Lab members / Klefström lab

  • Klefström lab

    Focus day 2019
  • Klefa’s angels

  • 3D-cultured breast cancer fragments

  • Lab life

For open positions in the lab, click here.

Research Coordinator


Adjunct Professor

Topi Tervonen received his PhD in 2008, in the field of neural stem cells at the Neuroscience Center, University of Helsinki. For his post-doctoral training he chose to study molecular cancer biology in Dr. Juha Klefström’s group at the University of Helsinki. Topi’s work on membrane-anchored serine proteases and cancer has revealed new up- and downstream mechanisms regulating these microenvironment-modifying and tumor-promoting enzymes. Related to the topic, Topi has supervised 2 MSc theses, one engineer thesis, one lab analyst thesis and 2 PhD theses thus far. Topi has served as a research coordinator since 2014 and, in 2020, he obtained the title of docent (adjunct professor) from the University of Helsinki in the field of cell and molecular biology. During recent years, Topi has been actively bringing in genome-scale genome editing resources and services in University of Helsinki and also nationally. He was named the vice chair of Stem Cells and Genome Editing technology platform of Biocenter Finland in 2020. He has also taken a position as principal investigator in Finnish Genome Editing Center (FinGEEC) core unit of GoEditStem HiLIFE infra platform in University of Helsinki in 2021. Topi has also worked as part time contractor in Biomedicum Genomics Oy (partially owned by University of Helsinki). Outside work Topi loves sports, music, movies, scientific books, and spending time with his wife and two children.

Post Docs

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 gained expertise in next generation sequencing and microarrays. Her 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 all beauties and wonders of nature and science.


Ruixian Liu (Mars)


Mars received his PhD in 2017 from the Sun Yat-sen University, China, where his research interest focused on tumor-infiltrating B cells. After that he continued his post-doctoral training about biomarker discovery and cancer immunotherapy in Sun Yat-sen University.
Mars joined the lab in November 2019. He is now working on developing new combination strategies to improve efficacy of immunotherapy in breast cancer. Outside of lab, he likes cooking, hiking, and swimming.

Doctoral students

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 received her MSc degree in Biochemistry from the Molecular and Cellular Biology Programme in University of Oulu and did her Master’s thesis in Klefström lab in 2017. After graduating she has continued her work in the lab as a doctoral student. 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 and tennis as well as loves to spend time enjoying music and photography.



Rita Turpin


Rita Turpin finished her MSc with a major in Human Genetics and a minor in Molecular Biology at the University of Helsinki, and is continuing her work throughout her doctoral studies. Her project focuses on determining the immunocontexture of a novel 3D ex vivo breast cancer model in hopes of opening doors for future immune-relevant synthetic lethal drug combination and biomarker studies. In addition to her own work, Rita has been collaborating with CancerIO.

Rita’s hobbies include singing, board games, and hosting parties.


Mariel Savelius


Mariel Savelius recently completed 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.


Iiris Räty

MD PhD Student

Iiris has started her medical studies in the MD PhD programme in 2016 and she joined Klefström lab in 2017.  Her research focuses on the interaction between the tumor microenvironment and ER-positive breast cancer cells and new potential therapeutic targets related to ER-signaling. In her free time Iiris enjoys reading, spending time outdoors and various sports such as skiing, running and dancing. 



Aino Peura

MD PhD Student

Aino Peura is a MD-PhD-student who joined Klefsröm lab in 2018. Her thesis is focused on understanding the immunological interactions between the breast cancer microenvironment and immune cells.

In her free time she enjoys reading and is a keen long distance runner

July Aung


July recently completed her Master’s degree in Genetics and Molecular Biosciences at the University of Helsinki, specialising in Cell and Developmental Biology. She is keen on learning how cancer and the tumour microenvironment interact with the immune system. Her interests in cancer, immunology and translational research have brought her to Klefa lab where she investigates MYC synthetic lethal targets in enhancing cancer immunotherapy. She is motivated by and looks forward to the day where her research can benefit patients battling with breast cancer.

When not at her bench, July can be found either enjoying the beautiful Finnish nature, cooking up a storm for close friends and family, attempting to grow a new plant or trying to pick up a new language. On dark winter days, she avidly watches movies and hopes to be lucky enough to see the Aurora Borealis one day.

Masters Students

Linda Patrikainen


Linda Patrikainen is a Masters student in the Genetics and Molecular Biosciences -Master’s program at the University of Helsinki. Her research project focuses on the interaction between the tumor microenvironment and ER-positive breast cancer cells. When she is not studying, she enjoys good music, nature and jogs.

Linda Id


Linda Id is doing her Master’s degree at the University of Helsinki in the Genetics and Molecular Biosciences program. Linda’s research project is focused on finding new treatments that specifically kill MYC-overexpressed breast cancer cells.

Emmie Salmelin


Emmie Salmelin is a master’s student in Genetics and Molecular Biosciences at University of Helsinki. Her research project focuses on activating NK cell cytotoxicity towards Myc-driven breast cancer. When she isn’t at work or at school, she enjoys sports, the outdoors and spending time with her friends.

Antti Hiltunen


Antti is doing his master’s degree in the University of Helsinki Genetics and Molecular Biosciences master’s program. His research is focused on the oncogenic activity of serine protease hepsin in breast cancer and the mechanism through which hepsin allows cancer cells to evade immune response. Outside of the lab Antti can be found climbing in the gym or outdoors, skiing, enjoying a good book and jogging around Helsinki

Technical Staff

Elina Hurskainen

Laboratory Manager, MSc

Elina finished her MSc with a major in Cell and Molecular Biology at the University of Jyväskylä. She works as a laboratory manager with versatile tasks from coordinating and integrating lab resources to technical experimental support. Additionally, she manages the Biomedicum Virus Core (BVC) which falls under the Finnish Helsinki Institute of Life Sciences (HiLIFE) infrastructure aimed to promote quality research across campuses. Her BVC responsibilities include facility management, preparing customer lentivirus orders, virus titer testing for clients (RCV, p24), user training and customer support.

Outside the lab Elina is a live music-enthusiast, animal lover, gamer, green-thumb, and a superb home chef. She is also a licensed swim instructor, lifeguard and cocktail bartender in case there is a need.

Maria Salmela


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.


Babette Hollmann

Babette has finished her job training 2007 in Marburg/Lahn. She joined Klefström lab 2021 where she’s providing a pair of helping hands for the “Munne-Klubi”.

Outside of work, Babette is rarely spotted alone. Usually accompanied by her dog, she enjoys various outdoor activities. As a passionate couch potato, she’s happily handicrafting the evenings away or solving jigsaw puzzles.

Ilida Suleymanova

Data Consultant

Ilida has a Master’s degree in computational mathematics, and cybernetics from Kazan Federal University (KFU), Kazan, Russia. During her Masters, she focused on solving mathematical equations using Matlab software. To further enhance her skills, she decided to focus on its implementation in clinical studies, and joined the Neurobiology research group led by Dr. Rustem Khazipov’s at KFU. During her work in this lab, she was involved in developing Matlab-based algorithms for automatized analysis of brain activity in neonatal rats, and the clusterization of spikes of multiunit activity in the immature cortex.
Currently, she is completing her Ph.D. studies at the University of Helsinki. During her Ph.D. study, she quickly learned the necessary skills to perform biological experiments and on the other hand utilized her expertise in programming to develop novel algorithms to quantify large-scale images generated during the experiments.
As part of her long term goal, she wishes to contribute and pursue her career in the field involving mathematical and computational approaches to analyze biological data.

Communications specialist

Mirjami Tran MinhMSc, RN

Mirjami has a MSc degree in biology from the University of Helsinki. She is also a registered nurse, and before joining Cancer IO she worked in a cancer patient organization, following closely the advances in cancer research and care, and setting up an education platform EUPATI Finland which educates patients and the public about medicines research and development.

Mirjami has a special interest in communicating science for the public and developing better research environment and health care system in collaboration with all Cancer IO stakeholders.

Mirjami is also doing her PhD studies on patient and public involvement in health technology assessment in Finland, focusing on reimbursement and assessment of new pharmacotherapies.

Klefalab alumni

  • Jeroen Pouwels
  • Shishir Pant
  • Tiina Raatikainen
  • Katariina Karjalainen Laboratory coordinator
  • Janika Ruuska
  • Johanna Lampe
  • Begüm Erdoğan
  • Heidi Haikala
  • 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
  • Elsa Marques
  • Iiris Juopperi
  • Mari Urb

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