Lab members / Klefström lab

  • Klefström lab

  • Klefa’s angels

  • 3D-cultured breast cancer fragments

  • Lab life

For open positions in the lab, click here.

Post doc



Topi Tervonen received his PhD in 2008, in the field of neural stem cells at Neuroscience Center, University of Helsinki and continued his post-doctoral training in cancer biology at University of Helsinki. Topi’s work on membrane-anchored serine proteases and cancer has revealed up- and downstream mechanisms regulating these microenvironment modifying and tumor promoting enzymes. Topi also works in Biomedicum Functional Genomics Unit (FuGU) as head of virus services and leader of FuGU/libraries life science infrastructure of HiLife GoEditStem platform. He has been actively bringing genome-scale genome editing resources and services in to University of Helsinki. Topi’s knowhow is been capitalized in BMGen Oy were he works as a part time contractor. Topi loves sports, music, movies, and spending time with his family.

Pauliina Munne


Pauliina Munne received her PhD in 2010, in the field of developmental biology and physiology at the Institute of Biotechnology, University of Helsinki and continued her post-doctoral training in breast cancer and mammary gland biology at the Institute for Molecular Medicine Finland (FIMM) at University of Helsinki. After that she worked as a head of genome profiling in Biomedicum Functional Genomics Unit (FuGU), where she gain her expertise in next generation sequencing and microarrays. Here current position as a post-doctoral researcher focuses on understanding molecular mechanisms regulated by the microenvironment in mammary gland and in breast cancer, where she is particularly interested in the regulation of cellular identity. She is also involved as a part time contract researcher in BMGen Oy coordinating projects in genome profiling. She is keen on in all beauties and wonders of nature and science.


Heidi Haikala


Heidi is deciphering the molecular mechanisms linking cancer metabolism to cell death sensitivity. Furthermore, she is exploring how to use oncogene-induced metabolic changes for more effective cancer treatments. She works in close collaboration with clinicians and pharmaceutical companies, so different areas of drug development and translational research have become familiar to her during her projects. Alongside research, she has been working as a freelance employee for a startup management company and has gained experience in the biotech industry. Besides this, she likes to organize events and courses, and is a board member in several student-organized activities. In her free time she is enthusiastic about music, and is a forming member in a PhD student-based band.


Research Coordinator

Jeroen Pouwels

Adjunct Professor

Jeroen Pouwels obtained his PhD in 2004 from the University of Wageningen in the Netherlands, after which he did two postdocs in Turku, one at VTT Biotechnology and one at the Turku Centre for Biotechnology. Since 2013 Jeroen is running his own research team at the Turku Centre for Biotechnology, which focuses on the characterization of the multifunctional adaptor protein Sharpin.

Since August 2017 Jeroen is on sabbatical in Helsinki, where he is the research coordinator for the TEHO project, a Challenge Finland (TEKES) awarded project focusing on adaptive clinical trial design. Within this project he focuses especially on the establishment of patient-derived tumour explant cultures as a predictive preclinical model for breast cancer, and how to use these explants for biomarker discovery.

In his free time Jeroen likes to spend time with his family, he loves traveling all around the globe, and he is a very active stock market investor.


Doctoral students

Elsa Marques


Elsa Marques graduated in Biology from the Faculty of Science and Technology, University of Coimbra (Portugal) and continued in the same university by doing a Master of Science in Cellular and Molecular Biology by the Center of Neurosciences Coimbra & Faculty of Science and Technology. Currently doing her PhD studies in Cancer Cell Circuitry Laboratory, Translational Cancer Biology Research Program of the Medical Faculty, University of Helsinki.
Current research focuses tries to unravel how apicobasal polarity genes influence breast cancer development. 3D cultures and in vivo models alongside classical in vitro cell cultures and molecular biology assays have been used to unravel new tumor suppressor genes.
As personal hobbies she is the editor and promoter of an alternative music webzine, live shows photographer, origami, music and traveller enthusiastic.


Shishir Pant


Shishir completed his Master’s degree in Molecular biotechnology from University of Helsinki. Currently he is a graduate student in doctoral program in biomedicine and his research focuses on deciphering the oncogenic role of serine protease hepsin in breast cancer. He is particularly interested in how the cancer cell interact with the microenvironment and development of novel therapeutic agents to prevent this cross-talk.  Shishir is also an active board member of biomedical and clinical student council and has been organizing several courses, conferences and various science outreach events. When not in lab, Shishir is either on a football field, hiking or traveling around Europe.

Denis Belitskin


I received my BSc and MSc in Gene Technology from The University of Tartu (Estonia), where I started in the field of applied virology, and later went on, to study the role of stem cells in liver cancer for my Master`s thesis. My research is focused on novel biological roles of the serine protease hepsin in breast cancer, discovery of mechanisms through which hepsin is providing advantages to cancer cells in growth and survival. I`m working in close collaboration with other members of the team (Topi Tervonen, Shishir M. Pant) and international collaborators in the attempt to target extracellular and intracellular functions of hepsin by using small molecules, which will provide proof of principle that hepsin is an attractive target for breast cancer therapy.

Outside of the lab I`m a great husband, cool father, stock market investor and a beekeeper.

Johanna Anttila


Johanna Anttila recently did her Master’s thesis in the lab and is proceeding from an undergraduate student into a doctoral student as she this spring receives her MSc degree in Biochemistry from the Molecular and Cellular Biology Programme of University of Oulu. Johanna aspires to harness oncogene MYC-dependent cancer cell vulnerabilities in the objective of translating our research into benefit of cancer patients. Besides science, Johanna is into various sports including frisbee golf, soccer and tennis as well as loves to spend time enjoying of music and singing.



Undergraduate students

Mariel Savelius

Mariel Savelius is currently doing her Master’s degree in Molecular Biotechnology from University of Helsinki. She is interested in translational research and how people can benefit from the applications that it creates. Mariel is keen on learning more about the molecular mechanisms of cancer and now she is working in the project about linking oncogene MYC metabolism to cancer cell apoptosis. She is also interested in how cancer cells apoptosis effects on immune system and how that could be used to create new therapies against cancer. In her free time she likes to travel, enjoys good food and doing different activities with her friends.


Rita Turpin


Rita Turpin completed her Bachelor of Science in the United States, and is now working on her Master of Science in Human Genetics at the University of Helsinki. She collaborates on the Tekes-awarded TEHO project and focuses on immuno-oncology using patient-derived tumor explants as predictive models. Currently she is studying the immune contexture of patient samples, and ideally optimizing parameters for immune cell representative drug experimentation.

In addition to research, Rita’s passions include singing, hosting game nights, teaching English, and playing with her son.


Lab Management

Tiina Raatikainen

Laboratory Analyst

Tiina Raatikainen has graduated from Metropolia, University of Applied Sciences in 2008. At that time, she was already working in Klefström lab. She works as a Laboratory Manager with versatile tasks from genotyping-PCR to in vivo projects. Her ambition is to continuously generate knowledge and experience in many fields especially on those that are useful to the lab. Tiina works also in Biomedicum Functional Genomics Unit (FuGU) where she is maintaining and managing the Biomedicum Virus Core (BVC) by giving customers biosafety training, guidance and performing quality control assays. Tiina loves to spend time with her family and friends, play games and bake different kinds of sweets!


Functional genomics unit (FuGu)

Maria Salmela

PhD, Laboratory Coordinator

Maria Salmela received her PhD in 2017, in the field of biochemistry and cell biology at the University of Turku, where she studied integrin mediated cell adhesion and signalling pathways. Her current position as a laboratory coordinator in HiLIFE affiliated GoEditStem platform (including Biomedicum Functional Genomics Unit (FuGU) and Finnish Genome editing Center (FinGEEC)) involves management of recombinant virus services and platform development. The main goal of the platform is to educate researches and facilitate the use of different genome editing tools. Other geek stuff in Maria’s life include playing computer games and reading fantasy and science fiction novels. The natural habitats for her, outside the lab, are dance floor and forest, where she likes to shake-shake-shake or pick mushrooms, respectively.


Klefalab alumni

  • Elina Pörsti
  • Hanna Ala-Hongisto
  • Tarja Välimäki
  • Annika Hau
  • Anni Viheriäranta
  • Ekaterina Virkunen
  • Johanna Englund
  • Liina Nevalaita
  • Vilja Eskelinen
  • Katriina Muona
  • Mikko Myllynen
  • Sirkku Saarikoski
  • Heini Natri
  • Misa Imai
  • Yan Yan
  • Essi Havula
  • Sauli Toikka
  • Anne Mäkelä
  • Katja Suomi
  • Elina Enlund
  • Harriet Gullsten
  • Marjukka
  • Jaakko
  • Amit Cohen
  • Juho
  • Kaisu
  • Niklas Ekman
  • Iiris Juopperi

Research Programs Unit/Translational Cancer Biology
& Medicum, Biomedicum Helsinki 1,
Medical Faculty, University of Helsinki

Haartmaninkatu 8
00290 Helsinki

University of Helsinki internal mailing address
P.O. Box 63
FI-00014 University of Helsinki

Tel. Lab +358 2 941 25494 (room B509)
Office +358 2 941 25493 (room B507b)
Junior office (room B503)
Fax +358 2 941 25610