CAR NK cell development

Natural killer (NK) cells are potent effector lymphocytes with cytotoxic effect against several malignancies.

We consider that their potency and usefulness could be further improved if they were targeted to tumors using CARs and if they could be produced in large numbers. Our projects aim at improving the efficacy of genetic modification of NK cells, creating novel NK-specific CARs, and enhancing CAR NK cell expansion.


Matti Korhonen.

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.

Helka Göös.

Helka Göös, PhD

Helka received her MSc and BSc degrees from the University of Eastern Finland in 2011. During her master´s thesis she was studying the nuclear receptor signaling, especially signaling of the vitamin D receptor. After that she moved to Helsinki to do her PhD under the supervision of docent Markku Varjosalo in the Systems Biology research group and Proteomics Unit of Institute of Biotechnology, University of Helsinki.

The aim of her PhD thesis was to study the protein-protein interactions of human transcription factors. Her thesis also included characterization of the molecular mechanisms behind primary immunodeficiencies caused by transcription factor mutations.

Helka’s current project as post-doctoral researcher in iCell is the development of CAR NK-cells. The future aim is to develop CAR NK-cells targeting solid tumors.

Mira Saari.

Mira Saari, MSc

Mira is a PhD candidate working on CAR NK-cell project in the Blood Service’s iCELL group. She received her Master’s degree in Cell and Molecular Biology from the University of Jyväskylä, where she studied bacteriophage therapy and monoamine oxidase inhibition. After graduation, she has done research on CAR T-cell therapies against solid tumors in Seppo Ylä-Herttuala’s Molecular Medicine group at the University of Eastern Finland.

Currently Mira is doing her PhD in the University of Eastern Finland, while working at the Blood Service in CAR NK-cell therapies. At the Blood Service, her research focuses on developing novel feeder cells for robust clinical scale NK-cell expansion.

Farhana Jahan, PhD

Dr. Farhana is an accomplished researcher, having earned her Ph.D. in Biochemistry and Immunology from the University of Helsinki in 2019. Her thesis, titled “Phosphorylation of the α-chain in the integrin LFA-1 enables β2-chain phosphorylation and α-actinin binding required for cell adhesion,” underscores her significant contributions to the field of biochemistry and immunology.

Farhana is deeply committed to advancing scientific understanding and medical treatments. Her expertise is particularly pronounced in CAR T-cell therapy, where she focuses on refining Chimeric Antigen Receptor (CAR) technology. Her research is dedicated to developing targeted solutions for both hematological and solid tumor malignancies, with a meticulous exploration of CAR T-cell intracellular signaling to enhance precision and efficacy.

In addition to her work with CAR T-cells, Dr. Farhana is currently engaged in pioneering efforts involving Natural Killer (NK) cells. She is leveraging advanced bi and tri-cistonic CAR technology to enhance the efficacy of NK cells, with a specific focus on addressing neuroblastoma and other solid tumors.

Emmi Järvelä, MSc

Emmi is a PhD candidate working on CAR-NK cells in the Blood Service’s iCELL group. She completed her master’s degree in molecular medicine in University of Eastern Finland. In her master’s thesis she studied cytotoxicity pathways of NK and CAR-NK cells in Kuopio Center for Gene and Cell Therapy (KCT).

Emmi is ambitious in developing cell therapies from research ideas to clinical application. Currently she is doing her PhD in the University of Eastern Finland, working at the Blood Service in CAR NK-cell therapies. Her research focuses on developing novel controllable CAR-NK cells for neuroblastoma.