RNAcious team


We the RNAciers, the driving force who constantly look for unprecedented tRNA modifications focusing on the early infection stages in the host-pathogen interactions.

The RNAcious Laboratory

Molecular and Integrative Biosciences Research Programme                                                                      
Faculty of Biological and Environmental Sciences
Biocenter 1 (Viikinkaari 9 B) , Room 6232
P.O. Box 56
00014 University of Helsinki

03.04.2018 -

Email:  ulrike.abendroth(at)

Ulrike joined the RNAcious lab in 2018 and studies the effects of post-transcription RNA modifications on translation using a yeast-derived cell-free system.  She also studies the role of tRNA modification during plant-pathogen interaction using the Arabidopsis thaliana-Pseudomonas pathosystem.  

Ulrike’s background is microbiology. She elucidated the role of small non-coding bacterial RNAs during plant-pathogen interaction and re-annotated the Xanthomonas euvesicatoria genome using a proteogenomic approach. Ulrike defended her PhD thesis: “Analysis of the sX13-dependent post-transcriptional regulation and identification of previously unknown protein-coding genes in Xanthomonas campestris pv. vesicatoria using proteogenomic” in 2016 (Martin Luther University Halle-Wittenberg, Germany). 

In free time, she likes to spend quality time with her family, doing handcraft and watercolor painting as well as analog photography.   

01.08.2017 -

Phone:  +358 408385634

Email:    pavlina.gregorova(at)


Pavlina is involved in the project focusing on tRNA modifications and their effect(s) manifested during early stage of disease using cancer cell lines model.

Pavlina finished her both degrees (BSc., MSc.) in Biochemistry at Masaryk University (Czech Republic).


15.5.2019 -

Email:    minna-maria.heinonen(at)

Minna is a M.Sc. student at the Master's Programme for Microbiology and Molecular Biotechnology at the University of Helsinki, Helsinki, Finland

01.11.2016 - 31.01.2017
01.09.2018 -

Phone:   +358 2941 59427
Email:     hannu.hotti(at)

Hannu explores the evolutionary dynamics of tRNA modification changes on protein synthesis in cell-based biosynthesis systems. His project’s target is to enhance production of heterologous proteins by finetuning the tRNAs available for protein synthesis.

Hannu finished his M.Sc. degree in 2008 in the field of plant breeding, specializing in biotechnology. He subsequently defended his D.Sc. thesis at the University of Helsinki in 2016 on the topic “Killer of Socrates exposed – Coniine in the plant kingdom”. Hannu is passionate about molecular farming -- an area in which he concentrated on plant secondary metabolism and its biosynthesis prior to his postdoctoral work. Now he focuses on enhancing the production of heterologous proteins by modifying the chemical compositions of transfer RNAs.

In his free time, Hannu likes to play golf (during summer), read, listen to classical music, travel to new cities and study Latin and Roman history.

Hannu's work is supported by Academy of Finland Postdoctoral Researcher funding for the period 01.09.2018 - 31.08.2021.

01.01.2020 -

Salla is involved in several projects to offer extra hands in the lab experiments.

Salla has finished her B.Sc. at Helsinki Metropolia University of Applied Sciences and her M.Sc. at the University of Iceland. She has worked in different laboratories at the University of Helsinki since 2013.

In her free time Salla likes to do handcrafts and practice yoga.

Phone:   +358 2941 59815
Email:    salla.kalaniemi(at)

01.01.2020 -

Mirka focuses on studying the effects that tRNA modifications have on the translation efficacy in yeast-derived cell-free system. She also works with bacteriophage infection models to explore the expression of viral tRNA genes.

Mirka has her background in microbiology and more specifically in molecular virology. She obtained her M.Sc degree in 2015 from the Molecular Virology Research Program, University of Helsinki. Within her PhD research, she developed a novel virus purification method applicable for viruses with varying biochemical and –physical properties. She defended her thesis “Asymmetrical flow field-flow fractionation in virus purification” in 2019 (University of Helsinki). As a postdoc In RNAcious laboratory, Mirka is excited to explore and optimize the protein production in cell-free system. She also looks forward to study, how viruses hijack the translation control from the host cell.

The life outside the laboratory consists of casual everyday things with family and friends, lots of sports, reading and travelling.

Email:    mirka.lampi(at)


Email:    jenni.pedor(at)

Jenni’s work aims are to enhance the efficiency of heterologous protein production in cell-free translation system by optimizing tRNA modificome.

She has obtained her M.Sc. degree in Gene Technology from the University of Tartu (Estonia) and after three months of training at Thermo Fisher Scientific Baltics (Vilnius, Lithuania) joined the RNAcious lab. Jenni is excited to investigate the translational machinery and to use new high-throughput RNA technologies to push the limits of heterologous protein production.

In her free time, Jenni likes to read, travel and hike. She also enjoys cooking and dancing.

01.06.2019 -

Phone: +358 401966438
Email:    muhammad.qasim(at)


Suleman works on dissecting the translational effects of post-transcriptional RNA modifications in vitro using a simplified cell-free translation system.

Suleman finished his M.Sc degree from University of Helsinki in Molecular Biotechnology. He later joined RNAcious lab in the summers of 2019 and started working on stress induced modifications in the tRNA of shewanella bacteria. He is passionate about RNA biology, and epigenetic modifications on RNA molecule. 

In his spare time, he likes to play football, badminton and enjoys spending his holidays in a cottage near by a lake. 


01.09.2016 -

Group Leader
Academy of Finland Research Fellow
Novo Nordisk Foundation Emerging Investigator

Phone: +358-2941-59533
Email:   peter.sarin(at)

University of Helsinki Researcher Database TUHAT

I started my scientific career in 2003 as a research assistant at the Animal Virus Laboratory of Dr. Tero Ahola (University of Helsinki), studying the differences in viral RNA synthesis in temperature-sensitive mutants of Semliki Forest Virus. Being infected with a passion for viruses, I carried out my M.Sc. studies in 2005 on the biochemical characterisation of the SARS coronavirus RNA-dependent RNA polymerase at the Academy of Finland Centre of Excellence for Structural Virology 2000-2005 (University of Helsinki) under the supervision of Prof. Dennis Bamford. For my Ph.D. studies I continued at the Academy of Finland Centre of Excellence for Virus Research 2006-2011 (University of Helsinki). With the inspiring mentorship of Dr. Minna Poranen and Prof. Dennis Bamford, I explored the molecular mechanism of bacteriophage phi6 RNA polymerase and its utilization in biotechnological applications, obtaining my Ph.D. degree in January 2011.

As a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Helsinki, I expanded my biochemical research into other viral polymerases, studied the membrane assembly phase of bacteriophage phi6, and developed RNA production and purification methods. Upon receiving the Sigrid Jusélius Fellowship (2012-2014), I entered the Max Planck Institute for Molecular Biomedicine (Münster, Germany) to study the evolutionary role of tRNA modifications in response to cellular stress factors. Under the expert mentoring of Dr. Sebastian Leidel (Max Planck Research Group for RNA Biology), I co-developed a nano-LC mass spectrometry technique that is suitable for ribonucleoside analysis and allows accurate determination of changes in tRNA modification levels. Using this approach I revealed a temperature-dependent thiolation deficit in yeast. This unexpected result has generated attention at international conferences and was featured on the cover of the journal RNA (February 2015). I have also studied several closely related yeast strains following temperature stress and observed a marked difference in their tRNA modification levels (unpublished work), which suggests that environmental adaptation strongly influences stress responses.

I have been a Principal Investigator and Group Leader at the Faculty of Biological and Environmental Sciences, University of Helsinki, since September 2016. My current research is supported by the Academy of Finland (Academy of Finland Research Fellow 2016-2021), Sigrid Jusélius Foundation (Young Investigator grant 2017-2020), Novo Nordisk Foundation (Emerging Investigator in Biotechnology-based synthesis & production 2019-2024) and Faculty of Biological and Environmental Sciences, University of Helsinki. I was appointed Docent in Molecular Biology by the University of Helsinki in 2014.

Milla Halme
Master's degree student in Genetics and Molecular Biosciences, Faculty of Biological and Environmental Sciences, University of Helsinki, Helsinki, Finland

Biplu Prajapati
Research Assistant, Faculty of Biological and Environmental Sciences, University of Helsinki, Helsinki, Finland

Niklas Ahlblad
Master's degree student in Genetics and Molecular Biosciences, Faculty of Biological and Environmental Sciences, University of Helsinki, Helsinki, Finland

Ronja Haikarainen
BSc student at the Maastricht Science Programme, Maastricht University, The Netherlands

Silvija Milosavljevic
Master's degree student in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, Faculty of Biological and Environmental Sciences, University of Helsinki, Helsinki, Finland

Biplu Prajapati
Master's degree student in Genetics and Molecular Biosciences, Faculty of Biological and Environmental Sciences, University of Helsinki, Helsinki, Finland

Jasmin Javanmardi
Erasmus+ exchange student, Ludwig-Maximilians-University, Munich, Germany

Aurora Díaz Pérez
Erasmus+ exchange student, Polytechnic University of Valencia, Valencia, Spain

Stavrula Gouzounis, M.Sc., Research Assistant
Wulla participated in a joint project with the Saarikangas lab that aims to understand how translational fidelity changes as cells age, and how this impacts to the emergence of aging phenotypes in yeast.

Milla Halme
Master's degree student in Molecular Biosciences at Faculty of Biological and Environmental Sciences, University of Helsinki, Helsinki, Finland

Cha San Koh, Ph.D., Postdoctoral Researcher
Cha San's project focused on tRNA modifications and their effect(s) manifested during early viral infection cycles using various host-pathogen models.

Ricarda Riegger, B.Sc.
Erasmus+ intern, Molecular Biosciences, Goethe University, Frankfurt am Main, Germany

Mouna Chaqroun
Research technician intern from Stadin ammatti- ja aikuisopisto, Helsinki, Finland

Bela Barakhoyeva
Research technician intern, Stadin ammatti- ja aikuisopisto, Helsinki, Finland

Berta Garrido Zabala
Erasmus Exchange student, Undergraduate at Universidad Complutense de Madrid, Madrid, Spain

Basma Ragab
Undergraduate student, Master's Degree Programme in Biotechnology, University of Helsinki, Helsinki, Finland

4.6.2018 -30.8.2018
José Luis Delgado Romo
Undergraduate student, Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México (UNAM), Mexico City, Mexico

15.5.2016 - 15.8.2017
Rajita Rayamajhi Thapa
M.Sc., Summer internship student, University of Helsinki, Helsinki, Finland

1.11.2016 - 30.3.2017
Duolong Zhu
Ph.D. Candidate, Visiting Scientist, Nankai University, Tianjin, China



Interested in working on a joint Interested in working on groundbreaking research projects in an inspiring environment? We encourage talented students seeking exciting thesis projects or internships, as well as externally funded postdoctoral fellows looking to join our team to contact us. For further information, please send an email to Peter Sarin together with a full CV and contact details of at least two references.