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This is HaikaLab

We study primary immuno-oncology (IO) and targeted therapy resistance mechanisms & aim to discover more durable immuno- and targeted therapy combinations for lung cancer patients


Lab Members
Meet our brilliant scientists 🔬


Heidi Haikala, PhD,
Principal Investigator

"I did my PhD in the University of Helsinki, after which I worked as a postdoc in Dana-Farber Cancer Institute & Harvard Medical School in Prof. Pasi Jänne's Lab. In DFCI, I developed new targeted therapy strategies to prevent EGFR inhibitor resistance in lung cancer.

One of our recent findings led to a clinical trial in lung cancer patients. 

Our group studies how to target primary (immuno)therapy resistance and discovers new combination therapies for lung cancer.

Science communication, music & winter sports are close to my heart! "



Bassel Alsaed,
PhD Researcher

" I'm studying immunotherapy resistance in lung cancer using 3D co-cultures. This includes culturing patient-derived organoids with matched T cells with or without immunotherapies (e.g., checkpoint inhibitors). The aim of the study is to figure out new mechanisms of immunotherapy resistance and optimize an easy-to-use screening platform for patient-derived tissues.

I also like (all) good food, especially the swedish semla!"



Elena Kremneva, PhD,
Research Coordinator

"I did my PhD in A.N. Bach Institute of Biochemistry, after which I worked as postdoctoral researcher in Neuroscience Centre & Institute of Biotechnology at University of Helsinki. My research focused on actin-binding proteins and maintenance of actin cytoskeleton. Now I work on developing a new tumor-on-a-chip platform that could be used for studying individual drug responses in cancer patients. Solving problems and setting up new methods are of my interest. Outside work, I enjoy reading, walking and spending time with my family."



Lilja Lahtinen,MSc,
Research Assistant

"I did my master’s degree in neuroscience at the University of Helsinki. My job in the lab is to process patient-derived tumor samples and use them to culture 3D organoids. I maintain our cell lines and prepare them for DNA sequencing, co-culture experiments, and more. In my free time you can often find me baking, playing music, or enjoying the outdoors!" 


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Iris Lähdeniemi, PhD,
Research Coordinator

I did my PhD at Åbo Akademi University on keratin intermediate filaments in colonic epithelia, after which I worked as a postdoctoral researcher at University of Helsinki, FIMM. At FIMM, I investigated novel therapeutic strategies for non-small cell lung cancer and developed a mouse model to study adenosquamous carcinoma. In my upcoming projects at HaikaLab I will study combination treatment responses in lung cancer models. During my free time I love to explore the outdoors with my family, meet friends and take long walks.


Johannes Smolander, PhD, Postdoctoral Researcher (Bioinformatics)

"I did my PhD at the University of Turku, the topic of which was scRNA-seq analysis. I am interested in everything related to NGS analysis, and especially its applications related to immunology. In my spare time, I do a variety of sports and play video games."


Linh Lin,
Research Assistant

"I completed my Master’s degree in Genetics and Molecular Biosciences in the University of Helsinki, specializing in Molecular and Analytical Health Biosciences. I gained interest in translational medicine during my  studies. 

In the lab I study the epigenetic and protein level regulators of EGFR expression in lung cancer, by using CRISPR and other genetic screening methods.

Dancing, reading and eating delicious food are my favorite activities!"



Hanna Laitinen, MSc,
Project Researcher

"I have completed my Master's thesis in Molecular Medicine at the University of Eastern Finland and have previously studied lung cancer using 2D in vitro -models. Now, I'm participating in immunotherapy resistance study in which we use patient-derived 3D co-cultures. In addition, I'm helping with other work in the lab. In my free time you can find me doing a variety of different sports, reading, or photographing the nature."



Lassi Viitala, MSc, EMBA,
Commercial Champion 

” I have over a decade of experience with various tech startups ranging across the full spectrum of operations and leadership. The previous one was operational in seven countries and was sold to a global leader after reaching 10 MEUR revenue in four years. I have degrees in Executive MBA focusing on strategy and finance as well as Master of Science in measurement electronics. I’m passionate about helping impactful businesses in creating a better tomorrow for us all."



Elenia Bracalenti
MSc Student

"I am a student of the Master’s in Molecular and Medical Biotechnology in Verona (Italy). After training in different labs in the Institute of Biotechnology at the University of Helsinki, I chose HaikaLab to focus on personalized medicine and immuno-oncology. For my Master’s thesis project, I will work on a genome-wide CRISPR screening on mutant cell lines in combination with NK cells.
In my free time, I like working out, dancing, and traveling around the world."



Tanvi Nandikonda,
Research Intern 

"I am a recent high school graduate from the IB programme at Helsingin Suomalainen Yhteiskoulu, and I will be joining HaikaLab as a research intern from 2023 - 2024. By supporting ongoing research projects during the internship, I aim to develop my technical skills, enhance my scientific writing abilities, and become accustomed to training and cooperating in a scientific work environment. During my free time, I enjoy playing badminton, dancing Kuchipudi (Indian classical dance), and tutoring students!"



Iina Kaisaniemi,BSc, Research Assistant

"I did my Bachelor‘s degree in molecular biosciences at the University of Helsinki and wrote my thesis about modeling lungs and lung cancer using 3D models. I will continue my studies in Genetics and Molecular Bioscienses master’s program. In the lab I’m investigating the role of cancer-associated fibroblasts in responses to different treatments. In my free time I enjoy yoga, going to the gym and taking walks by the sea."



Kasim Kaader
MD/PhD Student

"I completed my Bsc in Medicine at the University of Helsinki. I am interested in working together with other people to find good answers to good questions, and I currently pursue a  PhD in the field of immuno-oncology. For my PhD project, we aim to find pharmacologically targetable biomarkers for IO resistance. Apart from medicine and science, I enjoy playing the clarinet and playing tennis."



Narges Moradi
PhD Student

"I did my MSc in Molecular Biotechnology, at the University of Turku. Following that, I explored the fascinating world of oncology research, contributing to both the Antibody Drug Conjugates (ADCs) and Cancer Genomics teams at Orion Pharma.
Currently, I am on an exciting journey pursuing my PhD at the HaikaLab. My research focuses on unraveling the tumor-specific immunological properties and immunopeptidome in lung cancer.  My ultimate goal is to pave the way for novel immuno-oncological therapeutics in lung cancer or enhance the effectiveness of existing ones. Outside the lab, I like to read , write , do yoga , and travel."


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