Get to know our team members!
Mika Kontro

Mika Kontro, MD, PhD is an adjunct professor and a consultant in clinical hematology at the Helsinki University Hospital Comprehensive Cancer Center. Mika Kontro earned his PhD thesis, entitled “Individualizing therapy for acute leukemia”, in 2017. He currently works as K. Albin Johannson Cancer Research Fellow (Finnish Cancer Institute) and as a clinical group leader in FIMM. He has a strong background in running clinical trials and was selected at 2017 for European Hematology Association Clinical Research Training program (CRTH). Mika Kontro currently chairs the Finnish AML group and is a board member of the Nordic AML Group. Currently he leads a prospective multi-center AML trial VenEx utilizing ex-vivo drug sensitivity testing for individualized patient care.

Heikki Kuusanmäki

Heikki Kuusanmäki, PhD, is a postdoctoral researcher responsible for the laboratory studies related to the VenEx clinical trial. Heikki received his PhD in 2018 at the University of Helsinki with the title “Targeting Key Survival Signaling Pathways for the Treatment of Leukemia”. During his PhD, Heikki performed drug screening experiments with primary leukemia samples and developed a flow cytometry-based drug sensitivity testing platform. His current research interest is to identify biomarkers for BCL-2 family inhibitors in AML and to develop strategies to overcome drug resistance. Heikki also works part-time at the Biotech Research and Innovation Centre (BRIC, Copenhagen) at Professor Krister Wennerberg’s research group.

Sari Kytölä

Sari Kytölä, MD, is a consultant in internal medicine and clinical hematology at the Helsinki University Hospital Comprehensive Cancer Center. She works as a clinical trial manager for VenEx and is responsible for data collection, management and data analysis. She is currently doing her PhD. Her research focuses on novel AML therapies and biomarkers or methods predicting clinical response in AML patients.

Tanja Ruokoranta

Tanja Ruokoranta, MSc, works in the laboratory studies related to the VenEx clinical trial. She manages the flow cytometry laboratory making sure equipment is functional and people trained. She also works as a Project Manager in FIMM Technology Centre High Throughput Biomedicine unit. She manages service based research projects for academia, hospitals and pharmaceutical industry. Her main area of expertise is flow cytometry based high throughput drug sensitivity testing platform with automation. She is interested in technology development, translational research and personalized cancer medicine.

Ida Vänttinen

Ida Vänttinen, MSc, is a PhD candidate whose current research is focused on understanding the cellular and molecular mechanisms underlying resistance to BCL-2 inhibition in AML. She aims to apply computational approaches and advanced research technologies to determine the root pathways mediating the survival of leukemic cells for biomarker and novel drug target discovery. Alongside her research work, she performs ex-vivo drug sensitivity testing in the VenEx clinical trial. Previously Ida has investigated drug resistance mechanisms in multiple myeloma at Dr Heckman’s Translational Research and Personalized Medicine group. She earned her MSc in Genetics and Molecular Biosciences from the University of Helsinki.

Joseph Saad

Joseph Saad is a doctoral researcher in the field of personalized and translational medicine. His research is focused on the identification and validation of molecular predictors of response to novel therapeutics in clinical development for the treatment of acute myeloid leukemia, using a variety of suitable computational and experimental approaches. Joseph received his BSc in Bioinformatics from the Lebanese American University (LAU) in 2016 and his MSc in Drug Discovery and Development from the University of Turku in 2018.