Researchers and Research groups involved in the on­go­ing COVID-19 pan­demic in Finland.
Olli Vapalahti

MD, PhD, Professor of zoonotic virology (since 2003)

I work both at medical and veterinary faculties of University of Helsinki, Finland. I have supervised 12 finalized PhD projects and have 277 PubMed publications (July 2018) mainly on arboviruses and zoonoses. I am also a specialist in clinical microbiology with clincial diagnostic responsibilites at Helsinki University Hospital laboratories with a unit for viral zoonoses. I am member of the Finnish Academy of Sciences and Letters, and member of EVD-LabNet (Emerging Viral diseases Laboratory Network).

Our group is currently focusing on development of serological tests and antivirals for COVID-19.

Viral Zoonoses Research Unit

Mark Daly

Director of the Institute for Molecular Medicine, Finland (FIMM) at the University of Helsinki 

Mark is a Professor of Genetics at Harvard Medical School, Chief of the Analytic and Translational Genetic Unit at Massachusetts General Hospital, and a member of the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard. In the early days of the Human Genome Project, Daly helped develop the genetic model by which linkage disequilibrium could be used to map the haplotype structure of the human genome. In addition, he developed statistical methods to find associations between genes and disorders such as Crohn's disease, inflammatory bowel disease, autism and schizophrenia.

Mark Daly Homepage

Anu Kantele

MD, PHD, Professor

Anu Kantele is Professor of Infectious Diseases at the Medical faculty of the University of Helsinki, Finland, and Senior Medical Officer at Helsinki University Hospital (HUH). At HUH she also heads the Meilahti Vaccination Research Center MeVac. She received her MD, MD PhD, and specialist degrees in Internal Medicine and Infectious Diseases as well as docenture in Immunology and in Infectious Diseases from the University of Helsinki. 

Her clinical work centres on returning travellers, immigrants and tropical diseases. Her research interests include antimicrobial resistance, diseases in developing countries, diarrhoea, returning travellers, vaccinations, spread of microbes across borders, and infection immunology.

She is principal Investigator of OEV123 and AMRIWA. OEV123 is a phase 2b clinical trial conducted in Benin, West-Africa, on an oral vaccine against enterotoxigenic Escherichia coli. AMRIWA (antimicrobial resistance in West Africa) explores the distribution of resistance genes using a One Health approach. At present, her research group focuses on clinical course, immunology, diagnostics and possible treatment options of SARS-CoV-2 in collaboration with the Vapalahti group.


Tarja Sironen

PhD, Associate Professor of emerging infectious diseases

I am part of Helsinki One Health network and work both at the Department of Virology, Faculty of Medicine and the Department of Veterinary Biosciences, Faculty of Veterinary Medicine. I have experience in studying emerging infectious diseases, viral zoonosis, virus diagnostics and phylogenetics.

My research focuses on the discovery of novel viruses, disease ecology and molecular epidemiology of rodent- and bat-borne viruses. I also lead projects on detection, diagnostics and prevention of infectious diseases.

I teach and supervise students at both faculties. I also train personnel for work in BSL3-laboratory (EE-building, Viikki campus), and coordinate the use of Illumina MiSeq at our laboratory in the Meilahti campus.

Our group is currently focusing on development of serological tests and antivirals for COVID-19 in collaboration with Prof. Olli Vapalahti group. We also work on the origin of coronaviruses, bats and intermediate hosts.

Emerging infections research group

Craig Prim­mer

Academy Pro­fessor

Understanding life history variation is a central theme in biology because various biological questions ultimately revolve around the causes and consequences of variation in reproduction and survival, i.e. fitness. Traditionally, a major tool in life-history research has been quantitative genetics because it provides an important statistical link between phenotype and genotype. However, the mechanisms by which evolution occurs may remain unclear unless such traditional approaches are combined with molecular investigations. Another complicating factor is that the fitness of male vs female life histories do not always align, and hence life history traits may be shaped by sexual conflict. This is why life-history approaches focusing on both quantifying the conflict and understanding its resolution at the genetic level are needed. My research currently addresses these themes using several salmonid fish species (Atlantic salmon and European grayling) as models.

Involvement with COVID-19: viral genome sequencing and bioinformatics capability

Evolution conservation and genomics research group

Olli silvennoinen

Professor, Director of the Helsinki Institute of Life Science (HiLIFE)

Tomi Mäkelä

Professor, Helsinki Institute of Life Science (HiLIFE)

Maija Lappalainen

Research Director, Department of Virology

Katja Kivinen

Director of the FIMM Technology Centre

Pirta Hotulainen

PhD, Docent, Group leader in Neuroscience 

I work at Minerva Foundation Institute for Medical Research, which is a private research institute next to University of Helsinki at Meilahti campus. I started as a biochemist, became cell biologist during my PhD in Germany and started my own group in Neuroscience. My group studies how actin cytoskeleton regulates the morphology and functionality of neurons. Our broader interests are brain development, learning, and autism spectrum disorder (ASD). I am active in societal aspects, trying to bring research results to everyone. Currently, I am vice chair of FENS-KAVLI network, which is a very active group of engaged neuroscience PIs. We all try to make our best to fight against COVID-19 in our countries.

Cellurar Neuroscience research group

Jussi Hep­o­joki

PhD, Docent in virology, Academy of Finland research fellow

I am a principal investigator at the Meilahti campus and Oberassistent at the University of Zürich (Vetsuisse faculty, Institute of Veterinary Pathology) with main research focus is on molecular virology and pathogenesis of zoonotic viruses. After receiving PhD in 2012 (Glycoprotein interactions in the assembly of hantaviruses) I have been particularly active in finding novel viruses from snakes, with main focus on arenaviruses. I am also the scientific lead of “BIBD Group” (Boid inclusion body disease) operating at both University of Helsinki and University of Zürich. We as the BIBD group have so far contributed by the reshaping the arenavirus taxonomy (taxonomic proposals on establishing three novel genera: Mammarenavirus, Reptarenavirus and Hartmanivirus in the family Arenaviridae) and by several publications on the pathogenesis of reparenaviruses in snakes.

Francesco Mattia Noé

PhD, Academy of Finland Research Fellow

Fransesco Noe group

Teemu Smura

PhD, researcher

The focus of my research is on virus evolution. This includes studies on the genetic variation of virus populations, molecular epidemiology of RNA viruses, the evolutionary mechanisms behind the emergence of viruses and viral genetic determinants of virus cell/tissue tropism.

Suvi Kuivanen

PhD, post-doctoral researcher

I did my PhD on isolation and characterization of neuropathogenic Zika (ZIKV) and tick-borne encephalitis viruses (TBEV) from human cases in November 2017. Currently, my research focus is on the pathogenesis of ZIKV and TBEV, in particular the molecular and cellular mechanisms in the central nervous system. Other areas of interest include virus isolation and characterization from biological material, such as ticks and human specimens, as well as research on anti-viral agents against neurotropic flaviviruses.

Ravi Kant

PhD, researcher

I am a researcher with background in IT, NSG, bioinformatics and veterinary microbiology. My current research focus is on genomics of various bacterial pathogens as well as meta-genomics and viromics of different vertebrates.

To­mas Strandin

PhD, Docent in virology, Academy of Finland research fellow

My research aims at characterizing host responses towards hantavirus infections. Hantaviruses cause immune-mediated hemorrhagic fevers in humans, to which no vaccine or specific treatment is currently available, whereas in rodent hosts the infection is asymptomatic and persistent. In order to develop efficient viral countermeasures in the future, a more detailed understanding the cellular and molecular mechanisms leading to hantavirus pathogenesis and/or persistence is of prime importance.

My specific research questions include the virus-induced regulation of human and rodent immune cells both in the host organism and in in vitro. I’m also interested in the hemostatic regulation by hantavirus infection in humans.


Gi­useppe Bal­is­treri

Adjunct Professor in Molecular Virology, Academy of Finland Research Fellow 

Group homepage

Päivi Saavalainen

PhD, principal investigator

Our group studies autoimmune diseases and chronic gastrointestinal inflammations, namely celiac disease and inflammatory bowel disease. We apply genomics and transcriptomics tools to explore the genetics and immunopathogenesis of these diseases, with a special focus on T cell clonality and phenotyping with single cell RNAseq methods.

Ville Paavilainen

PhD, Docent

Ville studied regulation of actin dynamics in the lab of Prof. Pekka Lappalainen (Univ of Helsinki). As a postdoc with Prof Jack Taunton (UC-San Francisco) he worked on structure-guided design of covalent-reversible protein inhibitors, and the use of natural product-inspired small molecules to interrogate mechanisms co-translational protein translocation. In his own lab he uses methods of structural biology, biophysics and cell biology to study protein homeostasis network regulation in mammalian cells.

Matjaz Barboric

Ph.D. Principle Investigator, Sigrid Jusélius Senior Investigator

Barboric laboratory studies basic principles of gene regulation in human systems for therapies of the future. The primary focus of the lab is on how cells control the release of RNA polymerase II from promoter-proximal pausing into elongation, which is a critical regulatory phase of gene expression that is misregulated in many diseases, including cancer, autoimmunity and infectious diseases. Highlights of Dr. Barboric’s career include identification of the first mammalian transcription factor that stimulates Pol II elongation by recruiting the essential elongation kinase CDK9, characterization and function of the 7SK snRNP complex in repressing CDK9, subversion of the Pol II elongation control by the HIV-1 Tat protein for optimal proviral DNA transcription, and the significance of CDK9 for cellular genotoxic stress response.

The on-going SARS-CoV-2 studies of the lab focus on how viral non-structural proteins hijack cellular gene regulatory mechanisms to promote viral replication and pathogenesis of COVID-19. Unraveling and curtailing these insidious viral strategies shall form the basis for the subsequent development of novel SARS-CoV-2 antivirals.

Eili Huhtamo

PhD, Docent in virology, university researcher

I am a senior researcher guiding a team working on mosquito-borne viruses. We are studying MOBO viruses such as flavi, alpha and orthobunyaviruses from patient samples and mosquitoes collected in Finland, Kenya and Italy. The research interests include MOBO virus detection, variety, vector associations, distribution and molecular epidemiology. 

Lev Le­vanov

PhD, post-doctoral researcher

Currently, I am working as a postdoctoral researcher at University of Helsinki, Department of Virology. My research involves Flavivirus, Hantavirus and Filovirus infections. Several projects are ongoing: 1) Production of tick-borne encephalitis virus (TBEV)-like particles in mammalian cells based on alphavirus and mammalian expression vectors for diagnostic and neutralization studies 2) Production of Ebola and Marburg virus proteins in mammalian cells for diagnostic assays; 3) Pseudotyping of Vesicular stomatitis virus (VSV) particles with the surface glycoproteins Gn-Gc of Hantaviruses (Puumala virus, Tula virus, Dobrava virus) and Gp of Filoviruses (Ebola virus, Marburg virus) for epitope mapping, diagnostics and neutralization studies. 4) Generation of infectious clones, reporter replicons and reporter virus-like particles for Flaviviruses (TBEV and Zika) and using them in pathogenesis and molecular virology studies.

Ilkka Julkunen

Professor of Virology, University of Turku

The group lead by Professor Ilkka Julkunen, M.D., Ph.D., at Institute of Biomedicine, University of Turku is working on several aspects of coronavirus biology and host innate and adaptive immune system. The group isolates and collects wild type SARS-CoV-2 strains and analyses their ability to replicate and induce innate cytokine-mediated immune responses in primary human macrophages and dendritic cells and certain established cell lines. The study includes analysis of the activation or inhibition mechanisms of the RIG-I and Jak/STAT pathways in SARS-CoV-2 infected cells. Cloned SARS-2 structural and nonstructural genes are being used to analyze the role of respective proteins as potential inhibitors of IFN and other cytokine gene expression and IFN signaling pathways. The group is also producing SARS-CoV-2 and other human coronavirus structural and nonstructural proteins in E.coli and by baculovirus expression for diagnostic and research purposes. Purified coronavirus proteins are used to produce virus-specific antibodies and antigens in serological EIA and microarray assays to analyze and characterize antibody responses induced in COVID-19 infection. In addition, the proteins are used as stimulators of cell-mediated immunity and identifying potential cellular interaction partners. The group includes 12 senior scientists, postdoctoral fellows, graduate students and an expert laboratory technician.  

Other important members in the group: Laura Kakkola, Ph.D., Adjunct Professor

Vilja Pietiäinen

Adjunct Professor

Dr. Vilja Pietiäinen’s research is focused on cancer precision medicine. The patient -derived cancer cells are isolated from tissues after the surgery, grown ex-vivo, and characterized with different omics technologies, including genomics, phenomics, and drug profiling. Dr. Pietiäinen develops also microscopic imaging –based solutions with her collaborators for phenotyping and drug profiling of patient –derived cells. This approach enables the better understanding of the cellular heterogeneity in cancer, and drug sensitivity and resistance in particular patient.

Lars Paulin

Laboratory Engineer

Expert on sequencing and genomics. 

Petri Auvinen

Research director, Institute of Biotechnology

Expert on genomics, metagenomics and bioinfromatics. 


Juha Huiskonen

HiLIFE Associate Professor of Structural Biology

Juha Huiskonen's Laboratory of Structural Biology focuses on structures and interactions of macromolecular complexes. His group is planning to use cryogenic electron microscopy (cryo-EM) to study neutralisation mechanism of SARS-CoV-2 in atomic detail. 

Structural Biology of Macromolecules and Interactions research group

Ilona Ris­sanen

Academy of Fin­land Postdoc­toral Re­searcher

Ilona Rissanen earned her PhD in 2014 from the University of Jyväskylä, Finland. Her PhD project in the group of Jaana Bamford was focused on the crystallographic investigation of an extremophile bacteriophage, and incited her lasting interest in the study of viral structures. From 2014 to 2017, Ilona was a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Oxford working with Thomas Bowden, whose group investigates the structure and function of viral glycoproteins that are the key determinants of pathogenicity for emerging viruses. In 2017, Ilona was awarded Postdoctoral Researcher funding by the Academy of Finland to study the molecular mechanism that govern virus–host interactions of pathogenic hantaviruses. Her current research takes place both at the University of Oxford and University of Helsinki.

Vincenzo Cerullo

Professor, Biological Drug Development, Head of Drug Research Program

We are developing a PAN-corona vaccine including SARS-COV-2.

Immunovirotherapy Lab

An­na­ma­ri Hei­kin­hei­mo

Annamari Heikinheimo, DVM, PhD, Assistant professor (University of Helsinki), Research professor (Finnish Food Authority)

Our research group focuses on zoonotic bacteria becoming resistant towards antimicrobial drugs to treat these infections. Virus infections such as COVID-19 are commonly linked with secondary bacterial infections. We study molecular epidemiology and antimicrobial resistance of pathogenic bacteria by using Next Generation Sequencing. We also study infection prevention from food and environmental hygiene perspective and run an Erasmus+ project on microbial genomics

Zoonotic Antimicrobial Resistance research group

Minna Poranen

Docent, University Lecturer

My group is developing RNA-based antivirals against SARS-CoV-2. This is collaboration with THL and University of Turku.

Research group: Molecular and Translational Virology


Nina Atanasova

PhD, Docent of Microbiology, Academy of Finland Postdoctoral Researcher

My research focuses on atmospheric microbiology, specifically on virus dispersion in air. I have a joint position in the Finnish Meteorological Institute (working as senior scientist and project leader in the Atmospheric Dispersion Modelling group of Docent Ari Karppinen) and University of Helsinki (working as visiting scientist with professors Dennis Bamford and Martin Romantschuk). We are developing modern air sampling technologies and instrumentation for studying properties of infectious aerosols. Our current work also focuses on the preparedness for microbiological threats. 

Currently, I participate in a Finnish interdisciplinary consortium between Aalto University, Finnish Meteorological Institute, VTT and University of Helsinki. The consortium is headed by Assistant Professor Ville Vuorinen from Aalto University and it aims to develop a 3D-simulation model for SARS-CoV-2 direct and indirect droplet transmission. 

Sarah Butcher


Our work aims to understand the structure, assembly and function of various biological macromolecule complexes. We embed unstained, unfixed specimens in vitreous ice to preserve their structures. Transmission cryo-electron microscopy is then used to visualize the specimens, but the images recorded are difficult to interpret because they are projections of the specimen degraded by noise. Thus we computationally combine images of the specimen viewed from different angles enabling us to reconstruct a three-dimensional model. Any inherent symmetry present in the structure is also used in this averaging. This method is particularly useful for objects that are too large, unstable or variable to be studied by X-ray crystallography or NMR, such as enveloped viruses.

Leena Maunula

PhD, university lecturer and senior scientist

The research in the group focuses on studies related to virus transmission through food, water and environment. We have a long experience in real-time reverse transcription-qPCR and cell culture for viruses. 

In collaboration with Tarja Sironen, we study virus (including Covid-19) persistence and inactivation on surfaces of premises and on hands, which is critical to know for Covid-19. Studies on stability of viruses, such as Covid-19, in water, wastewater and food surfaces are also in our interests. 

Sakari Jokiranta

MD, PhD, Docent

Current focus on COVID-19 research is to study and enable serological diagnostics of the virus with a focus on local clinical microbiology laboratories and to optimize diagnostic workflow for both pediatric and adult patients.


Markku Varjosalo

Ph.D, Docent

We are currently performing analyses on how the viral proteins interact with the host cell proteome using mass spectrometry. We expect to find new target molecules for therapeutic interventions and also are now testing how the few known drugs used to treat Covid-19 infection alter the pathogen-host molecular interactions. We will perform these analyses also to the possible novel drugs identified by the FIMM screening unit.

Kalle Saksela

MD, PhD, Professor

My research group is involved in the following topics related to COVID19 research

- SARS-CoV-2 vaccine

- Engineered binding proteins targeting SARS-CoV-2 

- SARS-CoV-2 host cell interactions

Juha Klefström

Ph.D, Research Director, Research Programs Unit, Medical Faculty, University of Helsinki 

Dr Klefström is an expert in translational cancer research, breast cancer biology and recombinant viral gene transfer methods. Relevant for COVID19 research, Klefström’s research group has been studying for more than 10 years the mechanisms of cancer invasion with special focus on a group of transmembrane serine proteases. While these serine proteases play an important role in helping cancer cells to penetrate neighboring tissues and eventually send metastases, it appears that the same proteases also help the SARS-CoV-2 virus to enter the healthy cells. Therefore, the chemical and pharmacological inhibitors developed in the Klefström’s laboratory over the years of study could be repurposed to fight the current COVID-19 outbreak. In addition, Juha Klefström is a Director of  HiLIFE’s GoEditStem unit, which coordinates BSL2 level work on recombinant viruses and technologies in Meilahti campus of the University of Helsinki. The platform will prioritize COVID19 research programs to speed up provision of reagents and technology required for molecular and cell biological research in SARS-CoV biology.

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Päi­vi Tam­me­la

Professor of pharmaceutical biology, Faculty of Pharmacy

My research group at the Division of Pharmaceutical Biosciences, Faculty of Pharmacy, focuses on antimicrobial drug discovery, covering aspects from early target validation to detailed characterisation studies of novel antimicrobial substances. We develop fast and predictive high-throughput screening (HTS) tools and use combinations of target- and cell-based approaches in our screening campaigns. We place special emphasis on using natural products (NP) and NP-inspired synthetic compounds in screening. 

At FIMM, I lead the High Throughput Biomedicine Unit, HiLIFE core facility that provides researchers access to lab automation, various HTS instruments and compound libraries. I also chair the national Drug Discovery and Chemical Biology Network (link: and Finnish node of EU-OPENSCREEN ERIC (link:

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