Areas of expertise
Chairperson of the Institute of Microbiology and Pathology (Kliinis-teoreettinen laitos) 2001-2003
Convener and Co-chair of the International Herpesvirus conference IHW2005, Turku, 2005
Professor at the Department of Medical Microbiology, University of Oulu (virology) 2005-2009
Professor at the Department of Virology, University of Turku, 2010-2013
Herpesvirology research 1983-current
Thesis work on neuroimmunology and neurovirology 1978-1982
I have 4 decades of experience and interest in activating teaching of Virology, to students of medicine and biomedicine. My teaching is based on scientific research.
I have completed the first ever organized training course in University Pedagogics in the University of Turku, and the first organized training course in Medical Pedagogics in the University of Turku.
Herpes simplex virus (HSV) is a common pathogen of humans, causing a spectrum of infections ranging from cold sores and genital herpes to the serious neonatal herpes infections and encephalitis. However, HSV is also one of the most important oncolytic viruses (destroying cancer cells) and gene therapy vectors. A characteristic feature of HSV is the latent infection in the nervous system, mainly in sensory ganglia. The latent HSV infection is permanent, although recurrencies can be treated with antiviral chemotherapy. Our project develops means for prevention and treatment of virus infection and viral latency. We have established a successful RNA interference approach, using enzymatically produced antiviral siRNA swarms, for control of HSV infection, as a joint project with the premier RNA research laboratory in Finland.
HSV is a promising backbone for gene therapy vectors, due to its neurotropism, its immune evasion abilities, drug sensitivity and numerous other beneficial properties. An oncolytic HSV has gained approval by the FDA and the European Medicines Agency. Our team has long-term experience in developing HSV vectors. We construct novel HSV recombinant viruses and study the use of these attenuated viruses in gene therapy of central nervous system diseases. We also develop oncolytic HSV for treatment of cancer. Our research has produced new HSV vectors, from which therapeutic cytokines and trophic factors are expressed. We improve delivery and targeting methods for HSV gene therapy.
We elucidate the genetic diversity among HSV strains from natural clinical isolates. We apply NGS sequencing methods suitable for analysis of large DNA viruses, in collaboration with a pioneer laboratory of the field. These studies benefit antiviral development, pathogenesis studies, and virus vector development. We also improve molecular diagnostic methods for the herpes viruses in clinical diseases, having many decades of experience in HSV nucleic acid detection. We collaborate with significant domestic and international research groups. Our project has yielded over 10 doctoral dissertations, in addition to over 20 MSc theses and numerous special projects in fields of biomedicine and other biosciences.