Prin­cipal In­vest­ig­ator

Eliisa graduated as medical doctor from University of Helsinki in 2006. In 2011 she defended her PhD on Autoimmune regulator in the maintenance of immunological tolerance. She continued her research as a post-doc at Center for Infectious Medicine, Karolinska Institutet, Stockholm Sweden. There she worked in prof. Hans-Gustaf Ljunggren’s group on tissue-resident natural killer cells. After returning to Finland in 2014, she started her specialization into clinical microbiology at HUSLAB, University Hospital Helsinki. Currently she shares her working hours between managing the research group and as a clinical specialist at HUS Diagnostic Center HUSLAB, division of immunology. In her clinical work, she focuses on the laboratory diagnostics of inborn errors of immunity.

Eliisa’s ideology to research is that it should be fun. Fun means bold experiments in a relaxed working environment. We do hard work when needed, but also maintain a reasonable work-life balance. We work as a team, and every team member is important. Every day we learn something new!

Eliisa's research profile


Associated clinical researcher

Sini graduated as MD from University of Helsinki in 2009 and had finished also her degree in MSc Tech (Industrial Engineering and Management) in 2007 alongside with medical studies. Sini studied T cell immunology and defended her PhD thesis on Autoimmune polyendocrinopathy – candidiasis – ectodermal dystrophy in 2012 (University of Helsinki, Department of Immunology, group of MD PhD Petteri Arstila). Sini is currently specialising in neurology at the Helsinki University Hospital, and has projects with professor of neuroimmunology Pentti Tienari and adjunct professor Eliisa Kekäläinen underway on multiple sclerosis, myastenia gravis, new-onset refractory status epilepticus and Susac’s syndrome.

Sini and Eliisa are lab mates from the time of PhD studies and share an interest on inspirational out of the box - kind of science. Sini brings the perspective of clinical neurology to the team.



MD, PhD student

I am currently doing my PhD on viral infections and immune reconstitution after pediatric allogenic hematopoietic stem cell transplantation. With the purpose of better being able to predict viral reactivations and infections, we are looking for answers to why and how immune suppression causes viral infections in the post-transplant setting.

As a pediatrician specializing in hematology, my special interests are acute leukemia, virology and immunology. My spare time I spend with my family, and every once in a while, on the golf course.

Postdoctoral researcher

Dawit holds MSc. in Bioinformatics from Aalto University and PhD from University of Helsinki during which he worked extensively on the application and development of Bioinformatic methods for the analysis of high-throughput genomic datasets. He has extensive experience from basic analysis of genomic data to higher level analyses in areas such as variant analysis, gene expression analysis from microarrays to RNAseq (both bulk and single cell data), and immune TCR repertoire analysis.

In his current post-doctoral research, Dawit is involved in the analysis of scRNAseq datasets in projects that study immunological disorders & immunodeficiencies. He utilizes bioinformatics, develops in-house pipelines/methods, and harnesses statistical and machine learning algorithms to help answer critical research questions.


MD, PhD student

I´m a PhD Student in the Pediatric Research Center and Translational Immunology Research Program and specializing in pediatrics in the New Children’s hospital. My research focuses on the diagnostics of primary immunodeficiencies and immune reconstitution after allogenic stem cell transplantation in pediatric patients.


MD, PhD student

I started in the Kekäläinen Lab in 2017 doing "bachelor´s thesis" on anti-cytokine antibodies. Fascinating world of immunology got a grip of me and alongside with medical studies I started my PhD project in 2019 supervised by PI Kekäläinen and Dr Laakso. In 2021 I graduated as MD from University of Helsinki and currently I am continuing my PhD project.

My main focus is in Germinal Center reaction where I want to understand how follicular T helper and regulator cells fine tune development of memory B cells and antibodies producing plasma cells. I study different forms of Germinal Center reaction in autoimmunity (especially neurological diseases multiple sclerosis and myasthenia gravis), immunodeficiency and ovarian cancer with means of flow cytometry, (sc)RNAseq and especially image analysis based on multiplex immunofluorescence stainings.


MD, PhD student

I'm currently juggling many balls with projects ranging from immunodeficiency to autoimmunity and back to basic T and B cell biology. My core competency lies in flow cytometry.


Suvi Jokiranta, PhD student



PhD student

I was a student in the translational medicine master's program. I completed my BSc in reproductive biology at the University of Edinburgh and my Msc project studying scRNAseq compatible cell preservation and fixation methods. I'm now a PhD student in the Kekäläinen lab.    


PhD student

I started my PhD project in Kekäläinen lab from 2021 under the supervision by  Eliisa Kekäläinen and Tomas Strandin. 

My main focus is T cell lymphopenia in respiratory viral infections, especially SARS-CoV-2 infection.


MSc student

I am an exchange student studying Biology at the Technical University of Munich and currently, I am writing my master's thesis at the Kekäläinen group. My project is about anti-interferon autoantibodies and AIRE expression in different diseases.

Simo Miettinen, MSc 

Simo did his master thesis in Kekäläinen lab during 2017 - 2018. The main project was to study IKZF2/HELIOS gene induction in human MAIT cells in response to E.coli bacteria and C.albicans yeast.


Iivari Kleino, PhD

Iivari was a postdoc in Eliisa's lab. His main project aimed for better diagnostics of thymic function after hematopoietic stem cell transplantation. He worked on developing and running single cell mRNA and protein profiling analysis from PBMC samples. Alongside this, he did molecular, cellular and biochemical assays as necessary.

Nelli Heikkilä, MD, PhD

Nelli Heikkilä's principal interest is in the heterogeneity of human T cells, whether it concerns the T cell receptors or T cell phenotypes in healthy body or immunological disorders. She works with various immunological tissues using flow cytometry. She is also interested in T cell receptor repertoire analysis methodology.

Ngoc Anh Nguyen, MSc student

Anh finished her master thesis in Kekäläinen lab.