ERC Consolidator Grants in the University of Helsinki

ERC Consolidator Grants are a form of funding for researchers who have already established themselves in their field, and who are looking to consolidate their independence and develop a successful career in Europe. On this page, you can get to know our researchers and research groups working with ERC Consolidator Grant funding.

Researchers of any nationality with 7–12 years of experience since completion of their PhD can apply for ERC Consolidator Grants, which may be awarded up to € 2 million for a period of 5 years.

Associate Professor Jaan-Olle Andressoo studies Parkinson's disease. He seeks a treatment for Parkinson’s disease from a new angle – via enhancing the brain's own physiological processes.

Andressoo's research expands our understanding of the physiological role of the glial cell line-derived neurotrophic factor GDNF in the function of the brain's dopamine systems. He has established that GDNF is an important physiological regulator of the functioning of the brain’s dopamine neurons.

The work that Andressoo's group is doing is crucial for developing new treatments for not just Parkinson’s disease, but also for addiction, ADHD and bipolar disorder, as all of these diseases are associated with some type of disorder in the function of the dopamine neurons, and specifically in the dopamine transporter.

Pro­ject name and dur­a­tion

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

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Professor Vincenzo Cerullo (@vincersurf) has developed a new approach for treating cancer. Cerullo's method is based on the human body’s ability to recognise and destroy viruses.

Cerullo is developing a novel, customizable and personalized anti-cancer vaccine: peptide-coated conditionally replicating adenovirus (PeptiCrad). The idea is that a virus covered with peptides from cancer cells directs the body’s anti-viral immunity towards the tumour. Anti-cancer vaccines represent a promising approach for cancer treatment because they elicit a durable and specific immune response that destroys primary tumours and distant metastases.

Commercialisation of Cerullo's PeptiCRAd-vaccine has been funded by Novo Nordisk. The commercialisation is being carried out in the Valo Therapeutics company in collaboration with Helsinki Innovation Services.

Cerullo's research has also received funding from e.g. the Finnish Cancer Association.

Project name and duration

Personalized oncolytic vaccines for cancer immunotherapy, 2016–2021.

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Professor of astrophysics Peter Johansson studies the formation and evolution of galaxies. Johansson’s ERC project aims to model the movements of supermassive black holes in galaxy collisions.

Johansson's project is based on KETJU, a new code written at the University of Helsinki which will enable a simulation of the movements of supermassive black holes in galaxy collisions for the first time. The code will make it possible to model the movements of stars and black holes close to the central black hole with great precision. In addition, the code enables the study of gravitational waves in a manner previously impossible in regular galaxy simulations.

Project name and duration

Post-Newtonian modelling of the dynamics of supermassive black holes in galactic-scale hydrodynamical simulations (KETJU), 2019–2023.

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Associate professor Emilia Kilpua studies the Sun’s outermost layer corona. In her ERC funded research she focuses on coronal mass ejections and how they erupt, evolve and interact.

Coronal mass ejections form as twisted magnetic flux ropes when the Sun’s complex magnetic field changes. Although coronal mass ejections have been studied for decades, their exact cause, structure and development continue to be largely unknown.

Most strong disturbances in planetary space environments are caused by coronal mass ejections, and at Earth they can impact the performance of technical systems and hinder their reliability in space and on ground. Kilpua's research may help us better predict when a magnetic storm will hit near-Earth space, and to avoid its worst effects.

Project name and duration

Unravelling the Structure and Evolution of Solar Magnetic Flux Ropes and their Magnetosheaths, 2017–2020.

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Emilia Kilpua: The structure and evolution of solar magnetic flux ropes and their magnetosheats

Emilia Kilpua: The structure and evolution of solar magnetic flux ropes and their magnetosheats.

Professor of mathematics and statistics Tuomo Kuusi studies problems at 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.

Kuusi has been an active contributor to the great theoretical advances in quantitative theory that have been achieved in recent years. In his ERC-funded project, Kuusi studies several challenging problems both theoretically and in practice by using these new methods. Examples of practical applications include new mathematical approaches and methods of calculus that support the operations of the geothermal power plant developed by St1 Deep Heat Oy in Espoo.

Project name and duration

Quantitative stochastic homogenization of variational problems, 2019–2023.

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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.

Professor Anna-Liisa Laine studies the development of disease resistance. Her ERC funded research focuses on plants, but the mechanisms of diseases and immunity are very similar in other species as well.

Laine wants to find out how plants in particular, and any individuals and populations in general, survive and develop their resistance under continuous attack by multiple pathogens.

Project name and duration

Resistance evolution in response to spatially variable pathogen communities, 2017–2022.
Starting Grant: Linking Pathogen Evolution and Epidemiology, 2011–2016.

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Anna-Liisa Laine: Resistance in response to spatially variable pathogen communities

Professor Miia Lindström heads a research group, which investigates why the Clostridium botulinum bacterium is lethal. The study intends to determine why and under which circumstances this bacterium, which can live in soil or water, produces the deadly neurotoxin, botulin, also known as botox.

Project name and duration

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

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Archaeologist Kristiina Mannermaa specialises in zooarchaeology. Her work focuses on the relationships between animals and humans.

Mannermaa's ERC-funded research project examines how animals affected the identity of Stone Age hunter-gatherers. Among the techniques employed in the project are methods of bioarchaeology and geographic information software.

Mannermaa is looking into how rehistoric hunter-gatherers' customs of coexisting with animals are reflected on and stand out in the burial material of prehistoric hunter-gatherers. Her research helps us understand our own society and our relationship with nature, as well as our identity.

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Assistant Professor Kirsi Mikkonen studies hemicelluloses of trees, so called spruce gum and birch gum. Hemicelluloses can be used to stabilise emulsions, or compounds of two mutually insoluble liquids. Mikkonen has also previously developed a more effective method of producing nanoparticles from lignin.

With her ERC grant, Mikkonen will develop a pioneering technique, with which double-sided Janus particles will be produced from lignin and hemicellulose. These structures, derived from natural raw materials, can in the future be used as stabilising ingredients in food, pharmaceutical agents, chemicals and building materials. The particles bind firmly to surfaces, stabilising them or forming organised structures.

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Professor Satu Mustjoki is the principal investigator and group leader responsible for the laboratory studies in the Hematology Research unit. She is a research professor for the Finnish Cancer Institute and professor in clinical chemistry and hematology (University of Helsinki).

In her ERC funded project, Mustjoki and her group investigate immune-mediated disorders and especially leukemia. They study the function of mutated lymphocytes and examine the mechanisms of autocytotoxicity and end-organ/tissue damage. Their aim is to understand factors, which induce somatic mutations in lymphoid cells, such as the role of viral infections.

The research is based on a discovery that 40–50% of LGL leukemia patients carry in their lymphoid cells acquired, activating mutations in the STAT3 gene – a key regulator of immune and oncogenic processes.

Project name and duration

Novel etiology of autoimmune disorders: the role of acquired somatic mutations in lymphoid cells, 2015–2020.

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Associate professor Ari Pekka Mähönen (@AP_Mahonen) studies plant developmental biology and especially the radial growth of trees. Mähönen’s research group has developed novel methods for investigating how vascular cambium, a lateral meristem, drives radial growth in plants. They have also settled the dispute on how trees grow radially.

With their ERC funding, Mähönen’s group investigates the function of the stem cells of cork cambium, another lateral meristem responsible for plant radial growth, and how the two meristems, cork and vascular cambia, together increase the thickness in plants.

Understanding radial growth in plants is central to plant biology, and data gained from this study can be applied to crop and tree breeding. Mähönen's research results on the radial growth of trees mean that botany textbooks will have to be rewritten.

Project name and duration

Thickening of plant organs by nested stem cells, 2019–2023.

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Helariutta Mähönen radial growth

How trees and turnips grow fatter – researchers at Helsinki and Cambridge Universities unlock the secrets of radial growth in two papers published in Nature.

Professor Mikko Niemi studies gene mutations linked to the response to cholesterol medicine and its side effects. With his ERC funding, Niemi will design a mathematic systems pharmacology model algorithm, which will be able to take into account all the individual factors that influence the suitability of various cholesterol medications.

When Niemi's model is finished, it will aid medical doctors in choosing the most suitable cholesterol medication for each individual patient. As a result, patients will tolerate the medication better, and the mortality rate for cardiovascular diseases may lower significantly.

Niemi has previously found a number of gene mutations that affect patient response to statins, lipid-lowering medications, or that increase their muscular side effects.

Mikko Niemi is also one of the most highly cited researchers of the University of Helsinki.

Project name and duration

Individualizing statin therapy by using a systems pharmacology decision support algorithm, 2017–2022.
Starting Grant: Transporter pharmacogenomics – the contribution of transporters to variability in drug response, 2012–2017.

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Professor Minna Palmroth studies space weather and sustainable space science and technology. Palmroth's group wants to protect Earth's orbit from space junk and revolutionise experimental space physics through nanosatellites.

Radiation has a great impact on the generation of space junk. Palmroth and her group want to increase the understanding of space plasma physics so that we can better prepare for radiation.

Palmroth has developed the revolutionary Vlasiator model, which models space weather in six dimensions. The model has significantly increased researchers' understanding of the dynamics of space weather. It also provides tools for studying less known phenomena of space weather, such as the magnetotail generated by the magnetic field on the dark side of the Earth.

Project name and duration

Plasma Reconnection, Shocks and Turbulence in Solar System Interactions: Modelling and Observations, 2016–2021.
Starting Grant: Quantifying Energy Circulation in Space Plasma, 2008–2013.

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Associate professor Pipsa Saharinen studies sepsis, or blood poisoning. Sepsis is a common, occasionally lethal disease, which is usually associated with blood vessel walls breaking down. Saharinen is working on a method, which would keep the blood vessel walls intact and blood where it belongs.

There is tremendous need for a drug that could prevent blood vessel leakage. Illnesses associated with blood vessel leakage constitute a global health problem, afflicting tens of millions of people every year. These are also very serious illnesses.

Saharinen's group is developing antibodies that would allow the control of the signalling chains that regulate blood vessel walls to prevent them from becoming too permeable.

Project name and duration

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

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Professor Jörg Tiedemann develops models for natural language understanding trained on implicit information given by large collections of human translations.

Tiedemann's research team applies massively parallel data sets of over a thousand languages to acquire abstract meaning representations that can be used for reasoning with natural languages and for multilingual neural machine translation.

Project name and duration

FoTran: Found in Translation - Natural Language Processing with Cross-Lingual Grounding, 2018–2023.

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Henning Trüper uses his ERC funding to study the history of saving lives from shipwreck in Europe since around 1800. Trüper aims to develop a novel understanding of the history of humanitarian morality.

From the 1820s onward, urban-bourgeois activists in Europe persuaded coastal populations to embrace a new ideal of life saving. This universal and unconditional imperative to attempt the rescue of the shipwrecked almost regardless of risk to the rescuers. Trüper's ERC project asks why and how this novel imperative emerged, and how it was stabilized and sustained.

In the long run, Trüper's analysis will make it possible to develop a new theoretical understanding of the contingent organization of moral norms around “single issues.” This will help to explain why the overall landscape of humanitarian movements remains archipelagic, i.e. structured by insular relief efforts for selected kinds of suffering. In this way, the historical research will also help better understand many present-day concerns, sentiments, and conflicts.

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Professor of European intellectual history Kaius Tuori studies the European republican tradition from the perspective of public administrative space. Since the Roman Republic, the officials serving the people and the nation have been at the core of republican tradition.

By combining historical sources and archeological findings, Tuori’s group studies how the space given to public administration reflects its role in society. In particular, the project investigates the relationship between private and public space and the place of public administration in between those two.

Project name and duration

Law, Governance and Space: Questioning the Foundations of the Republican Tradition, 2018–2023

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Associate professor Aleksi Vuorinen studies the matter in neuron stars to find if quark matter could be found in the cores of extremely dense neutron stars.

According to Vuorinen, theorists have long ago established the existence of quark matter, a new phase of matter in which the nuclear particles such as protons and neutrons are under such extreme pressure that they compress into one another. In these circumstances, the quarks and gluons that make up these composite particles are liberated, i.e. they behave as the new degrees of freedom in the system.

Project name and duration

ERC Consolidator Grant: High-density QCD matter from first principles, 2017–2022.

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Aleksi Vuorinen: High density QCD matter from first principles

Sara Wickström will move her research project from Max Planck Institute of Ageing to Helsinki Institute of Life Science HiLIFE. She studies how single cell behaviors are coordinated on the population level and how population-level dynamics is coupled to tissue architecture.

The breakthrough innovation has been developing a method to cultivate hair follicle stem cells that fuel hair follicle regeneration, repair epidermal injuries and, when deregulated, initiate carcinogenesis.

By deconstructing complex tissue level behaviors at an unprecedented spatiotemporal resolution this study has the potential to transform the fundaments of adult stem cell biology with immediate implications to regenerative medicine.

Project's name and duration:

STEMpop Mechanisms of stem cell population dynamics and reprogramming, 2018–2023

Tuomas Tahko: The Metaphysical Unity of Science, 2018–2023

Tahko has moved to the University of Bristol.

Tuomas Tahko’s research project will pursue the question of what, if anything, unifies the natural sciences from the perspective of metaphysics and philosophy of science. He employs case studies from biology, chemistry, and physics to investigate what does it mean for one scientific phenomenon to be explained in terms of another and under what conditions does scientific unification take place?

The research project’s goal is to produce a novel account of unification. A cross-disciplinarily applicable toolbox for unification would be useful for identifying the kind of expertise is needed for understanding a given phenomenon.