Plenary Speakers

Wednesday, 22.5.2024 

Karl Johan Öbrink memorial lecture 
Hannes Lohi (University of Helsinki, Finland): Hunting new genes and mechanisms of human disease with the help of man’s best friends - dogs and cats 

Hannes Lohi is Professor of Molecular Genetics at the Faculties of Medicine and Veterinary Medicine, University of Helsinki. He has also been a group leader at Folkhälsan Research Center since 2006. He has established an internationally recognised laboratory focusing on canine and feline models of human genetic disorders. He founded one of the largest canine and feline biobanks globally, with ~100,000 samples from hundreds of breeds. These resources have provided access to various disease models across traits, including disease, morphology, and behaviour in dogs and cats. Besides disease genetics, his efforts relate to canine and feline behaviour, personality, and the human-animal bond. 

Henna-Kaisa Wigren (University of Helsinki, Finland): Considering species-specific sleep-wake patterns in research: from cells to social structure 

Henna-Kaisa Wigren is a University Lecturer in neurobiology (Faculty of Biological and Environmental Sciences, University of Helsinki), and a co-PI of Sleep Team Helsinki at Sleepwell Research Program (Faculty of Medicine, University of Helsinki). Her main scientific interest lies in understanding the fundamental biological mechanisms of sleep ranging from molecules to behaviour. Her research focuses primarily on cellular mechanisms of sleep using rodents and zebrafish as model organisms, but lately also aiming at understanding sleep in domestic animals. She is involved in operating the Sleepwell Rodent Sleep Laboratory and in translational collaboration with the Sleepwell research groups. 

Thursday, 23.5.2024 

Merja Voutilainen (University of Helsinki, Finland): Protein-based therapies for neurodegenerative disorders: challenges and future considerations 

Merja Voutilainen is an assistant professor in regenerative pharmacology at the University of Helsinki, Faculty of Pharmacy, Division of Pharmacology and Pharmacotherapy. She defended her PhD thesis in 2010, did postdoctoral training in Mart Saarma’s group at the Institute of Biotechnology, University of Helsinki. In 2017, she established her own research group in regenerative neuroscience, which studies molecular mechanisms and therapeutic potential of novel drug candidates for neurodegenerative diseases with unmet needs, focusing on ALS, Parkinson's disease, and multiple sclerosis (MS).  

Axel K Hansen (University of Copenhagen, Denmark): The impact of the microbiome on animal models – An overview 

Axel Kornerup Hansen graduated in 1985 as DVM from the Royal Veterinary and Agricultural University in Copenhagen, Denmark. Starting in 1997 he has been a professor in laboratory animal science and welfare at the Royal Veterinary and Agricultural University, which in 2007 became a part of the University of Copenhagen. In 2000 he, together with six others, founded the European College of Laboratory Animal Medicine. His research area has primarily been on how infections and the microbiota have an impact on laboratory animal models for human diseases, and how this works in conjunction with diet. He has also published work on other issues in laboratory animal welfare. He is chairing the board of the Danish National Centre for the 3Rs and Denmark’s National Committee for Animal Experimentation and Alternatives. 

Friday, 24.5.2024 

Sarka Lehtonen (University of Eastern Finland, Finland): Human cell-based models to study neurodegeneration 

Sarka Lehtonen is a trained pharmacist and group leader with over 20 years of in vitro and in vivo pharmacology experience and over 10 years of experience in stem cell technology. She has led the Human Brain Disease Modelling Research group, which aims to develop more physiologically relevant human-based models for studying the cellular and molecular mechanisms of neurological diseases as well as predicting drug transport into the brain. She uses patient-derived brain cells in 2D and 3D culture systems, including cerebral and midbrain organoids, to more accurately mimic the pathological conditions of the diseased brain. Her research group is particularly interested in glial non-cell-autonomous processes and their role in neurodegeneration. 

Otto Kalliokoski (University of Copenhagen, Denmark): How common are fraudulent animal studies and how do they impact us? 

Otto Kalliokoski is a biomedical researcher – formerly an engineer, now a laboratory animal scientist – with a focus on improving pre-clinical methodology and novel methods for unbiased assessments of animal welfare. His current interests lie in exploring how meta-analytical investigations can be used to replace redundant animal experiments. His firm belief is that improving animal welfare in pre-clinical medicine benefits not only the animals, but also the research itself. 

Stuart Peirson (University of Oxford, UK): The importance of light: from vision to circadian rhythms & sleep 

Stuart Peirson is professor of Circadian Neuroscience (Nuffield Department of Clinical Neurosciences, University of Oxford) and Deputy Director of the Sleep and Circadian Neuroscience Institute. His research focuses on how light regulates physiology and behaviour, with a particular interest in the blue-light sensitive circadian photoreceptor melanopsin, circadian disruption in mental health disorders, and how our modern artificial light environment may disrupt these processes. He has pioneered the study of circadian disruption in mouse models, showing that in many disorders rhythms persist, but become weaker and more fragmented. He was also a key contributor to lighting measurement guidelines for circadian responses to light that have now been adopted by the International Lighting Committee (CIE) and are widely used in building design. In addition to serving on multiple animal ethics committees, he chairs the University of Oxford’s 3Rs sub-committee, and has developed a number of non-invasive methods for studying mouse physiology and behaviour.  

Image: Visit Tampere / Laura Vanzo

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