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

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. From 2013-2018, Jeroen has run his own research team at the Turku Centre for Biotechnology, which focused on the characterization of the multifunctional adaptor protein Sharpin.

Since August 2017, Jeroen works as research coordinator in the Klefström research group, initially as coordinator of the TEHO project, a Challenge Finland (TEKES) awarded project focusing on adaptive clinical trial design. Jeroen has obtained independent research funding from the Academy of Finland (research project) and K. Albin Johansson Foundation to develop patient-derived tumor explant cultures as a predictive preclinical model for breast cancer and to identify treatments that sensitize breast cancer to immunotherapies. Lastly, Jeroen is involved in the preparation of an investigator-initiated phase I clinical trial in metastatic breast cancer and in spinning out a diagnostic company that utilizes tumour explant cultures.

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.



Adjunct Professor

Topi Tervonen received his PhD in 2008, in the field of neural stem cells at Neuroscience Center, University of Helsinki. For his post-doctoral training he chose to study molecular cancer biology in Dr. Juha Kleftröm’s group at 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. Topi has served as research coordinator since 2014 and also works in Biomedicum Functional Genomics Unit (FuGU) as head of virus services and principal investigator of FuGU/libraries life science infrastructure of GoEditStem infrastructure platform of HiLIFE, University of Helsinki. During recent years, Topi has been actively bringing genome-scale genome editing resources and services into University of Helsinki and he was named the chair of Genome Editing technology platform of Biocenter Finland in 2020. He will also take position as principal investigator in Finnish Genome Editing Center (FinGEEC) core unit of GoEditStem HiLIFE infra platform 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

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 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 the Tekes-awarded TEHO project which explores Finland’s potential for running adaptive clinical trials in the future.

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


Iiris Räty

MD PhD Student

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

Masters 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.



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.

Emmie Salmelin

Lab Management

Elina Hurskainen

Laboratory Manager

Elina is remotely finishing her Master´s Degree in Cell and Molecular Biology at the University of Jyväskylä Spring 2020. 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, user training and support, virus titer testing for clients (RCV, p24) among others.

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

Mari Urb

Laboratory Manager

Mari is finalizing her doctoral studies in Neurosciences in University of Tartu (Estonia), where her research interest focused on the epigenetic mechanisms of psychostimulant addiction. In 2019, she worked for Protobios LCC, a life science company to study the molecular mechanisms of schizophrenia for possible biomarker identification.

Mari joined the lab in Jan 2020 and is now involved in management of recombinant virus services in Biomedicum Functional Genomics Unit (FuGU), the development of genome editing resources and assisting in research. Outside of lab, she enjoys hiking, singing and is enthused of sports.

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.


Computer/data Consultant

Ilida Suleymanova

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.

Klefalab alumni

  • Katariina Karjalainen Laboratory coordinator
  • Tiina Raatikainen
  • 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

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