University of Helsinki

Participant number: 2

Legal Name: University of helsinki

Dr Kari Alitalo

Description of the legal entity:

University of Helsinki (UH) is one of the world’s leading multidisciplinary universities in the area of research and ranks among the top 20 universities in Europe and top 100 universities worldwide. It is the oldest and largest university in Finland with 32,000 students enrolled in the degree programs spread across 11 faculties. Life sciences are one of the three strategic research areas of UH.

This project will be carried out in the Biomedicum Helsinki Research Center. It is a unique environment, one of few in Europe where all fields of biomedical research are located on the same campus, in the Academic Medical Center Helsinki (AMCH), where resources and activities of the University of Helsinki join with Helsinki University Central Hospital.

The Translational Cancer Biology group, led by Dr. Alitalo, consists of 30 members of whom 8 are Postdoctoral Fellows, 8 Ph.D. Students, 8 technicians, plus a Project Coordinator and a Laboratory Manager. The group investigates the induction of lymphatic vessel growth and its benefits in lymphedema, using viral vector transduction, as well as the organ-specific heterogeneity and functions of lymphatic vessels using a combination of state-of-the-art molecular, cellular and genetic in vivo methods. The group also investigates the role of meningeal lymphatic vasculature in neuroinflammation, neurodegenerative diseases. The team further characterises responses of lymphatic vessels to cancer therapies, with a focus on clinically relevant immunotherapy approaches.

Curriculum Vitae:

Prof. Dr. Alitalo (Male): Academy Professor, Director of the Translational Cancer Medicine Research program and the Wihuri Research Institute. Professor Alitalo is global leader in research of blood and lymphatic vessels and widely known for his discoveries of several receptor tyrosine kinases, growth factors and receptors. H-index 147 (Scopus). Selected awards: 2018 Honorary Doctorship Uppsala University Sweden; 2010 The Anders Jahre Senior Medical Prize, Norway; 2006 14 Louis-Jeantet Prize For Medicine, Switzerland; 1999 Europe Medicine Senior Prize; Member of the Swedish, Belgian and US Academies of Science.

Dr. Andrey Anisimov (Male): Docent in molecular biology, Senior Scientist at the Wihuri Research Institute. Research focus: vascular biology with particular focus on cell-cell interactions and signal transduction in vascular endothelial cells. H-index 23 (Scopus). Awards: 2011 Medix prize for the best Finnish scientific paper in molecular biology; 2013 Aesculap EANS Research Prize for the best clinical research paper of the year; 2015 Best paper Award in the category of Basic Science in Circulation.

Dr. Veli-Matti Leppänen (Male): Docent in protein chemistry, team leader at the Wihuri Research Institute. Research focus: the structure and function of receptor tyrosine kinases (RTKs) and their growth factor ligands. H-index 22 (Scopus). Awards: The Medix Prize for the Best Finnish Paper in the Biosciences in 2010.

Dr. Harri Nurmi (Male): Post-doctoral researcher. Research focus: vascular biology and more precisely lymphatic vasculature and growth factors that are responsible for the development and maturation of these vessels. H-index 14 (Scopus).

UnivHel Main tasks in the project per WP

  • WP2: Gene expression analysis (Task 2.3)
  • WP5: knockdown of therapeutic target in vitro (Task 5.2), Overexpression of therapeutic target in vitro (Task 5.3)
  • WP6: UnivHel is WP leader and implicated in the Validation of biological activity in preclinical models (Task 6.3)

WP9 UnivHel will contribute to dissemination and communication activities.

List of up to 5 relevant publications, and/or products, services (including widely-used datasets or software), or other achievements relevant to the call content

  • Antila S, Karaman S, Nurmi H, Airavaara M, Voutilainen MH, Mathivet T, Chilov D, Li Z, Koppinen T, Park J-H, Fang S, Aspelund A, Saarma M, Eichmann A, Thomas J-L, Alitalo K. Development and plasticity of meningeal lymphatic vessels. J Exp Med 214: 3645-3667 (2017).
  • Aspelund A, Antila S, Proulx ST, Karlsen TV, Karaman S, Detmar M, Wiig H, Alitalo K. A Dural lymphatic vascular system that drains brain interstitial fluid and macromolecules. J Exp Med 212: 991-9 (2015).
  • Jeltsch M, Jha SK, et al…, Ortega S, Kärpänen T, Alitalo K. CCBE1 enhances lymphangiogenesis via a disintegrin andmetalloprotease with thrombospondin motifs-3-mediated vascular endothelial growth factor-C activation. Circ Res 129: 1962-1971 (2014).
  • Aspelund A, Tammela T, et. al…, Mäkinen T, Saharinen P, Immonen I, Alitalo K. The Schlemm’s canal is a VEGFC/VEGFR-3-responsive lymphatic-like vessel. J Clin Invest 124: 3975-3986 (2014).
  • Tammela T, Saaristo A, et al…, Ylä-Herttuala S, Petrova TV, Alitalo K. Therapeutic differentiation and maturation of lymphatic vessels after lymph node dissection and transplantation. Nat Med 13: 1458-66 (2007).

List of up to 5 relevant previous projects or activities, connected to the subject of this proposal

  • Lymphangiogenomics integrated project of the EU 2004-2009 (coordinator)
  • Microenvimet EU 7th framework program 2007-2011
  • Leducq Transatlantic Network of Excellence in Lymph vessels in obesity and cardiovascular disease, 2011-2016 (European Coordinator)
  • FP7 Marie Curie ITN: VESSEL 2013-2016 (2 ESRs)
  • Centre of Excellence in Translational Cancer Biology, 2014-2019 (director)

Infrastructure and/or major items of technical equipment

The laboratory is located in the Biomedicum Helsinki centre for medical research and training and is well equipped for cell and molecular biology research. The facilities available for use include a cold room, centrifuge room, bacterial culture room, cell culture rooms, a darkroom, dissecting room, a radiation room, cryotome/ microtome, and shared equipment rooms with phospho-imagers, scintillation counters and high-speed centrifuges. The laboratory and shared facilities contain all the equipment necessary to conduct the proposed experiments. Animal care SPF facility has in vivo imaging systems for whole-body luminescence imaging and near-infrared imaging.

Operational capacity

Fully operational

We are determined to find a treatment.