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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 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 (Moscow, Russia), after which I worked as postdoctoral researcher in Neuroscience Centre and Institute of Biotechnology at University of Helsinki. My research was focused on actin-binding proteins participating in regulation and maintenance of actin cytoskeleton inside muscle and non-muscle cells. 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'm completing 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."



Riikka Mölsä,
PhD Student

I'm new!


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.



Ella Valentina Tallqvist, 
Translational  Medicine Student

"I did my Bachelor’s degree in molecular biosciences in Viikki campus here in Helsinki and I'm now continuing my studies at the University of Helsinki’s translational medicine master’s program. In my project I am studying how cultured endothelial cells can be used in mimicking the blood vessels for trafficking/migration studies. Additionally, I am a helping hand in our other projects. In my free time I always enjoy activities involving food and long walk by the sea."



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.


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