People

The viral zoonosis research unit is lead by Olli Vapalahti, professor of zoonotic virology at faculties of medicine and veterinary medicine, University of Helsinki. The Unit is a combination of younger PI's, post-docs, graduate students, undergraduate students and technical staff presented here in more detail.

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).

PhD, Docent in virology, university researcher, PI

I 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 viral zoonosis, emerging infectious diseases, virus diagnostics and phylogenetics. Find out more through my Orchid account.

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 veterinary 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.

tarja.sironen@helsinki.fi

PhD, Docent in virology, university researcher

I am a senior researcher in the group and 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. 

eili.huhtamo@helsinki.fi

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.

suvi.kuivanen@helsinki.fi

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.

teemu.smura@helsinki.fi

PhD, researcher

I am a researcher in the group 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.

Links to my research and publication can be found through the TUHAT system.

ravi.kant@helsinki.fi

PhD, post-doctoral researcher

I am a post-doctoral researcher in the team studying mosquito-borne viruses. I did my PhD about the dengue and zika virus infections of Finnish travelers, concentrating on human samples and mainly in diagnostics and molecular epidemiology of these viruses. Currently I am working in projects studying mosquito-borne viruses from both field caught mosquitoes and patient samples from Finland, Italy and Kenya. In Kenya project I am coordinating the mosquito collections and screening of mosquitoes for viruses. Though my background is in microbiology I have gotten a bit carried away with mosquitoes so part of my time goes in collecting and identifying mosquitoes. In our MOBO team I also teach undergraduate and PhD students in lab.

essi.m.korhonen@helsinki.fi

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.

lev.levanov@helsinki.fi

PhD, post-doctoral researcher

I am a microbiologist and molecular biologist. My main topic of research is the development of a highly specific assay for the rapid and accurate detection of Alkhurma Hemorrhagic Fever Virus (an emerging and tick-borne zoonotic  flavivirus ), by the application of protein recombination technology.  

fathiah.zakham@helsinki.fi

DVM, PhD student

I am a veterinarian and currently doing my PhD studies in the Virology group. My main focus of research is the serodiagnostics of viral diseases using a new fluorescence based method called TR-FRET.

lauri.kareinen@helsinki.fi

MSc, PhD student in clinical veterinary medicine

My research topic is Aleutian mink disease virus (AMDV) which causes a severe infection in mink and infects several other carnivores and mustelids as well. I’m studying virus epidemiology and evolution, and diversity in Finland by sequencing Finnish virus strains. I am also studying disease tolerance. My previous studies can be found through my Orchid account.

jenni.me.virtanen@helsinki.fi

MSc, PhD student in virology. 

My PhD project is on reptarenaviruses, the causative agents of boid inclusion body disease (BIBD). BIBD is a devastating disease of captive boid snakes and poses a threat to whole snake collections worldwide. In my research I focus on coinfections by different reptarenavirus species and the possible reassortment of the viral genome segments. I also work with several snake cell lines to examine the tissue tropism of reptarenaviruses. The final aim would be to reveal the factors underlying the pathogenesis of BIBD.

leonora.szirovicza@helsinki.fi

MSc, PhD student

I am a PhD student in the Doctoral Program in Interdisciplinary Environmental Sciences (DENVI) and I am linked both to Olli Vapalahti’s and ECHOLAB research groups. The aim of my PhD project is to apply GIS-analyses and virological approaches by focusing on modeling and mapping pathogen distributions and screening for vector-borne viruses in Finland and in Kenya. My current activities include studying the distribution of tick-borne encephalitis virus(TBEV) based on patient, tick and environmental data now and in future climate. The aim is to map and predict the distribution of vectors and vector-borne pathogens in the changing climate and habitat alteration patterns by using GIS and produce new information to promote public health. 

ruut.uusitalo@helsinki.fi

MSc, PhD student in Medical virology.

My PhD project is to study Hantavirus entry, glycoprotein interactions and other interactions using Vesicular stomatitis virus pseudotypes. I’m rescuing recombinant Vesicular stomatitis virus expressing hantavirus glycoproteins as pseudotype vaccine candidates. My other research interests include reverse genetics, protein expression in eukaryotic calls and safe virus structure studies using VSV pseudotypes.

rommel.iheozor-ejiofor@helsinki.fi

MSc, PhD student in the Department of Virology.

My project delves into the fascinating world of Finnish mosquitoes and aims to unify several scientific approaches to mosquito biology. The most fundamental starting point in mosquito research is to know which species are found, and where in a given area, so the first part of the project aims to create new distribution maps for the 41 species of mosquitoes so far reported from Finland. Following on from that, we would like to know which viruses are present in Finnish mosquitoes, and to determine any implications they may have for humans or wildlife. The second part of the project, therefore, aims to screen a subset of mosquitoes collected for the first part of the project for new and novel mosquito-borne viruses. Since not all scientists working with mosquitoes are entomologists, the third part of the project aims to create database of molecular markers for each species of Finnish mosquito so that non specialists may confidently identify them. The starting material is link-reared mosquitoes with associated skins, so that it can be retrospectively identified, if necessary. 

In addition, as an entomologist, I am involved with a multi-disciplinary project in south-eastern Kenya which is investigating dengue and zika viruses in the local mosquito populations.

lorna.culverwell@helsinki.fi

MSc, PhD student in clinical veterinary medicine

My PhD project is focused on characterization of arenaviruses found in constrictor snakes. Aims of my project are: to determine viral glycoprotein interactions with cell surface receptors; immune response towards the viruses; determination of the diversity of viral infections within the species of constrictor snakes. My supervisors are Professor Olli Vapalahti and Doctor Jussi Hepojoki.

My previous research has been conducted at the Rosalind Franklin University (North Chicago, IL, USA), where I have been studying molecular properties of connexin channels in mammals.

yegor.korzyukov@helsinki.fi

PhD student

MSc, PhD student in clinical veterinary medicine.

My PhD project is to study the Fur animal Epidemic Necrotic pyoderma which is a severe skin infection found mainly in the fur animal population. I’m characterizing the pathogens and their virulence factors and developing a vaccine as well as bio safety measures to stop the spread of the disease. My other research interests are currently parvoviruses and vaccine development, and study of emerging pathogens and microbiomes especially through NGS techniques. Links to my previous studies can be found through my Orchid account or through the TUHAT system.

kirsi.aaltonen@helsinki.fi

MSc student in Molecular Biosciences in the Faculty of Biological and Environmental Sciences.

My MSc project is to study the lymphocytic choriomeningitis disease which is a rodent-borne viral infectious disease that presents as aseptic meningitis, encephalitis or meningoencephalitis. Its causative agent is the lymphocytic choriomeningitis virus (LCMV), a member of the family Arenaviridae. LCM found in both animal and human populations. I’m characterizing the pathogens and detecting the seroprevalence of LCMV in the southern part of Iraq. My other research interests are currently Hantaviruses, Peribunyaviridae, Arenaviridae, Filoviridae and study of emerging pathogens and microbiomes especially through NGS techniques.

hussein.alburkat@helsinki.fi

MSc Student

MSc Student

MSc, project researcher

I am a biologist specialized in ecology and evolutionary biology. Currently I am studying small mammals of Taita Hills, Kenya, and their viruses. In addition to mammal research, I’ve also carried out work with ticks and mosquitoes to assist other researchers in our group.

My previous work has centered on various topics of ecology regarding animal behavior, conservation biology and zoonoses in Finland and Kenya.

Technical staff

Technical staff

Technical staff

Technical staff

Technical staff

Technical staff

Alumni members:

Niina Putkuri (PhD), Paula Kinnunen (PhD), Hedi Rossow (PhD), Elina Tonteri (PhD), Anna Knuuttila (PhD), Eeva Tuppurainen (PhD), Ingemar von Ossowski (Docent), Cristina Fe­vola (PhD), Satu Hepojoki (PhD)

 

If you name is missing here please contact: ravi.kant@helsinki.fi