ERC Consolidator Grants in the University of Helsinki

Dr. Jaan-Olle Andressoo studies Parkinson's disease. In ERC funded research he aims to seek treatment for Parkinson’s disease from a new angle – via enhancing the brain's own physiological processes.

The study is important, because Parkinson’s disease (PD) affects 1% of elderly persons and is currently incurable. Andressoo has made progress toward finding a cure by targeting the 3’UTR in the mouse Gdnf gene, thereby increasing expression levels without affecting the gene’s spatiotemporal expression pattern.

Read more about the project

Pro­ject's name and dur­a­tion:

Gene knock-up via 3’UTR targeting to treat Parkinson’s disease, 1.9.2017–31.8.2022

Tenure Track Assistant Professor Vincenzo Cerullo (@vincersurf) from the Faculty of Pharmacy has developed a new approach for treating cancer. The invention is based on the human body’s ability to recognise and destroy viruses.

His ERC application proposes to develop a novel, customizable and personalized anti-cancer vaccine: peptide-coated conditionally replicating adenovirus (PeptiCrad). Anti-cancer vaccines represent a promising approach for cancer treatment because they elicit durable and specific immune response that destroys primary tumors and distant metastases.

Read more about the vaccine

Pro­ject's name and dur­a­tion:

Personalized oncolytic vaccines for cancer immunotherapy, 1.7.2016–30.6.2021


Peter Johansson is professor of astrophysics at the Faculty of Science. The research of his group is focused on questions related to the formation and evolution of galaxies. Johansson’s ERC project "Post-Newtonian modelling of the dynamics of supermassive black holes in galactic-scale hydrodynamic simulations" aims to model the movements of supermassive black holes in galaxy collisions.

Johansson's ERC-funded project is based on KETJU, a new code written at the University of Helsinki which will enable such a simulation 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's name and duration

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

Space researcher 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.

Read more about the study

Pro­ject's name and dur­a­tion:

Unravelling the Structure and Evolution of Solar Magnetic Flux Ropes and their Magnetosheaths, 1.6.2017–31.5.2022


The ERC-funded project of Tuomo Kuusi, professor of mathematics and statistics, is focused on 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.

In recent years, great theoretical advances in quantitative theory have been achieved, with Kuusi as an active contributor. In the ERC-funded project, the aim is to study 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's name and duration

Quantitative stochastic homogenization of variational problems, 2019–2023


Professor and evolutionary biologist 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.

Read more about the study

Pro­ject's name and dur­a­tion:

Resistance evolution in response to spatially variable pathogen communities, 1.3.2017–28.2.2022
Starting Grant: Linking Pathogen Evolution and Epidemiology, 1.10.2011–30.9.2016


Professor Miia Lindström heads a study, which tries to find out, why is the Clostridium botulinum bacterium lethal. The study is intended 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.

Read more about the research

Pro­ject's name and dur­a­tion:

Why does Clostridium botulinum kill? – In search for botulinum neurotoxin regulators, 1.1.2017–31.12.2021

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

In ERC funded project Mustjoki and her group investigates 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 beased 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's name and dur­a­tion:

Novel etiology of autoimmune disorders: the role of acquired somatic mutations in lymphoid cells, 1.9.2015–31.8.2020

Ari Pekka Mähönen (@AP_Mahonen) serves as a research group leader at the Institute of Biotechnology (HiLIFE) and the Faculty of Biological and Environmental Sciences, studying plant developmental biology. Mähönen’s research group has developed novel methods for investigating how vascular cambium, a lateral meristem, drives radial growth in plants.

The aim of the research to be conducted by Mähönen’s group with the ERC grant is to investigate 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.

Project's name and duration

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

Professor Mikko Niemi has done research on the gene mutations linked to the response to cholesterol medicine and its side effects since the early 2000s. He has found a number of gene mutations that affect patient response to statins, lipid-lowering medications, or that increase their muscular side effects.

ERC Funding he got for designing a systems pharmacology decision support algorithm which can aid in choosing the most suitable statin for each patient. Read more here.

Pro­ject's name and dur­a­tion:

Transporter pharmacogenomics – the contribution of transporters to variability in drug response, 1.2.2012–31.1.2017
Consolidator Grant: Individualizing statin therapy by using a systems pharmacology decision support algorithm, 1.8.2017–31.7.2022

Professor Minna Palmroth’s research group, which studies sustainable space science and technology, has been made an Academy of Finland Centre of Excellence for the period 2018–2025. The group wants to protect orbits 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.

The Finnish Meteorological Institute in the Dynamicum building studies the weather. Next door, in Physicum, the recently appointed professor of computational space physics, Minna Palmroth, looks beyond earthly weather and the atmosphere to examine space weather.

Read more about spaceweather

Pro­ject's name and dur­a­tion:

Plasma Reconnection, Shocks and Turbulence in Solar System Interactions: Modelling and Observations, 1.6.2016–31.5.2021
Starting Grant: Quantifying Energy Circulation in Space Plasma, 1.9.2008–31.8.2013

The European Research Council has granted Pipsa Saharinen's ANTILEAK project a five-year €2-million ERC Consolidator Grant.

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 states.

Read more about the project: Fixing leaking capillaries

Project's name and duration:

ANTILEAK Development of antagonists of vascular leakage, 1.5.2018–30.4.2023

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?

“In philosophy, these questions are often discussed under the rubric of reduction. Typically, in asking whether one phenomenon reduces to another, we aim to understand what the ultimate or fundamental basis of the first phenomenon is,” Tahko says.

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.

Project's name and duration:

The Metaphysical Unity of Science

Jörg Tiedemann's research aims to develop models for natural language understanding trained on implicit information given by large collections of human translations. His research team will apply 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.

“Natural language understanding is the holy grail of computational linguistics and a long-term goal in research on artificial intelligence," Tiedemann says.

Project's name and duration:

FoTran: Found in Translation - Natural Language Processing with Cross-Lingual Grounding, 1.9.2018 - 31.8.2023

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 the society. In particular, the project investigates the relationship between private and public space and the place of public administration in between those two.

Project's name and duration:

Law, Governance and Space: Questioning the Foundations of the Republican Tradition, 1.3.2013–28.2.2018

Aleksi Vuorinen received a grant from the European Research Council (ERC) worth over €1 million to study the densest matter in the universe. Vuorinen studies quark matter, which could be found in the cores of extremely dense neutron stars.

Aleksi Vuorinen looks into the hearts of neutron stars

Pro­ject's name and dur­a­tion:

High-density QCD matter from first principles, 1.7.2017–30.6.2022

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, 1.5.2018–30.4.2023