People

Group leader

Miia Lindström, DVM, PhD, is Professor of Dairy Processing Hygiene at the Department of Food Hygiene and Environmental Health in Faculty of Veterinary Medicine, University of Helsinki (UH). She studied veterinary medicine and completed a PhD thesis in Professor Hannu Korkeala’s lab on diagnostic and food safety aspects of Clostridium botulinum in UH. Her post-doctoral fellowships in Mike Peck’s lab in Institute of Food Research in Norwich, UK, and back at UH focused on genetics of C. botulinum toxin production and stress responses. Her current lab in UH focuses on the environmental, cellular, and genetic factors regulating C. botulinum neurotoxin production and sporulation, combining whole-genome sequencing, transcriptomics, metabolomics, mutational analysis, and single-cell biology. The UH laboratory has over 25 years of experience working with C. botulinum, and runs botulism diagnostics in Finland and collaborates with several leading food enterprises in Finland.

Dairy products are a common source of listeriosis, a serious food-borne illness caused by the bacterium Listeria monocytogenes. Dairy cattle farms serve as reservoirs for L. monocytogenes and cattle may contribute to the dissemination of strains associated with human listeriosis outbreaks. L. monocytogenes is a resilient pathogen that is difficult to eradicate from food production premises and it is able to grow in refrigerated foods. Understanding how L. monocytogenes survives and disseminates through the dairy production chain is a prerequisite for the development of new control strategies against milk and dairy product contamination. With the use of tools such as molecular typing and whole genome sequencing, the group aims to uncover the occurrence, ecology and contamination routes of L. monocytogenes in dairy production.

The group is funded by prestigious European and national grants. Prof. Lindström has authored or co-authored over 100 international peer-reviewed papers and book chapters in the field of food hygiene.

Miia Lindström's contact and research profile in the UH People Finder

University lecturer and researcher

Yağmur Derman is a university lecturer working on innovative tools for diagnosis, prevention, control and epidemiological investigation of human and animal botulism. His previous projects include regulation and pathogenesis of C. botulinum neurotoxin production and development of neutralizing antibodies against botulinum neurotoxins. He is a licentiate of veterinary medicine (DVM) from the Faculty of Veterinary Medicine, University of Ankara, Turkey.

Email: yagmur.derman@helsinki.fi

Postdoctoral researcher 

François Douillard is currently a postdoctoral researcher working on C. botulinum toxin production and sporulation. Prior to joining Prof. Miia Lindström group, he studied and worked with Prof. Willem de Vos (University of Helsinki, Finland), Prof. Douwe van Sinderen (University College Cork, Ireland) and Prof. Paul O’Toole (University College Cork, Ireland), where he investigated the different mechanisms and strategies developed by bacteriophages and gut bacteria to interact with their environment.

Email: francois.douillard@helsinki.fi

Postdoctoral researcher 

Olivia Lanzoni is currently a postdoctoral researcher investigating microbial ecology and genomics of C. botulinum. Previously, she was a Data Scientist Intern for a big pharmaceutical company, and she was working on genomics and epidemiology of bacteria from the genus Neisseria. Olivia worked after her PhD as a postdoc with Prof. Giulio Petroni (University of Pisa, Italy) and Prof. Alexey Potekhin (Saint Petersburg State University, Russia), and she investigated the molecular ecology of bacterial symbionts of unicellular eukaryotes (Ciliates) using several approaches (molecular characterization of the symbiotic complex, microscopy techniques, trans-infection experiments, and bioinformatics).

Email: olivia.lanzoni@helsinki.fi

Postdoctoral researcher

Katja Selby is a postdoctoral researcher working on Clostridium botulinum toxin production and sporulation with focus on cell metabolism. She defended her dissertation on molecular mechanisms of the heat stress response of C. botulinum and strain variation with regard to environmental temperature under the supervision of Prof. Hannu Korkeala and Prof. Miia Lindström. During her PhD research she performed genetic manipulation of C. botulinum and whole genome expression analysis using DNA miroarrays. She was additionally involved in the development of neutralizing antibodies against botulinum neurotoxins in a collaborative research project under the EU's 7th Research Framework Programme. Katja is a licentiate of veterinary medicine (DVM) from the University of Veterinary Medicine, Hannover, Germany.

Email: katja.selby@helsinki.fi

Postdoctoral researcher

Zhen Zhang is interested in how pathogenic bacteria sense different environmental niches and integrate these signals into regulation of pathogenicity-associated activities such as toxin production, toxin release and sporulation etc. He received his PhD (2015) from the University of Helsinki, where he worked in Miia Lindström’s group studying mechanisms of botulinum neurotoxin gene regulation. In 2016 he took up a postdoc in Sun Nyunt Wai’s group at Umeå University with a UCMR-MIMS fellowship working on how bacterial cyclomodulins reprogramme host cell fate. Since 2018 he continued with postdoc work in Miia Lindström’s group.

Email: zhen.zhang@helsinki.fi

Doctoral student

Hanna Castro's doctoral thesis focuses on the ecology and transmission of Listeria monocytogenes in the dairy production chain. Hanna joined the group in autumn 2013, shortly after graduated as a licentiate of veterinary medicine (DVM) from the University of Helsinki.

Email: hanna.castro@helsinki.fi

Doctoral student

Anna Mertaoja's doctoral thesis focuses on the single-cell level toxin production in Clostridium botulinum. Anna joined the group in autumn 2014 for a Master's thesis project and continued as a doctoral student in autumn 2015.

Email: anna.mertaoja@helsinki.fi

Doctoral student

Maria's doctoral thesis focuses on investigating the intersection of sporulation and toxin production in Clostridium botulinum with special interest in genetic manipulation tools applicable in Clostridia. Maria joined the group in October 2015 after obtaining her Master's degree in 2014 in protein biochemistry from Intercollegiate Faculty of Biotechnology of University of Gdansk and Medical University of Gdansk in Poland.

Email: maria.nowakowska@helsinki.fi

Doctoral student

Noora Pernu’s doctoral thesis focuses on the Clostridium botulinum risk in processed chilled foods with special interest in cellular heterogeneity in the heat resistance of spores. Noora joined the group in summer 2018. She is a licentiate of veterinary medicine (DVM) from the University of Helsinki.

Email: noora.pernu@helsinki.fi

Doctoral student

Inês Portinha's doctoral thesis focuses on the sporulation and toxin production of Clostridium botulinum with special interest in single-cell analysis. Inês joined the group in Spring 2016, after obtain her Master’s degree in Medical Microbiology from Universidade Nova de Lisboa (Portugal).

Email: ines.portinha@helsinki.fi

Elias Dahlsten, university lecturer (2009-2016)

David Kirk, doctoral student (2010-2015)

Gerald Mascher, doctoral student (2012-2017)

Cédric Woudstra, post-doctoral student (2017-2019)