Professor Marja Tiirola

Marja Tiirola has been a professor in environmental microbiology at the University of Jyväskylä since 2015. She has a multidisciplinary basic education in limnology and forestry, and the PhD in molecular biology. She has done longer visits to University of Warwick, UK, and to the University of California, San Diego, US. She got the ERC CoG (2014-2019) for repurposing the semiconductor-based sequencing technology for new uses, including for studying physiological traits of microbes without cultivation, and she has led numerous other projects in the University of Jyväskylä. She is also the current chairman of the Finnish Society of Environmental Sciences.
Although the study of microbial diversity and genetic potential in different habitats, such as lakes, soils and industrial processes, is the major focus of the group, the other field prof. Tiirola likes very much is stable isotope chemistry. Commercial stable isotope labelled products offer a convenient toolbox for the analysis of slow microbial processes, including biodegradation of recalcitrant compounds like plastics and certain chemicals. Currently, the research of the group is equally focusing on environmental and human-related microbiology and diagnostics. Indeed, prof. Tiirola has recently established a company BiopSense for medical device development in the field of liquid biopsy (blood-based) genetic diagnostics, and the start-up just gained the first European Innovation Council (EIC) Transition project to Finland.

Professor Sesselja Omarsdottir

Sesselja is a pharmacist by training and received her M.Sc. in Pharmacy and Ph.D. in Natural Product Chemistry from the University of Iceland in 2006. After her graduation she was appointed as an Associate Professor in Pharmaceutical and Natural Product Chemistry at the Faculty of Pharmaceutical Science University of Iceland and became a full Professor in 2014. Sesselja was a Vice-Dean and then Dean of the Faculty from 2013-2015. Her research focus is on isolation, structure elucidation and bioactivity of natural products from lichens, plants and marine invertebrates and bacteria and most recently on biosimilars. During her studies and academic career, she has been a visiting scholar at the University of Oslo, University of Copenhagen, Carlsberg Laboratory, University of San Diego and University Illinois at Chicago. Sesselja has taken part in several international research projects, published over 40 peer-reviewed papers and co-founded a startup company and received several awards for her research and teaching. She was a board member of three start-up companies and a member and chairperson of several academic committees and chairperson of the expert panel for Health and Life Sciences for the Icelandic Research Fund. She was also an alternate member of the Pharmaceutical Committee for the Icelandic Medicines Agency and HMPC for the European Medicines Agency.
Sesselja joined Alvotech in 2015 as a Head of Analytical Method Development. Alvotech is a biopharmaceutical company focused solely on the development and manufacture of biosimilar medicine for patients world-wide. In 2017, she was appointed as Vice-President of Analytics and was promoted to Senior Vice-President of Analytical Research and Development in 2018. A year ago, Sesselja took on additional responsibilities and is now heading the Pharmaceutical Sciences which is includes cell line-, drug substance- and drug product development, analytical research and development and pharmaceutical sciences strategy within the company across sites in Iceland, Germany, Switzerland, and India. Sesselja is a member of the R&D Leadership Team.

Dr. Mariena van der Plas

Mariena van der Plas is an associate professor in cutaneous immunology and infection microbiology at the LEO Foundation Center for Cutaneous Drug Delivery at the University of Copenhagen, Denmark, and also at the Division for Dermatology and Venereology of Lund University, Sweden. She was trained as a molecular and medical biologist (cum laude MSc), and immunologist (PhD) at Leiden University, the Netherlands.

Dr Van der Plas is specialised in wound and skin infections, inflammation and subsequent tissue damage, and has over 15 years of experience within the field of understanding and targeting wound and skin infections. Currently, the research focus of her team is on various aspects of chronic infections, including bacterial escape mechanisms, the role of host defence peptides, peptidomics-based biomarker discovery and the development of novel approaches to address cutaneous delivery of immunomodulatory and antimicrobial peptides.  

Dr Annamaria Lilienkampf

Dr Annamaria “Nanna” Lilienkampf is a Senior Lecturer in Organic Chemistry and the Director of Postgraduate Teaching at the School of Chemistry, University of Edinburgh. She obtained her PhD in Organic Chemistry 2007 from University of Helsinki (with Prof. Kristiina Wähälä), with her research focusing on the design and synthesis of new 17b-HSD inhibitors. After two years of postdoctoral research on medicinal chemistry at University of Illinois at Chicago, with Prof. Alan P. Kozikowski, she moved to University of Edinburgh in 2009 to work with Prof Mark Bradley as a Marie Curie Fellow. In 2013, Dr Lilienkampf was first appointed as a Research and Teaching Fellow at the School of Chemistry, University of Edinburgh, and then a Lecturer in Organic Chemistry. Her current research interests include biorthogonal and in vivo chemistries, particularly applications in novel pro-drug strategies and DNA/RNA labelling, as well as peptide chemistry and optical imaging agents.

Professor Paula Vanninen

Professor Vanninen is the director of VERIFIN (Finnish Institute for Verification of the Chemical Weapons Convention), an institute at the Department of Chemistry at the University of Helsinki. VERIFIN is dedicated to developing analysis methods for hazardous chemicals, including toxic chemicals, chemical warfare agents (CWAs), their precursors, and degradation products from variety of environmental, biomedical, and biota matrices. NMR, liquid chromatography- and gas chromatography- high resolution or tandem mass spectrometry are used in structure elucidation of unknown studied chemicals. Structure of these chemicals is verified either by own synthesis or reference spectra. Internationally developed and tested recommended operating procedures (ROPs) for verification analysis of chemical disarmament were published in 2011 and 2017, coordinated by Professor Vanninen. These ROPs are the basis for accreditation and analysis of CWAs in laboratories worldwide. Professor Vanninen has served as an expert in the Scientific Advisory Board of the OPCW (2010-2016) and its temporary working groups (2005-2019). She completed her PhD in the University of Oulu after doctoral research at TNO-CIVO Institute and Leiden University, the Netherlands, in 1988-1990. Her doctoral thesis in 1992 covered methods of organic mass spectrometry, providing a good basis for developing her expertise in the CWA analytics. Prof. Vanninen’s research has focused on sea dumped chemical weapons to explore the environmental and marine biota effects of CWAs leaking in the Baltic Sea and on chemical attribution analysis.

In addition to her research and administrative activities, professor Vanninen has trained international specialists in the identification and analysis of CWAs. In addition, she has supervised numerous PhD and MSc students. Prof. Vanninen holds an honorary PhD degree in National Defence University of Finland and in 2022 she is granted an honorary PhD degree in University of Oulu.

Dr. Teemu Aitta-aho

Teemu Aitta-aho is currently a group leader and a lecturer teaching pharmacology and neuroscience at the University of Helsinki, Finland. He studied pharmacy and pharmacology at the Universities of Helsinki and Gothenburg, completed PhD on drug-induced neuroplasticity in 2012 in UH, and received postdoctoral training in 2014-2016 in the University of Cambridge. Currently he is interested in neurochemically-defined neurocircuitries in food intake and related motivated behaviours, and neuropsychopharmacology in general. To understand these, he is using novel cell-type specific artificial receptor-ligand systems and light-guided neural control with optogenetics, as well as brain cell imaging in freely moving animals.

Dr. Nina Hakulinen

Dr Hakulinen obtained her PhD in Chemistry in 2003 from University of Joensuu. In 2011 she was awarded with Title of Docent “ Structure-function studies of proteins”.

Dr Hakulinen worked as an Academy of Finland Research Fellow in 2012-2017 and carried out Structure-function studies of oxidative enzymes for sustainable biocatalysts. Since 2012 she has worked as an independent research group leader leading a group studying protein structures by X-ray crystallography.

Research topics: enzymatic hydrolysis of lignocellulosic biomass, structure-function studies of wood-degrading enzymes

Professor Jarkko Rautio

Jarkko Rautio is professor in pharmaceutical chemistry and vice head of the School of Pharmacy, University of Eastern Finland (UEF). His research focuses on the chemistry-based methods, especially prodrugs, to overcome drug delivery liabilities of problematic drug candidates. He has published over 50 papers and book chapters on prodrugs – two of these in Nature publication series. He is also the inventor of five patent families on prodrugs.

Much of his research is currently focusing on exploiting the body’s natural mechanisms for transporting amino acids and glucose, the LAT1 and GLUT1 proteins, respectively, for targeted drug delivery across the blood-brain barrier (BBB) and cancer cells that express these transporters.


Professor Rautio kindly provided us an excellent video of his research! You can find it from YouTube at: a

Dr. Outi Keinänen

Outi Keinänen obtained her PhD in radiopharmaceutical chemistry from the University of Helsinki in 2018 (Thesis Advisors: Drs. Anu J. Airaksinen and Mirkka Sarparanta). After which she joined the laboratory of Dr. Brian Zeglis at Hunter College, City University of New York, USA. Currently she holds triple affiliation at Hunter College, Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center (NY, USA), and the Department of Chemistry at the University of Helsinki. In her research, she uses nuclear molecular imaging tools to elucidate the in vivo behavior of micro- and nanoplastics in mammals. In 2020 she was awarded the Academy of Finland postdoctoral fellowship to support her micro- and nanoplastic research.

Professor Kristaps Jaudzems

Kristaps Jaudzems obtained his PhD in chemistry in 2011 from Riga Technical University, having spent two years at the Scripps Research Institute as an external graduate student with Nobel Prize winner prof. Kurt Wüthrich. Subsequently, he was senior researcher at the Latvian Institute of Organic Synthesis. In 2015 he moved to the Very High Field NMR Center of Lyon, where he worked as a Marie Skłodowska-Curie fellow with Dr. Anne Lesage and Dr. Guido Pintacuda on solid-state NMR methods development employing fast magic-angle spinning, proton detection and dynamic nuclear polarisation for viral capsid structural studies. In 2017, he established an independent research group at the Latvian Institute of Organic Synthesis to carry out research on NMR-based structural biology and drug discovery. In 2018, he was additionally appointed as an associate professor at the University of Latvia and in 2021, promoted to professor.

Professor Jaudzems kindly provided us an excellent video of his research! You can find it from YouTube at: