Research

Novel cancer therapeutics

Cancer is one of the leading causes of morbidity and mortality on a global scale. The American Institute of Cancer Research and the World Health Organization have estimated that the annual global costs of cancer are 723–930 billion euros. The traditional cancer therapeutics featuring highly cytotoxic organic compounds are accompanied by a large number of undesired side-effects. As a result, the development of selective anti-cancer agents and treatments has become one of the most important tasks within the pharmaceutical and medical sciences. In our group, we focus on the development of novel boron delivery agents for Boron Neutron Capture Therapy (BNCT) and on critically investigating different aspects of state-of-the-art antibody-drug conjugates (ADCs).

According to our view, BNCT stands out as a promising anti-cancer strategy due to its selectivity (eradication of cancer cells without affecting healthy cells) and applicability (tumors where surgery and other treatment options are not effective can be treated). We believe that the limitations of current delivery agents in clinical use are hampering the scientific breakthroughs and widespread use of BNCT and aim to change this by developing improved delivery agents.

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ADCs are among the most promising emerging classes of anti-cancer therapeutics due to the highly selective targeting capabilities of monoclonal antibodies. Current research is aimed at understanding the properties of payload molecules/cytotoxic agents and the development of hydrophilic linkers, orthogonal and site-specific bioconjugation protocols and state-of-the-art ADCs.

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Ocular surface diseases

Ocular surface diseases such as Meibomian gland disorder (MGD), dry eye syndrome (DES) and blepharitis are prevalent on a global scale (DES alone affects 500 million people annually) and constitute a significant health concern and societal economic burden (estimated annual costs of 900 million euros in Finland). These diseases affect the composition and function of the tear film lipid layer (TFLL), a unique biological barrier that protects/lubricates the surface of the eye and prevents evaporation of aqueous tear fluid. While the TFLL consists of a highly conserved lipid composition that has been the subject of intense study over several decades, very little is known about the properties of the individual lipid components and their role in functional/dysfunctional states. Our aim is to increase the understanding on the multifaceted role of the TFLL in states of health and disease. In order to achieve this aim, we have combined our expertise in synthetic organic chemistry with Helsinki Eye Labs expertise in state-of-the-art experimental and computational biophysics and ophthalmology. Through the use of synthetic lipid libraries we are able to shed new light on the biophysical properties and roles of individual lipid classes found in the TFLL. We expect that our studies will lead to breakthroughs in understanding the link between TFLL organization and function (in states of health and disease) which in time will translate into improved diagnostic tools and treatments for ocular surface diseases.

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Miscellaneous projects

In addition to our two main research themes, we actively lend our expertise and collaborate with other research groups in all areas of biomolecular chemistry. Our background and competence in synthetic organic chemistry and structural elucidation of challenging organic substrates are of key-importance to our collaborators. Recently, we have worked with the development of novel polysaccharide-based biomolecular probes for investigating the molecular recognition properties of galectin 3, studied the acyl migration events occurring across carbohydrate residues in oligomannosides and contributed to the construction of thermoresponsive glyconanoparticles.

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