People working in Hematology Research Unit.
Satu Mustjoki

Satu Mustjoki, is principal investigator of the Mustjoki lab at the Hematology Research Unit Helsinki and director of the Translational Immunology research Program ( She is professor of Translational Hematology (University of Helsinki).

Kimmo Porkka

Kimmo Porkka, is a professor of Clinical Hematology and works as a chief physician at the Department of Hematology of the Helsinki University Hospital Comprehensive Cancer Center. He is responsible for clinical studies at the Hematology Research Unit Helsinki.

Mikko Keränen

Mikko Keränen, M.D., Ph.D. is a postdoctoral researcher and also specializing in clinical hematology. He is interested in tumor immunology and immunotherapeutics of hematologic malignancies. He is currently investigating the role of clonal lymphocytes in patients with bone marrow failure syndromes. He is also supporting the research of PhD students in the group.

Karita Peltonen

Karita Peltonen, M.Sc., Ph.D., received her Ph.D. in the field of cancer biology at University of Helsinki and continued her post-doctoral training at the Drug Research Program, University of Helsinki specializing in tumor antigen discovery. Her current research at HRUH aims for better understanding how tumor immune microenvironment and tumor cell-intrinsic factors influence tumor immunity and immunotherapy responses. She is especially interested in antigen-specific T-cell responses. 

Matti Kankainen

Matti Kankainen, M.Sc, Ph.D. is a post-doctoral researcher specialized in computational genomics and a faculty bioinformatician at the division of Clinical and Medical Genetics Helsinki University Hospital and HUS diagnostic center. He has developed several computational frameworks for the analysis massively parallel sequencing data in clinical settings. His research efforts are focused on understanding carcinogenesis and cancer evolution of hematological malignancies and the role of microbes in triggering, promoting, and preventing the successful treatment of hematological malignancies.

Sara Gandolfi

Sara Gandolfi, M.D., Ph.D., graduated from Medical School at Università degli Studi di Milano in 2010 and obtained her Hematology specialization in 2016. During her post-doctoral fellowship at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, Harvard Medical School she studied the mechanisms of resistance to protein degraders (PROTACs) in multiple myeloma; she also focused on studying immune-evasion to natural killer cells in myeloma. Her research at HRUH is mainly aimed at understanding the complex interplay between myeloma cells and immune-microenvironment, in order to find therapeutic targets to enhance patients’ immune-response, as well as biomarkers for better patient stratification and personalized treatment.

Mikko Myllymäki

Mikko Myllymäki, M.D., Ph.D., earned his degrees from University of Oulu in 2016. Before joining HRU in 2019, he did a two-year postdoctoral fellowship at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, Harvard Medical School focusing on stem cell transplantation for myelodysplastic syndrome.

He recently established his own group Clonal Hematopoiesis associated to HRU. Their overarching goal is to understand how somatic genetic alterations in hematopoietic stem cells influence human disease pathophysiology.

Shady Awad

Shady Awad, M.D., graduated from Cairo University Medical School in 2007 and then specialized in Clinical Pathology with sub-specialization in hemato-pathology. Since then he has been working in Cytogenetic lab of National Cancer Institute in Egypt where he finished his master thesis about pediatric ALL. He completed his PhD in HRUH in 2022 and he is now continuing his research, which focuses on discovering driver mutations in high-risk CML patients.

Essi Laajala

Essi Laajala, Ph.D, started part-time in HRUH in May 2021, while still finalizing her Ph.D. in bioinformatics from the University of Turku and Aalto University, which she defended in December 2021. Her main expertize is on computational transcriptomics and epigenomics. At HRUH, she focuses on single-cell transcriptional mechanisms behind cancer cell resistance/sensitivity towards immunotherapies

Heidi Haikala

Heidi Haikala, Ph.D, In her PhD she studied oncogene-induced apoptotic sensitization and the effect of combination targeted and immunotherapies in breast cancer.

After obtaining her PhD she worked as a Research Fellow in the laboratory of Prof. Pasi Jänne in Dana-Farber Cancer Institute & Harvard Medical School. In Dr. Jänne’s lab, Heidi developed new targeted therapy strategies to prevent and reverse EGFR inhibitor resistance in lung cancer. One of her recent findings led to clinical trial in lung cancer patients. Her research utilizes innovative screening systems and patient tumor-derived ex vivo culture systems, microfluidic chip cultures, and co-culture systems of various cell types. 

Heidi has established her own research group adjacent to HRUH. Her lab studies how to target primary immunotherapy resistance and discover new targeted- and immunotherapy combinations for lung cancer patients. 

Perttu Koskenvesa

Perttu Koskenvesa, M.D., is a specialist in internal medicine and clinical hematology. He is a co-investigator in clinical studies and his research interest is the clinical use of tyrosine kinase inhibitors in hematological malignancies.

Helena Hohtari

Helena Hohtari, M.D., graduated from the University of Helsinki in 2013 and is currently specializing in internal medicine. She did her licentiate thesis in HRUH related to Philadelphia chromosome-positive acute lymphoblastic leukemia (Ph+ ALL) and is now continuing PhD research on the same subject. The focus of her research lies in discovering safer and more effective ways of treating Ph+ ALL. 

Olli Dufva

Olli Dufva,  Ph.D, completed his PhD in October 2022. In his research, he uses CRISPR functional genomics, drug screening, and genomic data analysis to investigate immune responses to blood cancers.

Emmi Jokinen

Emmi Jokinen, M.Sc., started working at HRUH in October 2022, while finalizing her Ph.D. at Aalto University. One of the focus points of her Ph.D. was the development of machine learning methods for predicting the antigen specificity of T cell receptors. At HRUH she works on single-cell analysis of transcriptional mechanisms of cancer immunotherapies.

Johannes Smolander

Johannes Smolander, Ph.D, is a bioinformatician, specialized in single-cell RNA-sequencing data analysis. His current work at HRUH involves using computational methods to study the transcriptional and genetic mechanisms of cancer and blood disorders

Salomé Decombis

Salomé Decombis, Ph.D. graduated from the University of Nantes in France in 2023. She is currently a postdoctoral researcher in HRUH. Her research focuses on decoding the mechanisms of Natural Killer cell resistance of treatment-persistent residual tumor cells in Hematologic Malignancies.

Sofie Lundgren

Sofie Lundgren, M.D, graduated from the University of Helsinki in 2020 and is currently doing her Ph.D. The focus of her research is on T cell clonality and somatic mutations in patients with immune-mediated bone marrow failure and autoimmune disorders.

Henna Kasanen

Henna Kasanen received her MSc in Molecular Medicine (University of Eastern Finland) in 2016. In 2017 she started her PhD studies in the University of Helsinki in the Doctoral Programme in Clinical Research. For her doctoral degree she is studying the comprehensive effects of new checkpoint inhibitor therapies to melanoma patients’ immune system, with special interest in the innate immune system cells. Henna’s projects involve skills in flow cytometry, in vitro functional assays, cytokine profiling, scRNAseq and CyTOF. Her main interests in research are cancer immunology, bioinformatics and translational medicine.

Jani Huuhtanen

Jani Huuhtanen, B.Med, bioinformatics student (Aalto-University), is an M.D./Ph.D. student interested in next-generation sequencing data, especially bulk RNAseq, single-cell RNAseq and TCRBseq data.  His projects include e.g. T-cell repertoire-analysis, building predicative transcriptomic models and inferring clinical information from genetic data to provide clinical implications for both tumour and autoimmune patients.


Dipabarna Bhattacharya

Dipabarna Bhattacharya, M.Sc, received her Master’s degree (Majoring in genetics) from the university of Helsinki in 2017 and BTech degree in Biotechnology from India in the year 2014. Previously she has worked with GWAS and RNASEQ data analysis.  Her research is focused on understanding the role of the STAT3-pathway and somatic mutations in the regulation of autoimmune inflammation by combining wet lab methods to modern bioinformatics.

Sanna Timonen

Sanna Timonen, M.Sc. (Biology), is a PhD student in the Doctoral Programme in Clinical Research. She enrolled in PhD training under the supervision of Prof. Satu Mustjoki and Prof. Tero Aittokallio in 2019. Sanna’s research aims to find novel individualized therapies for T-cell prolymphocytic leukemia patients by high-throughput drug screening, CRISPR-Cas9 experiments and meta-analyses.

Petra Nygren

Petra Nygren, B.Med, is a MD/PhD student at the University of Helsinki. At HRUH, she is investigating the molecular background of natural killer cell malignancies, as well as the potential of cancer drugs to synergize with natural killer cell immunotherapies.

Hanna Duàn

Hanna Duàn, M.Sc. received her M.Sc. in Engineering within Chemical Biology from Linköping University, Sweden, in 2019. Before joining the lab she worked for two years at AstraZeneca as a R&D Graduate Scientist. For her doctoral degree, Hanna is performing immunological profiling of hematological malignancies to determine the sensitivity of cancer cells to different immunotherapies.

Brittany Ford

Brittany Ford, M.Sc., received her Master’s degree in Molecular and Structural Biochemistry with a Graduate Certification in Biotechnology from North Carolina State University, NC, USA, in 2017. After which she worked at the NIEHS in the Cryo-EM core. She is currently a Ph.D. student and researcher within the Doctoral Programme of Drug Research and Hematology Research Unit in Helsinki. Her research focuses on patient immunocharacteristics, specifically TCRs and their related antigens.

Jonas Bouhlal

Jonas Bouhlal, M.Sc., is a PhD student working on natural killer cell-based immunotherapies for cancer and functional immunology of natural killer cells in different leukemias. Prior to his doctoral studies, he received his Bachelor’s degree in Medicinal Chemistry (University of Warwick) in 2020 and completed a Master’s degree in Translational Medicine (University of Helsinki) in 2022.

Neja Sirc

Neja Sirc, M.Sc., received her Master's degree in Translational Medicine (University of Helsinki) in 2022 and continued in HRUH as a PhD student. Her research focuses on testing novel drugs for RA and studying the biological characterization of STAT3 mutation in LGL leukemia.

Aino-Elina Häkkinen

Aino Häkkinen is a MD/PhD student at the University of Helsinkiwith previous studies in Aalto University. She is developing her skills in bioinformatics and data analysis, mainly RNA-seq. Her current projects involve chronic myeloid leukemia and natural killer cell proliferations.

Miro Nylén

Miro Nylén, B.Med, is an MD/PhD student at the University Helsinki and an undergraduate bioinformatics student at Aalto University.

At HRUH, his research is focused on investigating the role of clonal hematopoiesis in the context of various inherited and acquired

disease conditions.

Diogo Dias

Diogo Dias, M.Sc., earned his Master’s degree in Life Science informatics with a specialisation in Bioinformatics and Systems Medicine at the University of Helsinki in 2022. Within the same year, he was selected to the FIMM-EMBL international PhD programme. His current research is dedicated on improving the success of cancer immunotherapies through computational and experimental work in hematological cancers. His PhD is a collaborative effort between the Satu Mustjoki and Tero Aittokallio groups, with the goal of discovering synergistic effects in high-throughput co-culture drug screenings with immune cells.

Sofia Forstén

Sofia Forstén, M.Sc., received her Master’s degree in Biomedicine, majoring in Drug Discovery and Development from University of Turku in 2022. Sofia first joined HRUH as a FIMM-EMBL/DS Health PhD rotation student, and continued as a doctoral researcher in June 2023. In her work she will be studying immune cell subsets and their responses to different treatments in various hematological malignancies using single cell transcriptomics and functional assays.

Linnea Wartiovaara

Linnea Wartiovaara, M.Sc., received her master’s degree in Translational medicine at the University of Helsinki in 2023. Prior to joining HRUH for her doctoral studies the same year, she worked in colorectal cancer research at the University of Helsinki. Currently, Linnea’s research focuses on characterizing natural killer cell interactions with components of the immune microenvironment in various hematologic malignancies.

Emil Hiitola

Emil Hiitola, B.Sc., is a bioinformatics student at Aalto University and is currently doing his Master's thesis at HRUH. His work focuses on the role of clonal hematopoiesis in inflammatory diseases.

Konstantin Matjusinski

Konstantin Matjusinski, B.Sc., is a Master's student in the Translational Medicine Program at University of Helsinki. Before joining HRU, he studied the role of transcription factor Prox1 in radiation resistance and investigated the role of beta Integrins and Sharpin and their signalling pathways in maintaining vascular homeostasis. Konstantin is interested in studying how somatic genetic alterations, chronic disease conditions, and medications affect monocyte function in inflammatory diseases.

Hanna Lähteenmäki

Hanna Lähteenmäki, M. Sc. joined the Hematology Research Unit in 2011 and works as a laboratory technician assisting in research projects and participating in laboratory maintenance.

Tiina Kasanen

Tiina Kasanen, Bachelor of Laboratory Services (Metropolia, University of Applied Sciences, 2008). She started in HRU in 2012 as a research technician; taking care of clinical samples, assisting research projects and taking part of Nord CML Study Group as a lab study coordinator.

Jay Klievink

Jay Klievink, M.Sc (Nutrition and Health), graduated from Wageningen UR, the Netherlands in 2011. Jay joined the HRU as a laboratory technician in 2016 and assists in research projects and general laboratory practices.

Minna Pajuportti

Minna Pajuportti has worked as a technician and study nurse in the Hematology Research Unit since 2004. She is responsible for many daily routines both in the lab and office, as well as answering to many questions related to clinical studies. Therefore she calls herself as Jokamies Jantunen.

Saara Vaalas

Saara Vaalas is a clinical study coordinator administering activities associated with clinical drug studies. She assists in project planning, takes care of the daily routines and the patient visits. Additionally her job is to oversee accounts, maintain recordkeeping systems and develop procedures. She also is an administrator for the FHRB-registry ( and acts as the support person for the Finnish Leukemia Group guidelines website (

Francesca De Lorenzo

Francesca De Lorenzo, Ph.D., received her Ph.D. in Pharmacology at the University of Helsinki in 2020. After a couple of years of postdoctoral research in the field of Neuroscience, she decided to leave the bench and try something new. Francesca is now the Project Coordinator for HRU and she takes care of the non-scientific side of the group life, administrating research projects, coordinating grant applications and reporting, and handling HR matters and practicalities. She is also very interested in science communication, writing, and editing, and she is in charge of the social media channels for HRU.

Eeva Lind-Ekholm

Eeva Lind-Ekholm is a part-time scientific secretary who works full-time as a secretary at the HUCH hematology division. She has more than 10 years of experience in clinical study administration and legislation. Eeva has been indispensable in getting the vast amount of paperwork done and submitted in good order and just before dead-line.


Moon Hee Lee, M.Sc. received her Master’s degree in Translational Medicine (University of Helsinki) in 2017 and Bachelor's degree in Life Science and Biotechnology at Yonsei University, South Korea, in 2012. Her PhD research project involved tumor-infiltrating lymphocytes (TILs) in renal cell carcinoma, and she graduated with her PhD in June 2023.

Oscar Brück, Ph.D, obtained his PhD in 2021. His research projects focused on immunophenotyping of hematological and renal cancer as well as immunotherapy using therapeutic cancer vaccines.

Anita Kumari, MSc, received her Master’s degree in Drug Innovation (2020) and Bachelor’s degree in Pharmaceutical Sciences (2017) from Utrecht University in the Netherlands. At HRU she researched the tumor immune microenvironment in renal cell carcinoma.

Milla Alakuijala, M.Sc, finalized her Master's degree at Aalto (2022). At HRU, she worked on detecting clonal hematopoiesis from somatic mutations via versatile variant calling methods while combining her interests in medicine, bioinformatics, and computer science.

Jason Theodoropolous, M.Sc., completed his master's thesis in Complex Systems in Aalto (2022). In HRUH, he worked as as a bioinformatician mainly analysing RNA-seq, scRNAseq, and TCR data in multiple projects.

Daehong Kim, Ph.D, originally from Seoul, Korea, studied the mechanisms that cause somatic mutations in various types of hematologic malignancies and related autoimmune diseases.

Jianyin Liu, B.Sc. in Immunology (University of Alberta, 2019). M.Sc. Genetics and Molecular Biosciences (University of Helsinki, 2022 tentative).  At HRU her work focuses were on single-cell RNA sequencing and analyses in renal cell carcinoma.

Timo Järvinen was a master's student in Aalto University, studying Bioinformatics and Digital Health. He started working in HRUH in spring 2020. His first tasks were a file arrangement program and his bachelor's thesis, related to permutation of mutations in DNA. In addition, he has been doing a neural network to predict mutations. In his free time, he enjoys movies, nature (not the journal, at least in general) and for example non-fiction books.

Tiina Kelkka, M.Sc, Ph.D. was a post-doctoral researcher who has specialized in mouse models of inflammation. Her work aimed at elucidating the pathogenesis of LGL leukemia associated autoimmunity using mouse models of inflammation. She was also interested in somatic mutations’ capacity to modulate autoimmune inflammation. 

Ella Piekkari, B.Sc., received her Bachelor’s degree in Molecular Biology (University of Helsinki) in 2019. At HRU she completed her Master’s thesis project focusing on novel therapy options for T-cell prolymphocytic leukemia.

Ilona Uski, M.Sc., completed her Master's thesis work in the HRU laboratory (2021). Thesis title: immunophenotyping and expanding tumor infiltrating lymphocytes in renal cell carcinoma.

Giljun Park, Ph.D., worked as a postdoctoral researcher in HRU and his project's focus was related to somatic mutations in immune cells.

Bhagwan Yadav, M.Sc, Ph.D. worked in HRUH as a post-doctoral researcher and computational systems biologist specialized in modelling and analysis of high-throughput drug screening data, RNA sequencing data and data integration. He defended his Ph.D. thesis entitled “Quantitative modelling and analysis of drug screening data for personalized cancer medicine” in March 2017.  His interests included data integration and analysis in projects associated with tumor immunology and autoimmune disorders.

Khalid Saeed, Ph.D., fefended his thesis based on precision systems medicine to improve therapeuticoptions in urological cancers in 2018. In HRUH, he was involved in a project to identify genetic vulnerabilities of cancer cells towards natural killer cells using genome-wide CRISPR libraries. 

Yrjö Koski, M.Sc. at Aalto-University majoring in Bioinformatics and digital health, used computational tools to analyse genomic data with a special focus in somatic and germline variant calling algorithms. He developed tools for creating visualizations from variant data.

Anna Kreutzman, Ph.D. (HRUH 2008–2012, thesis "Antileukemic immune responses in chronic myeloid leukemia") worked as a postdoctoral researcher in Madrid at the Department of Immunology in Princes University Hospital 2012–2015, where her projects focused on the immunology of complications associated with stem cell transplantation (CMV, GVHD). Her research interest in HRUH was in cancer immunology and novel immune checkpoint inhibitors. The primary focus of her projects was on NK-cells and their role in different forms of cancer.

Jukka Vakkila, M.D., Ph.D. is a pediatric hematologist and a senior consultant in cancer immunology. He is participating in clinical trials dealing with immune system related drugs and supporting the research of PhD students in the group. His main interest during his time at HRUH was monitoring the tumor specific immunity and immune suppression in patients. 

Can Hekim, M.Sc., Ph.D. was a postdoctoral researcher who is specialized in biochemistry and molecular biology with main focus on tumor biology. His primary scientific interest was immunobiological mechanims in cancer progression. He investigated the off-target effect mechanisms of tyrosine kinase inhibitor therapy. 

Sari Hernesniemi, Ph.D., graduated with a M.Sc. in Biochemistry at the University of Turku in 2008. The aim of her PhD research project was to characterize CML stem cells and to study the immunological effects of tyrosine kinase inhibitors on leukemic and normal cells. The title of her thesis was "Aberrant kinase activation as a therapy target: Chronic myeloid leukemia as a model disease". 

Peter Rohon, M.D. is a clinical hematologist from Olomouc University Hospital (Czech Republic). His research is related to immunological effects of CML therapy and he has been especially interested in the mechanisms of long-term remissions induced by interferon-α monotherapy. Peter defended his thesis in the University of Olomouc in 2010 and is continuing collaborating with our research group. 

Kati Penttinen, B.M. was a M.D. student in the University of Helsinki. Her research project was related to the molecular basis of LGL leukemia and it was part of her undergraduate studies.   

Sari Haavisto was a study nurse, who works mostly in the hematological out patient clinic in Meilahti hospital. She also did part time work in our unit related to company-sponsored clinical studies and helping with the CRFs. 

Sari Nikkola was a study nurse, who works mostly in the hematological ward in Meilahti hospital. She also participated in the clinical studies and in the hematological registry project.   

Emmi Vakkila was a medical student and a part-time assistant in laboratory. Prior to medical school, she studied food chemistry and nutrition. Her licentiate thesis in medicine focused on anti-leukemia immunity in CML. 

Jaakko Eskelinen, B.M. was a M.D. student in the University of Helsinki. His research project was related to somatic genetic changes in chronic phase CML patients and it was part of his undergraduate medical studies. 

Paavo Pietarinen, PhD, graduated from the University of Helsinki in 2012 with a M.Sc. in Pharmacy. Before starting his PhD project in HRU he worked on cancer drug database. His interests are pharmacogenomics and personalized drug treatment. In HRUH, he focused on drug responses in chronic and advanced phase chronic myeloid leukemia. 

Vanessa Rebecca Gasparini, M.Sc., was a Master's student coming from the University of Padova (Italy). Her Master thesis focused on the functional characterization of STAT3 and STAT5b mutations discovered in large granular lymphocyte (LGL) leukemia. She also validated novel somatic mutations discovered in STAT-mutation negative patients. 

Emma Andersson, M.Sc. graduated from the University of Helsinki in 2012 with human genetics as a major subject. In HRUH, her research projects focused on discovering the pathogenetic events of rare hematological malignancies such as LGL-leukemia as well as finding new drug targets for patients suffering from T-cell prolymphocytic leukemia. 

Mohamed El Missiry, MB BCh, MSc. A Physician specialized in Hematology. His PhD work was involved in studying the role of immune cells in diagnosis, follow up and treatment of chronic myeloid leukemia.

Mette Ilander, Ph.D., received her doctoral degree from University of Helsinki 2016. In HRUH, she coordinated the biomarker studies which were run in conjunction with the clinical trials.

Antti Lankinen was a biomedical engineering student at Imperial College London. His research was focused on developing computational methods for biomarker discovery and detection in acute myeloid leukemia from flow cytometry data.

Mika Kontro, M.D., PhD was a specialist in internal medicine and in clinical hematology in HUCH. He was a co-investigator in clinical AML studies and his research was focused on novel drug screening and sequencing technologies for individualizing therapy in distinct entities of acute leukemia. He defended his Ph.D. thesis entitled "Individualizing therapy for acute leukemia" in September 2017.

Heikki Kuusanmäki, Ph.D., completed his PhD in September 2018 with the title: “Targeting Key Survival Signaling Pathways for the Treatment of Leukemia”. The main discovery of his PhD project was the identification of novel STAT5B mutations in two rare leukemia subtypes, LGL leukemia and T-ALL. During his PhD, Heikki also developed a flow cytometry-based drug-testing platform to assess primary AML sample sensitivities at a single cell resolution. He also used this platform to predict treatment outcomes in leukemia patients.

Paula Savola, M.D., Ph.D. started in HRUH in 2013, graduated as MD in 2018 and her PhD research project focused on T-cell clonality and aqcuired mutations in patients with autoimmune disorders.

Hanna Rajala, M.D., Ph.D. was a post-doctoral researcher who did her PhD thesis related to LGL leukemia, which is a rare hematological malignancy. Hanna's thesis defense was in June 2014 and the title of the thesis was "Molecular pathogenesis of large granular lymphocytic leukemia". During her time at HRUH, Hanna specialized in internal medicine and did research related to LGL leukemia and related autoimmune disorders.

Mikko Tyster, M.Sc (Tech) received his Master’s degree from the Lappeenranta University of Technology in 2012 and he was a M.D. student at the University of Helsinki during his time at HRUH. His work at HRUH focused on the characterization of the adaptive immune responses in aplastic anemia and related hematological conditions. His goal was to shed light on the underlying autoimmune mechanisms and develop improved diagnostic tools for clinical use.