JEC uncertainties are at a level of 1% overall, with similar additional uncertainties from flavor-specific JEC from simulation only.

However, evidence suggests that the simulation is biased at the level of these uncertainties, and that these biases will become the decisive factor for further progress. Voutilainen with his group show how to correct these biases with data-driven methods and bring the total uncertainties toward 0.1% level.

Project name and duration

Jet Energy Corrections for High-Luminosity LHC, 2022–2027

Mathematics of indirect measurements - Lauri Oksanen

Lauri Oksanen’s ERC-funded project is linked to the mathematical theory of inverse problems.

A typical inverse problem is to find the structure of a body by performing measurements outside it. Such problems arise in many applied fields, including medical imaging and industrial non-destructive testing (NDT) techniques.

The project focuses particularly on the Lorentzian Calderón problem, one of whose physical interpretations involves the determination of the acoustic properties of a mobile medium from measurements where the medium has been probed with sound waves. This problem can be solved in the case of immobile media, but a solution for mobile media is absent. The project develops novel solutions that combine techniques in the fields of geometry and analysis.

The project is founded on a recent breakthrough by Oksanen and his partners, which solved the Calderón problem in the case of spacetimes with a specific curvature.

Oksanen works at the Centre of Excellence of Inverse Modelling and Imaging.

Project name and duration

Lorentzian Calderon problem: visibility and invisibility (LoCal), 2023–2028.

Thanks to the mathematics of inverse problems, we know, for example, the structure of Earth. Future methods can provide new information on the structure of space.
Niche geometry as the regulator of communal metabolism and cell fate - Pekka Katajisto

Embryonic stem cells are perhaps most widely known to the public, but rare populations of adult stem cells are found in many adult tissues throughout the body. Unlike embryonic stem cells that can become any cell in the body, adult stem cells give rise to a limited number of mature cell types that build the tissue where they are found. These stem cells can also renew the stem cell pool. Metabolites within the stem cell micro-environment (niche) may influence stem cell fate. The EU funded Geometric fate project will investigate whether the geometry of the niche is the true regulator of stem cell fate through its effects on niche metabolism.

Project name and duration

Niche geometry as the regulator of communal metabolism and cell fate, 2022–2027


Particle acceleration in near-Earth space - Lucile Turc

Lucile Turc’s ERC-funded project investigates the impact of foreshock transients on particles in near-Earth space.

Near-Earth space is home to two natural particle accelerators: Earth’s bow shock, which slows down the supersonic plasma flow coming from the Sun, and the Van Allen radiation belts, containing high-energy particles trapped in the Earth’s magnetic field. Project investigates how bubbles of hot plasma generated at the shock, called foreshock transients, can affect particle acceleration in these two regions of space. The project combines supercomputer simulations with multi-point measurements to obtain a global picture of the impact of foreshock transients on near-Earth space.

The main goals of the project are to

  • quantify the contribution of foreshock transients to particle acceleration at the shock
  • investigate their impact on radiation belt particles
  • examine their connection to space weather storms

Modern society relies heavily on space-based infrastructures, such as GPS, weather or telecommunication satellites, but energetic particles can damage the electronics onboard these spacecrafts. Understanding how particles are accelerated to high energies is crucial to provide accurate space weather forecasts, and thus protect these essential infrastructures.

Her and her team's previous work has focused on the generation and transmission of electromagnetic waves through Earth’s bow shock, and the impact of solar storms on these waves.

Project name and duration

Impact of foreshock transients on near-Earth space (WAVESTORMS), 2024-2029.

With this project, we will explore how small-scale plasma structures can have a large-scale impact on near-Earth space.
Properties of Units and Standards - Matti Eräsaari

The research project examines various objects and ideas that function as units of measurement, asking what kind of effects their material or abstract uses have. How does a commodity serving as an instrument of value affect the figures it is used to form? Do indicators cease to be reliable when they become an end instead of a means?

The project aims to examine the measurement of value (or ‘goodness’) as an ethnographic research topic. Instead of pure numeral information or criticism of it, the project strives to identify a language and model for describing the ways in which we are increasingly constructing our worlds on the characteristics of units of measurement.

The project aims to provide simple ethnographic examples that can be used to illustrate the relationship between numbers, units of measurement and the act of making something measurable. The topic is linked to societally significant themes, such as datafication, debt ratings, or facts and the “alternative facts” emerging alongside them. One of the goals of the project is to provide a new perspective to these discussions.

Previously, Matti Eräsaari has worked at the University of Helsinki and the University of Manchester, studying topics such as values, commerce, money, time and food.

Whether the value of social relationships in the Fiji islands is measured in coconuts or whale teeth has far-reaching consequences that dictate, among other things, the numerical and other scales used, but also the economic and environmental consequences of pursuing valuable goods.
Research on effects of Global Change on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Functions – Jarno Vanhatalo

Jarno Vanhatalo’s ERC-funded project investigates how climate and habitat change affect biodiversity and ecosystem functions.

Ecosystem functions, e.g. carbon sequestration and basic production, are critical for our societies. However, we do not yet properly understand the relative roles of the direct effects of global change on ecosystem functions versus effects mediated by changes in biodiversity. Moreover, how these changes vary in space and time as well as between ecosystems is not properly understood. Hence, there is a pressing need to reconcile the current experimental and theoretical understanding with findings from large-scale observational data from multiple ecosystems.

Projects objectives are

  • to develop mathematical and statistical models that build on ecological theory and can describe how species and ecosystem functions are distributed in space and time.
  • to develop a computational toolbox, that can assess the accuracy and reliability of these models.
  • to apply these models and methods to unique long-term observational datasets and thus gain understanding of the processes shaping the distribution of biodiversity and ecosystem functions.

There is a general demand for environmental accounting as a tool for biodiversity preserving management. Implementing it requires predictive tools to estimate changes in biodiversity and ecosystem functions in spatiotemporally explicit manner.

Jarno Vanhatalo and his research team Environmental and Ecological Statistics group have made important contributions to so called joint species distribution models and ecological risk assessment methods. They have also rigorously quantified uncertainties in ecological knowledge and ttheir impact on spatiotemporally explicit risk management related to Arctic oil transportation. Vanhatalo is also the Vice Director of the Research Center for Ecological Change, a research consortium studying the impacts of global change on ecosystems.

Project name and duration

Predictive Understanding of the effects of Global Change on Ecological Communities and Ecosystem Functions, 2024-2029.

Global change affects biodiversity and ecosystem functions. It is important to study the mechnisms behind these processes in order to better understand the consequences of the climate change and the loss of biodiversity.
Understanding wood formation: Ari Pekka Mähönen

Ari Pekka Mähönen’s ERC funded project studies how trees grow thicker.

Mähönen’s project uses the thale cress, or Arabidopsis thaliana, root as a model to investigate the development of cork and vascular cambium. All the growth originates from stem cells. While stem cells of vascular cambium produce xylem (wood) and phloem, stem cells of cork cambium produce a protective layer at the surface called phellem (cork).

The main aims of this project are to:

  • identify the molecular mechanism defining stem cells of cork cambium
  • understand the mechanism how cork and vascular cambia together provide thickness to plant organs.

Mähönen’s group aims to provide detailed understanding of the regulatory mechanisms driving wood and cork formation first in the Arabidopsis thaliana, and then in trees. This will lay the foundation for further studies on radial thickening and provide the basis for manipulation of radial growth in crop plants and trees.

By combining lineage tracing with molecular genetics, Mähönen’s research group showed for the first time a molecular mechanism positioning and specifying the stem cells of vascular cambium in the Arabidopsis thaliana root. The techniques learned during this key study are used in the current study to identify the stem cells of cork cambium.

Project name and duration

Thickening of plant organs by nested stem cells (CORKtheCAMBIA), 2019-2024.

The beautiful landscape of trees that we admire as we walk in the forest is in large part a product of the wood-forming vascular cambium. It is exciting to be among the first to unlock the secrets of this amazing plant tissue.
Past projects

In his ERC-funded project, Jaan-Olle Andressoo is looking for a cure for Parkinson's disease from a new perspective: by boosting the physiological processes of the brain itself.

The project is aimed at developing a new, safe and efficacious form of treatment for Parkinson’s disease as well as demonstrating its feasibility.

Andressoo’s research findings will increase the understanding of the physiological role of the glial cell line-derived neurotrophic factor (GDNF) in the functioning of the brain’s dopamine systems. The research conducted by Andressoo’s group is key to the development of novel treatment forms for Parkinson’s disease as well as, among others, substance dependence, ADHD and bipolar disorder.

Andressoo’s group has demonstrated that GDNF is a significant physiological regulator of the function of the brain's dopaminergic neurons.

"If we succeed, we will most likely be able to restore neural connections that have already deteriorated, first in the case of Parkinson’s disease and subsequently in other neurodegenerative diseases." -Jaan-Olle Andressoo

Read more about Andressoo's research group on the Translational neuroscience group's website.

Project name and duration

Gene knock-up via 3’UTR targeting to treat Parkinson’s disease, 2017–2022.

In his ERC-funded project, Mikko Niemi is developing a mathematical model based on systems pharmacology that takes into consideration all individual factors affecting cholesterol medication.

Partly due to adverse effects, as many as a quarter of patients stop taking their cholesterol drugs within a year, even if when the drug is supposed to be taken indefinitely.

The project’s aim is to design a mathematical model that

  1. Takes into account all individual factors affecting cholesterol medication, such as the patient’s genome, other drugs, gender, age and weight
  2. Helps to anticipate the drug’s behaviour in each patient’s body, or how it is distributed in the liver and muscle tissue, how effective it is and what is the risk of adverse effects.

Once the model developed by Niemi is completed, it can be used to choose the most appropriate cholesterol medication for individual patients. As a result, patients will better tolerate the prescribed drug, while cardiovascular disease mortality may be significantly reduced.

Niemi has already identified mutations which impact the effectiveness of cholesterol medication or increase their adverse effects.

Previously, Niemi conducted research with a Starting Grant awarded by the ERC.

"Globally, as many as 20,000–30,000 people die every year of a cardiovascular event caused by their ceasing to take their cholesterol drugs." -Mikko Niemi

Read more about Niemi's research group on the Clinical pharmacology and pharmacogenetics group's website.

Project name and duration

Individualizing statin therapy by using a systems pharmacology decision support algorithm, 2017–2022.

The aim of Tuomas Tahko’s ERC-funded project is to develop a new theory on the unity of knowledge.

In the project, Tahko utilises cases from biology, chemistry and physics, observing what it means when a certain scientific phenomenon can be explained through another phenomenon, and examining what conditions we can set for the unity of science.

Unity criteria that can be applied to multiple disciplines would be very useful tools for determining the expertise needed for understanding specific phenomena.

Tahko has transferred to the University of Bristol.

Project name and duration

The Metaphysical Unity of Science, 2018–2023.

Tuomo Kuusi’s ERC-funded project investigates, both in theory and practice, challenging problems associated with new quantitative theory.

Kuusi’s project focuses on problems that reside in the intersection of probability theory, partial differential equations and the calculus of variations. These areas are united by stochastic homogenisation: the study of large-scale statistical properties of solutions to equations with random coefficients.

The practical applications of Kuusi’s research include mathematical approaches and methods of calculus that support the operations of geothermal power plants. The potential of geothermal energy as a source of district heating is great, as long as the phenomena associated with geophysics are increasingly effectively modelled.

In recent years, Kuusi has actively contributed to major advancements in the development of quantitative theory.

"Geothermal energy has great potential as a source of district heating, which has made me interested in looking at this topic in more detail." -Tuomo Kuusi

Read more about Kuusi's research group on the Geometric analysis and partial differential equations group's website.

Project name and duration

Quantitative stochastic homogenization of variational problems, 2019–2023.

Miia Lindström’s ERC-funded project investigates why and in what conditions the Clostridium botulinum bacterium produces the lethal botulinum toxin, also known as botox.

Even though the C. botulinum bacterium has been known for roughly two centuries, it remains interesting for its neurotoxin production. Already at a quantity of one millionth of a gram, botulin causes botulism, which manifests as quadriplegia in humans and animals.

The project’s aim is to expand the knowledge previously gained by Lindström’s group on the functioning of a single repressor to a comprehensive understanding of how and in what kind of conditions C. botulinum produces the neurotoxin.

Lindström’s research will uncover the cellular connection between the production of the botulinum toxin and spore formation, which will open new avenues for controlling the food safety and public health risks caused by the C. botulinum bacterium.

"Fortunately, botulism is extremely rare, but it is a well-known food-borne phenomenon with which the food industry continuously struggles." -Miia Lindström

Project name and duration

Why does Clostridium botulinum kill? – In search for botulinum neurotoxin regulators, 2017–2021.

Anna-Liisa Laine’s ERC-funded project investigates the functioning and evolution of resistance under the simultaneous attack of different pathogens.

Laine’s research is focused on the virus communities of wild plants. Nature is host to an enormously broad spectrum of viral diversity, which science has only in recent years been able to effectively describe. Many unanswered questions are still associated with the interaction between hosts and their virus communities.

The project aims to provide answers to the following three key questions:

  1. How does the diversity of virus communities vary in natural populations? What factors affect this variation?
  2. How does plant resistance function when multiple viruses typically attempt to infect the same individual plant during the growing season? Does the initial viral infection make individual plants more susceptible to other viruses?  
  3. How does our understanding of the evolution of resistance change when we consider the fact that the host is simultaneously fighting a number of pathogens? 

The project produces new information on the formation of virus communities in nature, and how their diversity impacts the functioning and evolution of their host plants’ resistance. The research helps to understand the mechanisms that regulate pathogens in the wild. In the long run, Laine’s research may also be helpful in preventing plant diseases and reducing the use of biocides.

Laine’s research group has demonstrated that the structure of the virus communities of wild plants varies considerably between both individual hosts and populations, while the genetic variation of the host species explains most of the variation among virus communities.

Interaction between pathogens also affects the incidence of diseases in the wild. The earlier in the growing season a plant is infected, the more pathogenic strains it is infected with when the summer ends.

Previously, Laine conducted research with a Starting Grant awarded by the ERC.

"Even now, very little is known about the role of viruses in ecosystems. It’s hugely rewarding to work right at the forefront of a research field focused on this poorly known but diverse group of species. It feels that we are doing genuinely groundbreaking work." -Anna-Liisa Laine

Read more about Laine's research group on the Ecology and Evolution of Species Interactions group's website.

Project name and duration

Resistance evolution in response to spatially variable pathogen communities, 2017–2022.

Kaius Tuori’s ERC-funded project investigates the tension between the private and the public.

Separating the office and its holder as well as binding the administration of the office to law, legally stipulated procedures and places is one of the most important premises of republican administration. In other words, the work of public offices should be carried out publicly in a public space. From the ancient Roman Republic, this has been associated with a contradiction: how can the ideal of equality be realised if there are no public spaces?

Tuori’s project investigates the conflict between the ideal of republican administration and the reality, observing not only republican theory and practice throughout European history, but also the structure of urban areas and their public spaces.

The project focuses on the built environment, allowing the researchers to analyse changes in social relationships and structures as well as ideologies and justice in a new way. The project investigates how the tension between the private and the public evolves and shapes the republican tradition starting from ancient Rome.

The republican ideals from the rule of law to equality are central also to the successes and problems of Finnish society. By shedding light on the significance of public space and the transparency of administration in the republican tradition, the project highlights the changes in self-understanding faced also by Finnish administration.

"Instead of being a neutral stage, space guides both actions and thoughts, often unconsciously." -Kaius Tuori

Read more about Tuori's research project on the Law, governance and space project's website.

Project name and duration

Law, Governance and Space: Questioning the Foundations of the Republican Tradition (SpaceLaw), 2018–2023.

Previously, Tuori received a Starting Grant from the ERC for the FoundLaw project, which focused on the development of the idea of European judicial tradition after the Second World War.

Tuori also heads the Academy of Finland’s Centre of Excellence in Law, Identity and the European Narratives.

Vincenzo Cerullo’s ERC funded project uses viruses as trojan horses to push the human body to fight cancer. The human immune system is programmed to fight viruses but not to fight cancer, because cancer originate from our own tissues.

Cerullo’s approach is to attach pieces of tumor called tumor-antigens onto the surface of common cold viruses. Once these viruses are in the body, the body tries to eliminate the virus. Because the virus is covered with tumor antigens, the body also starts to attack the tumor as if the tumor were a virus. Cerullo calls this technology PeptiCRAd, “a virus in tumor’s clothing”.

The main aims of this project are to

  1. develop a new system to scan patients’ tumors and identify novel and unique tumor antigens
  2. load these tumor antigens onto the surface of viruses to formulate a patient’s specific anti-cancer vaccine.

Cerullo’s project seeks to create a personalized cancer vaccine. Among the project’s many results are several different patents and invention disclosures, a spin-off company and applications of the PeptiCRAd technology to potential and existing COVID-19 vaccines.

Cerullo is among the first to demonstrate that oncolytic viruses exert their efficacy through their interaction with the immune system. Cerullo’s group has also demonstrated that the PeptiCRAd technology is an efficient way to control the quality and the amolitude of the anti-tumor immune response after oncolytic virus treatments.

Cerullo’s team has also developed a microfluidic-based chip to rapidly scan patients’ tumors and design personalized cancer vaccine.

"Applying to the ERC might be even more important than having it granted!" -Vincenzo Cerullo

Read more about Cerullo's research group on the Immunotherapy lab's website.

Project name and duration

Personalized oncolytic vaccines for cancer immunotherapy: PeptiCrad, 2016–2021.

Emilia Kilpua’s ERC-funded project investigates the magnetic fields of the Sun’s coronal mass ejections, which are enormous magnetic clouds of plasma.

So far, the magnetic field of flux ropes associated with the ejections cannot be predicted, and the structure of the turbulent area in front of the ejections, known as the sheath region, remains unknown. Kilpua’s project is developing novel techniques for predicting magnetic fields and is investigating in detail sheath regions in the solar wind.

The project has three primary goals:

  1. To predict the magnetic field of the flux ropes of ejection clouds in the corona
  2. To determine the magnetic structure of the sheath region
  3. To investigate how two turbulent sheath regions interact with each other.

The Sun’s coronal mass ejections are the underlying cause of almost all major storms in Earth’s inner space. The magnetic field of the ejections cannot be reliably predicted, as measuring and modelling it in the corona is very challenging. The results of Kilpua’s project will help to considerably improve space weather forecasts.

Kilpua’s group has developed a model that predicts the structure of the ejection’s flux rope down in the corona, utilising magnetic field observations on the Sun’s surface. The group has concluded a comprehensive analysis of plasma waves and turbulence in the sheath regions of solar ejections.

"There’s plenty to wonder at in the Sun. We are living in a golden age of solar research, with new probes producing new measurements every day." -Emilia Kilpua

Read more about Kilpua's research project on the SolMAG research project's website.

Project name and duration

The Structure and Evolution of Solar Magnetic Flux Ropes and Their Magnetosheaths (SolMAG), 2017–2023.

Pipsa Saharinen’s ERC-funded project investigates the permeability of blood vessel walls and how to improve the functioning of the vascular system in the case of severe inflammation.

The function of the cardiovascular system is dependent on the condition of the vascular system. In the case of septicaemia, its most severe form, septic shock, and many other diseases, the walls of the body’s smallest capillaries leak, with an unusual amount of fluid oozing into the tissue. At its worst, this can result in the disruption of vital functions.

Saharinen’s project seeks mechanisms that regulate the integrity and permeability of blood vessels, as well as the opportunity to utilise these regulatory mechanisms in the development of vascular therapies.

The project’s primary goals are to

  1. identify key molecular mechanisms that maintain the stability of the vascular system and whose disturbance increases vascular leakage in conjunction with severe inflammation
  2. develop precursors for preventing vascular leakage on the basis of atomic and molecular knowledge.

Leaking blood vessels constitute a substantial problem, and they are a factor also in severe types of Covid-19. Increased permeability in blood vessel walls reduces the passage of blood and the supply of oxygen to tissues, maintaining swelling and inflammation. Mechanisms that could be targeted with drugs that would reduce the permeability of blood vessels are not known.

Earlier, Saharinen’s group has identified mechanisms used by a vascular growth factor known as angiopoietin 2 to weaken the cell junctions in blood vessels. Their findings serve as a starting point for the ERC-funded project.

"The permeability of blood vessels is an issue in a very broad range of diseases that affect tens of millions of people, which is why investigating the vascular system and understanding its function is topical and important." -Pipsa Saharinen

Read more about Saharinen's research group on the Translational vascular biology group's website.

Project name and duration

ANTILEAK, Development of antagonists against vascular leakage, 2018–2023.

Sara A. Wickström’s ERC funded project investigates how adult stem cells that are present in most of our tissues, are regulated to maintain tissue function and regenerate them after injury.

Wickström’s project focuses on skin epidermis and hair follicle stem cells. As the skin constantly self-renews and regenerates through activity of epidermal and hair follicle stem cells, these cells provide a powerful, clinically relevant model system.

The main aims of the project are to:

  1. understand how the local tissue microenvironment, in particular its geometry and mechanical properties, control stem cell behavior
  2. identify the transcriptional networks and epigenetic barriers that control stem cell fate and plasticity
  3. identify drugs that could be used to boost stem cell function as means to enhance tissue repair or prevent age-dependent loss of regenerative potential.

The results of Wickström’s project will likely lay foundations for developing pharmacological treatments that boost the tissues own regenerative potential, which might be more effective and safer than stem cell transplantation.

Research in Wickström’s group focuses on understanding how complex tissues such as the skin are formed, maintained and regenerated, and how cancer escapes these structural and cell state barriers to uncontrolled growth.

Recent key discoveries include how mechanical force can alter nuclear and chromatin architecture to regulate stem cell state and protect stem cell DNA from damage. The group has further uncovered a critical role for the metabolic state of the stem cell in regulating its state and long term maintenance of the stem cell pool.

Understanding how adult skin stem cells work can help develop new treatments that boost tissue repair." -Sara A. Wickström

Read more about Wickström's research group on the Stem cells and tissue architecture group's website.

Project name and duration

Mechanisms of stem cell population dynamics and reprogramming (STEMpop) 2018–2023.

Minna Palmroth’s ERC-funded project focuses on space weather and how to model and forecast it better.

Space weather denotes the conditions in Earth’s inner space, which may cause harm to technical devices or human health. Space weather phenomena are caused by particle streams originating in the Sun, or solar wind, and the Earth’s magnetic field. In Palmroth’s project, these phenomena are investigated by combining top-level expertise in space physics with high-performance computing.

The project’s primary goals are

  1. To further develop Vlasiator, the world’s most accurate model describing the conditions in space
  2. To understand the fundamental nature of space weather phenomena in both local measurement contexts and global contexts of space weather by merging data obtained from Vlasiator and satellites
  3. To help improve the accuracy of space weather forecasts.

Palmroth’s project produces new knowledge pertaining to space weather, providing results that will help to measure and predict space weather with increasing accuracy. Among other things, improved space weather forecasts assist in avoiding damage caused by space weather to satellites and electrical grids.

Palmroth’s group has developed an entirely new kind of method for modelling space weather known as Vlasiator, currently the world’s most accurate large-scale depiction of Earth’s inner space.

"Society is increasingly dependent on space, which is why understanding and predicting space weather is of utmost importance." -Minna Palmroth

Read more about Palmroth's research group and the Vlasiator modelling method.


Project name and duration

Plasma Reconnection, Shocks and Turbulence in Solar System Interactions: Modelling and Observations, 2016–2022.

Aleksi Vuorinen’s ERC funded project investigates how ordinary matter behaves at the most extreme densities found in our present-day Universe: inside the cores of neutron stars. Under the immensely strong gravitational fields there, even atomic nuclei – let alone single atoms – break apart. This likely creates an entirely new phase of matter, which consists of liberated quarks and gluons.

The central questions of Vuorinen’s project are:

  1. What are the most central thermodynamic properties of this quark matter phase?
  2. Can quark matter be found inside the most massive observed neutron stars?

A definite confirmation of the existence of quark matter inside neutron stars would be a milestone result in particle physics and astrophysics. It will likely occur through an intense collaboration between many different research groups. Vuorinen’s group has already taken some very promising steps in this direction. In 2020, they were able to present the first-ever model-independent evidence for the presence of quark matter cores.

Vuorinen has worked extensively on determining the properties of dense quark matter. His group is responsible for state-of-the-art results for many different physical quantities. He has also frequently applied these results to the study of neutron stars, and has significantly decreased our current uncertainties in the thermodynamic properties of neutron star matter.

"Neutron stars offer a unique laboratory for testing how nature works in one of its most extreme limits. Too bad they are so inconveniently located." -Aleksi Vuorinen

Project name and duration

High-density QCD matter from first principles (DenseMatter), 2017–2022.

Jörg Tiedemann’s ERC funded project examines how translations of documents can help teach a machine to understand the meanings of text.

Humans use language in versatile ways. That makes it difficult for a machine to map text back to the ideas we try to communicate. This project uses translations into a large variety of languages to teach a machine to pick up the intended meaning of a text.

The project’s main aims are to develop:

  • language-agnostic meaning representation learned from translations
  • multilingual machine translation with high language coverage
  • a better understanding of linguistic properties in neural language models.

Natural language processing has more impact on society than most people realise. Tiedemann’s research can, among other things, help avoid misguided decisions based on incorrect machine interpretations and reduce linguistic barriers that prevent people in certain groups from participating in an information-based society.

Tiedemann has been involved in research and development that has influenced language technology worldwide. Resources that he has been involved in developing include e.g. OPUS, the biggest collection of public translation data to date, and open translation tools such as the Finnish-Swedish translation engine fiksmö.

"Language (technology) is the key to (artificial) intelligence." -Jörg Tiedemann

Read more about Tiedemann's research project on the Found in Translation project's website.

Project name and duration

Found in Translation – Natural Language Understanding with Cross-Lingual Grounding, 2018–2023.

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