Principal Investigators (PI's)

The viral zoonosis research unit at faculties of medicine and veterinary medicine, University of Helsinki.

The Unit is a combination of Professors, PI's, post-docs, graduate students, undergraduate students and technical staff.

Eili Huhtamo

PhD, Docent in virology, university researcher and principal investigator

I am a senior researcher and principal investigator in the unit 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.

Essi Korhonen

PhD, Docent in virology, university researcher and principal investigator

I am a principal investigator 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.

Giuseppe Balistreri

PhD, Principal Investigator

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.

Currently, I am (co-)supervising 4 PhD projects at the University of Helsinki, and a few Dr. Med Vet. projects at the University of Zürich, Switzerland. In addition to molecular virology, my research interests include adaptive immune response and development of novel serodiagnostic tools.

ResearcherID: W-4667-2017; OrcidID: 0000-0001-5699-214X 

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).

Ravi Kant

PhD, Docent in medical microbiology, university researcher and principal investigator

I am a principal investigator in the unit with background in IT, NSG, bioinformatics, epidemiology, virology, and microbiology. I also serve as an Associate Professor (visiting) at the Medical University of Gdansk. My current research focuses on the genomics and evolution of various pathogens. I am leading several projects related to emerging infectious diseases, veterinary microbiology, microbial genomics, epidemiology, and One Health. Additionally, I am interested in developing animal models to study emerging infectious diseases and currently lead the Viikki BSL3 animal facility at the Faculty of Veterinary Medicine, University of Helsinki (with Dr. Tarja Sironen). I am supervising four PhD projects and a few master's projects. Furthermore, I organize the 5-credit infection biology course at the Faculty of Medicine, University of Helsinki.

More details on my research and publication can be found through my Research Portal Profile.

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. 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.

Group homepage

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.

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.