Kari Eklund M.D., PhD is the Head of the department of Rheumatology and Professor of rheumatology at Helsinki University Hospital and University of Helsinki. He spent his post-doctoral fellowship in Brigham and Women’s hospital at Harvard Medical School. He currently supervises six PhD students. His research interests include identifying and studying the pathogenesis of rare genetically determined rheumatic diseases and the mechanisms of activation and the role of inflammasomes played in rheumatic and cardiovascular diseases.  

Dan Nordström M.D., PhD is an adjunct professor of internal medicine. He works as a senior lecturer at University of Helsinki and as senior consultant in internal medicine and rheumatology at the department of Internal medicine at Helsinki University Hospital. His research involves all aspects of rheumatic diseases, with particular interest and with a strong track record in registry studies of rheumatic diseases. He is also the Finnish PI of the international Nord-Star study involving patients with early rheumatoid arthritis receiving four alternative induction therapy regimens including three different biologics, as well as the PI of the first randomized study on adult onset Still´s disease.

Sampsa Matikainen (SM), PhD., docent is a senior scientist at the Helsinki Rheumatic Diseases & Inflammation Group. SM is specialized in studying how the innate immune system triggers inflammation and how inflammation is involved in the pathogenesis of atherosclerosis. More specifically, SM studies function and regulation of inflammasomes, which form the major signaling hub that initiate inflammation in macrophages and endothelial cells. SM utilizes mass spectrometry-based quantitative proteomics and bioinformatics in his research.


Mari Ainola, MSc (biochemistry), PhD, docent in molecular and cell biology is a senior researcher and the main topic of her research is osteoclast mediated bone degradation in rheumatoid arthritis and during implant loosening. She is also focused on other autoimmune diseases like Sjögren’s Syndrome and especially the effect of Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) and hormones on its pathomechanism, and inflammatory diseases like periodontitis and the role of periodontal bacteria in inflammation and cancer. Another topic is biomaterials and their impact on bone formation.

Jukka Pajarinen M.D., Ph.D., is an adjunct professor in experimental orthopaedic surgery. After gaining his Ph.D. from University of Helsinki in 2013, he completed a postdoctoral fellowship in Stanford University, California. Now he is specializing in surgery and co-supervising some of the groups ongoing M.D., Ph.D research projects. His research is focused on the interaction of bone and biomaterial implants, bone regeneration, and bone tissue engineering.

Gonçalo Barreto, M.Sc, PhD, is a postdoctoral researcher at the Helsinki Rheumatic Diseases & Inflammation Group. His research focus on studying innate immunity signalling and novel regulators in Osteoarthritis. He is particularly interested in the cartilage matrix (e.g. glycoproteins), and gut-derived LPS (endotoxin) mediation of innate immune activation in Osteoarthritis and other arthritic diseases.  Moreover, he is also involved in other studies, ranging from cartilage drug delivery, Osteoarthritis rodent models, to gene editing for cartilage tissue engineering. Gonçalo Barreto returned to Helsinki after a postdoctoral fellowship at ETH Zürich (Switzerland), at the lab of Professor Marcy Zenobi-Wong, with whom he still collaborates.


Katariina Nurmi, M.Sc, PhD. She completed her PhD. in Wihuri Research Institute 2015. Katariina is a postdoctoral researcher specialized in primary human cell cultures and vesicle extraction, she also has experience on working with models of acute inflammation and Cre-Lox recombination in mice. She is interested in inflammatory diseases and dysregulated inflammasome activation. Her projects focus on the inflammation in the pathogenesis of rheumatoid arthritis and autoinflammatory diseases. As a possible triggerer of inflammation she studies the activation of noncanonical inflammasome by different bacteria species and LPS structures.

Nina Trokovic, PhD in genetics, 2005, University of Helsinki. Description of the current task: manager and analyst of The National Register of Biological Medicines (ROB-FIN) data. ROB-FIN is a nation-wide prospective cohort study aiming to provide observational data on safety, effectiveness and costs of rheumatic diseases treatments in routine healthcare, with follow-up dating back to 1999. We have collaborations with other national and international registers and we also provide reports to authorities and pharmaceutical companies.

Abdelhakim (Hakim) Salem is a postdoctoral researcher. His Doctoral Thesis covered the role of certain inflammatory mediators in oral potentially malignant lesions and mobile tongue cancer. Currently, he is focusing on two areas: gaining a deeper knowledge of the molecular underpinnings of intra-tumoural immunity; and unravelling potential biomarkers to predict efficacy of different immunotherapeutics. Salem is also a Board Member of the Clinical Medicine-Oral Sciences Doctoral Programme (KLTO-FINDOS) Board at the University of Helsinki.

Eemeli Jämsen graduated as M.D. in 2016 from the University of Helsinki, where he currently works in the Doctoral Programme in Clinical Research as a PhD candidate. His research focuses on macrophage activation in the aseptic loosening of total joint replacements and aims to elucidate the complex cell interactions at the bone-implant interface leading to peri-prosthetic osteolysis. In 2017 he served as a visiting scholar for six months at Stanford University School of Medicine in the research group of Professor Stuart B. Goodman with whom he still collaborates.

Jukka Parantainen, M.D., graduated from the University of Tampere in 2013 and is now specializing in internal medicine. The subject of his current PhD studies is the role of bacterial endotoxins and non-canonical inflammasome activation in the pathogenesis of inflammatory arthritides.

Elin Eriksson, B.Sc. (Economics & Business administration), is a M.D. and a PhD student at the Faculty of Medicine and the Doctoral Programme in Clinical Research, respectively, at the University of Helsinki. She is part of the research group of Nina Lindfors, which focuses on biomaterials and bone regeneration. The main research topics are synthetic bone graft substitutes, especially bioactive glasses and their use in bone defects caused by tumours, trauma or chronic infections, involving both clinical and basic science. The long-term goal is to develop bioactive glass composites with increased bone stimulation, as well as to induce increased understanding of bone formation.

Kristiina Silventoinen graduated as M.D. from University of Helsinki in 2019. Her PhD projects will focus on novel autoinflammatory diseases and inflammations role in haematological malignancies.

Juri Olkkonen, M.D., graduated from the University of Helsinki in 2015 and is currently specializing in general medicine and doing PhD. His research focuses on interplay between circadian rhythm and inflammation in rheumatoid arthritis.

Elina Kuusela, M.Sc, received her Master´s degree in Biotechnology from the University of Tampere in 2016 and is currently a PhD student in University of Helsinki. She finished her master´s thesis in Helsinki Rheumatic Diseaseses and Inflammation Research Group related to role of viral infections in autoimmune diseases and is now continuing PhD research on the same subject.

Vesa-Petteri Kouri, MSc (Biochemistry; University of Helsinki), is currently specializing in clinical chemistry and doing a PhD focusing on cytokine signaling in chronic inflammatory arthritis. The research aims in understanding better how proinflammatory cytokines regulate the production of tissue destructive proteolytic enzymes such as MMPs by the resident synovial cells, with focus especially on the role of Interleukin-17 family cytokines. Currently, he is working on a project aiming to identify the molecular mechanism of synergistic action of TNF and IL-17A in synovial fibroblasts.