Group members

Principal investigator

PhD, Docent

Anne Salonen has multidisciplinary training in biosciences and PhD in molecular virology (2004). She has studied human microbiomes since 2007. Her current research focuses on early life microbiota, microbiota-driven dietary response stratification and the role of vaginal microbiota in obstetric and gynaecological health.

Contact information:

Principal investigator, director of HUMI

Professor of Human Microbiomics

Willem M. de Vos studied Biochemistry and obtained a PhD at Groningen University, partly done at the Max Planck Institute for Molecular Genetics in Berlin. He has been 30 years Professor at Wageningen University and more than 10 years at the University of Helsinki where he now ​serves as Professor of Human Microbiomics at the Faculty of Medicine.

He has supervised over 100 PhD students and with these and other collaborators he published over 700 peer-reviewed publications, including many in top journals such as Nature, Science and PNAS. He has been ranked among the most influential Science Minds and has an ISI h-index  > 115 and Google Scholar  h-index > 145.

He is a member of the Netherlands Royal Academy of Arts and Sciences (KNAW), the European Academy of Microbiology, and various international Scientific Advisory Boards. He has received early career prizes for international PhD and post-doc stays, including EMBO, MPI, FEBS and CEC Fellowships, and various later career awards, including the Miles Marschall Rhone-Poulenc International Dairy Science Award, the NWO Spinoza Award, and the Netherlands’ Most Entrepreneurial Scientist Award.

He also was elected as TEKES Finland Distinguished Professor, Finland Academy Professor of the Finnish Academy of Sciences, and was a recipient of ERC Advanced and ERC Proof of Concept Grants. He received an Honorary Doctorate in Medicine in Sweden and recently was nominated as a Knight in the Order of the Netherlands Lion.

His research aims to understand and exploit microbes using molecular, (meta)genomics and systems approaches. Following his activities on the molecular genetics, ecology and physiology of lactic acid and other gram-positive bacteria, extremophiles and industrial anaerobes, his current interest is focused on the human intestinal tract microbiota and its relation with health and disease. Specific attention is given to the early life microbiota development, understanding the health impact of Akkermansia spp. that he discovered, and bringing microbiota correlations to causation using fecal transplantations and other microbial interventions. 

Contact information:

Post-doctoral researcher

Katri Korpela has PhDs in ecology (2014) and microbiology (2016). She is responsible for developing and applying bioinformatic tools for microbiota analysis and data integration in the group. 

Post-doctoral researcher

Alise Ponsero is a microbiologist with a passion for data science! She received her PhD in microbiology from the University of Paris-Saclay (France), working on redox biology and protein secretion in the baker’s yeast. After her PhD, she pursued a second master’s degree in computer science to gain critical computational skills. She joined in 2018 the Dr. Hurwitz lab at the University of Arizona as a postdoctoral fellow, where she was involved in the development of cyberinfrastructures aiming to help microbiologists to share their data and run large-scale analyses on connected supercomputing resources. In 2021, she joined the group as a postdoctoral fellow working on the HELMi project. Her current research focuses on the development of bioinformatic tools to analyze massive metagenomic datasets, leveraging her expertise in both microbialogy and bioinformatics.  

MSc in Microbiology, HUMI-coordinator, research assistant

I hold a Bachelor Degree in Biomedical and Bioengineering and a master degree in Microbiology and Microbiotechnology. I am interested in virology, medical microbiology in general and microbes that can be found in harsh enviroments.


The focus of my phD project has been unraveling the interplay between the human intestinal microbiota, diet and intestinal barrier function in the context of non-alcoholic fatty liver diseases and type 2 diabetes, by both association studies (next-generation sequencing of bacterial 16S rRNA) and in vitro mechanistic studies.


PhD student

My project is based on HELMi cohort study data collected in this group. My study will focus on characterising the development of intestinal microbiota of infants ages 0-2 and how that relates to infant health. The main focus will be on the following effectors and their combinatory effects: birth mode, breastfeeding, antibiotics, probiotics and FUT2 genotype.

PhD student

My project is part of the Sweet Crosstalk International Training Network and will explore the interactions between the vaginal microbiota and the cervicovaginal mucus in terms of health, HPV infection, and infertility. In the scope of this project we will utilize next generation sequencing and mass spectrometry techniques coupled with bioinformatics.

My research interests fall within cancer biology, immunology & the microbiome project with direct clinical applications. In terms of studies I have significant interests in neurosciences, organic chemistry, and quantum mechanics

PhD student

I graduated from Savitribai Phule Pune University in India, with a M.Sc. degree in Biotechnology. I was introduced to the field of microbiome in my master's project, where I studied the effect of mild traumatic brain injury on gut microbiota dynamics. As an ESR in the Sweet Crosstalk network, my PhD project will utilize the HELMI cohort data to understand how glycans in mother milk affect infant immunity and their gut microbiome structure. I am interested in learning more about the data analysis of the 16S rRNA gene seq and animal experiments using murine models. In my leisure days I like to write, travel, experience the local culture and listen to music.

MD, PhD student

MD, PhD student

My name is Kimmo Kontiainen and I am a qualified nurse. I have been working in pharmaceutical industry over 20 years as a key account manager in many therapeutical areas. In the past few years I have performed as a research coordinator in a genetic and vaccine research and the COVID-19 study. I have a wife and two lovely daughters, that already moved away. My hobbies during the summer are all kind of sport hobbies cycling, jogging etc. Also I enjoy time boating and countryside living.

M.Sc., Research Technician, HUMI-coordinator (starting October 2022)

Tuomas (M.Sc.; B.Eng.) has worked as a Product Developer in dietary supplement industry and as a Research Technician in the University of Helsinki. His research has focused mainly on human microbiology and clinical nutrition.

Bachelor student

Anni is a bachelor student in molecular bioscience from Viikki campus. She holds an MA from Education but has switched over to natural sciences after discovering that her true calling is located under a microscope. She is eager to learn as much as possible about working in laboratory during her summer training period in Salonen group. Anni is interested in human microbiome and its connections to health and well being.

  • Pia Rasinkangas, Francois Douillard: Post-docs
  • Afshan Saleem: PhD student
  • Emilia Lahtinen, Sonja Kanerva, Prabin Koirala: MSc students
  • Sophie Ouabbou: MD, MSc student
  • Laura Degerstedt, Laura Huuskonen: Laboratory technicians
  • Tinja Kanerva: Human Microbiome Research Program (HUMI) coordinator
  • Jaana Valkeapää, Heli Suomalainen, Eevi Heitto, Janica Bergström, Anna Mantere: Study nurses
  • Annikka Alhokankare: Research assistant