Meet the researchers working on regenerative neuroscience in Merja Voutilainen’s Lab.
Merja Voutilainen

I am a pharmacologist and neuroscientist specialized in preclinical research of neurodegenerative diseases.

As a principle investigator, I am running a research group which studies CDNF/MANF family of neurotrophic factors. We are mainly focused on Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) and Parkinson’s disease and are trying to find neurorestorative treatments that promote functional recovery.

Jinhan Nam

Post doc

My research focus is the neuroprotectional effect of growth factors in neurodegenerative disease models, such as Parkinson’s disease and ALS. I am also especially interested in the mode of action of growth factors in glial cells and neurons.

Jinhan Nam's research and contact information


Liam Beckett

My research focuses on amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) and the preclinical testing, along with pharmacokinetics of our novel compounds. I have worked with our continuous cell lines to develop quick and efficient methods to screen our library of compounds with different cellular stress conditions, modelling ALS. We have also shown great potential for our compounds in our preclinical in vivo work.

My background is in Medical Neuroscience (BSc) and Neuroscience (MSc) from the University of Sussex, UK. Where I have worked in motor neuron disease and using reporter assays to screen for small molecule allosteric modulators of the glutamate receptor family.

In my free time I enjoy cycling in the woods and picking mushrooms, I also play rugby with Helsinki Warriors.

Aastha Singh

My research projects focus on alpha-synuclein-related pathology in Parkinson's disease. I work with primary neuronal cultures in vitro, and mice and rats in vivo to develop multi-hit models that can be utilized for drug screening. I am also investigating the possible therapeutic effects of cerebral dopamine neurotrophic factor (CDNF) in the context of neurodegeneration, protein aggregation, and ER stress in my experimental models. 

I graduated with a B.Tech. in Biotechnology from VIT Vellore, India and pursued my Master's degree (M.Sc.) in Neuroscience at the University of Helsinki.

When I am not working, I am either sleeping, eating, or on a nature walk. I enjoy Netflix and a little baking, and on rare occasions, when the stars align, I hit the gym.

Tuulikki Viljakainen

I began doing my Master’s thesis in Voutilainen group in 2017, and then continued working with the projects related to my PhD studies. My research interests are CDNF and Parkinson’s disease. I am studying the protective and restorative effects of CDNF, and related proteins, for nigrostriatal dopamine neurons using in vivo and in vitro methods. I am also interested in working with stem cells and understanding the mechanism and pharmacokinetics of CDNF.

Tapani Koppinen

I completed my Master's degree in Translational Medicine in the University of Helsinki in 2020. For my PhD, I am continuing on the work I did for my thesis in Voutilainen group: uncovering the role of ER stress and neuroinflammation in Multiple Sclerosis, as well as the interactions between neurotrophic factors and the immune system. I am hoping to be a part in the development of the first regenerative treatments for MS.


Shuai Ke

I began to pursue my Doctoral Degree in the Voutilainen group in 2020, with a research focus on a potential drug target for ALS at transcript and protein level, and its effect on neurotrophic factors (NTFs) in vivo. I’m also interested in the effect of the cerebral dopamine neurotrophic factor (CDNF) in ALS and PD.

I got my Master’s degree and Chinese doctor license in neurosurgery. My Master’s project focused on central nervous tumors, especially on gliomas and GBM.


 Dr. Katrina Albert  → Cambridge University, UK 

Dr. Tanja Hyvärinen → University of Tampere, Finland

MSc. Sara Figuerola Santamonica → Roche Pharmaceuticals, Switzerland

BSc. Matilda Sinkko → Henna Tyynismaa Lab, University of Helsinki

PhD Anu Hyysalo

PhD Anne Panhelainen

PhD Francesca de Lorezo

PhD Polina Stepanova

PhD Juho-Matti Renko

MSc Janika Sirjala

Master's degree student Konsta Valkonen

Master's degree student Jaan Korpikoski