Search Menu

iCell – Immune Cell Therapy of Cancer

The iCell group at the Finnish Red Cross Blood Service is engaged in basic research and translational projects aimed at understanding immune cell characteristics and bringing them toward translation to the clinic as cell therapies. Projects explore both ‘native’ immune cells such as T and NK cells, as well as their genetic modifications.

Immune Cell Therapy of Cancer - the FRCBS research includes several different projects on the issue.

Read more about different iCell projects: 

A group photo of iCell researchers.

Professor Kim Vettenranta, MD, PhD

Kim Vettenranta, MD, PhD, Professor of Cell Therapy and Transfusion Medicine at the University of Helsinki since IX/17. The co-PI (w docents Matti Korhonen and Erja Kerkelä) of the iCell project. Background in pediatrics with 30 years of clinical experience in pediatric hematology-oncology and stem cell transplantation. More than 150 peer-reviewed original papers with an h-index of 36 and i10 of 89 (Google Scholar III/21). 

Post-doc at the Washington University in St. Louis, MO in 1991-93 and sabbaticals thereafter at the University of Bristol, UK, and Johann-Wolfgang-von-Göthe Universität in Frankfurt, FRD. Member of the EBMT, EHA, ASH and COG. Three MD/PhD theses supervised and 5 ongoing. ORCID:

Docent Matti Korhonen, MD, PhD

Docent Matti Korhonen’s background is in pediatrics, with 10 years’ clinical experience in pediatric hemato-oncology and stem cell transplantation. His research converges on the development and clinical translation of cell therapies. The Advanced Cell Therapy Center (at the Finnish Red Cross Blood Service) was set up under his leadership in 2009-12. He also led the development and clinical translation of its first cell therapy product, mesenchymal stem cells (Salmenniemi et al, Br Med J 2017). 

Currently Dr. Korhonen’s research team focuses on the genetic modification of immune cells for cancer therapy, where they have explored novel culture conditions for CAR T-cells, combining CAR T-cells with small molecule drugs, and developed proprietary chimeric antigen receptors.

Docent Erja Kerkelä, PhD

Erja received her MSc in biochemistry from the University of Oulu (1997) and PhD from the University of Helsinki, Faculty of Medicine (2002). In 2013, she became docent in cell biology (University of Helsinki). After PhD studies in Prof. Ulpu Saarialho-Kere’s group she worked as a postdoctoral fellow in the group of Prof. Juha Kere (Karolinska Institutet) studying genetics of pre-eclampsia and gene expression of human oocytes (2002– 2005). 

During 2005 – 2010 she was a senior researcher in the group of Prof. Katriina Aalto-Setälä (University of Tampere) studying cardiomyocytes derived from human pluripotent stem cells. In 2010, she started as a senior scientist in FRCBS R&D department and at the end of 2019 moved to Advanced Cell Therapy Centre of FRCBS to work as Development manager (and person responsible for QC). During her years in FRCBS she has carried out various projects related to stem cells, immune and blood cells and cell therapy. Currently she is the PI in NK cell project aiming at understanding the connection between genetic variation and function of NK cells. She is also responsible for setting up an experimental NK cell therapy for Finnish cancer patients together with the clinicians.

 Contact information

Mailing address

iCell, Research & Development
Finnish Red Cross Blood Service 
Kivihaantie 7, FI-00310 Helsinki, Finland

Research directors

Docent Matti Korhonen, MD, PhD
tel. +358 50 3969450

Professor Kim Vettenranta, MD, PhD

Docent Erja Kerkelä, PhD

Project Assistants

Marita Kaislaranta, MSc
Research Assistant in CAR-T project

Emmi Tiilikainen, MSc
Research Assistant in CAR-NK and NK cell research -projects