Vilja Pietiäinen

Dr. Vilja Pietiäinen’s research is focused on cancer precision medicine. The patient -derived cancer cells are isolated from tissues after the surgery, grown ex-vivo, and characterized with different omics technologies, including genomics, phenomics, and drug profiling. Dr. Pietiäinen develops also microscopic imaging –based solutions with her collaborators for phenotyping and drug profiling of patient –derived cells. This approach enables the better understanding of the cellular heterogeneity in cancer, and drug sensitivity and resistance in particular patient.

Vilja Pietiäinen has a M.Sc. in clinical biochemistry (Faculty of Biosciences, University of Helsinki; UH, and University of Edinburgh, Scotland, U.K) and doctoral degree in virology (UH, Finland). In the Academy of Finland post-doctoral position (Research group of Prof. Elina Ikonen, UH), she investigated the intracellular cholesterol trafficking and combined her earlier experience in cell biology, real-time cell imaging and other microscopic methods with lipid research. In 2011-2013, her research project was focused on characterization of novel candidate genes affecting blood lipid levels (such as LDL, HDL, and triglycerides) in humans using high throughput siRNA/drug screening and high-content microscopy in FIMM. Currently, Dr. Pietiäinen is a senior researcher at Kallioniemi group, and she acts a project leader of a collaborative project with UPM on novel high-content 3D cell culture methods, and as a project manager of TEKES FiDiPro fellow project “Next generation image analysis solutions - towards image-based diagnostics”.  In 2017, she initiated of the new HiLIFE core unit, FIMM High Content Imaging and Analysis (FIMM-HCA) within the HELMI platform.

Selected publications

Piccinini F, Balassa T, Szkalisity A, Molnar C, Paavolainen L, Kujala K, Buzas K, Sarazova M, Pietiäinen V, Kutay U, Smith K, Horvath P. ACC: Discovery software for phenotypic image analysis. Cell Systems. in press.

Horvath P, Aulner N, Bickle M, Davies AM, Nery ED, Ebner D, Montoya MC, Östling P, Pietiäinen V, Price LS, Shorte SL, Turcatti G, von Schantz C, Carragher NO. Screening out irrelevant cell-based models of disease. Nat Rev Drug Discov. 2016 Nov;15(11):751-769.  doi: 10.1038/nrd.2016.175. 

Molnar C, Jermyn IH, Kato Z, Rahkama V, Östling P, Mikkonen P, Pietiäinen V, Horvath P. Accurate Morphology Preserving Segmentation of Overlapping Cells based on Active Contours. Sci Rep. 2016 Aug 26;6:32412. doi: 10.1038/srep32412.

Surakka et al. for the ENGAGE consortium. The impact of low-frequency and rare variants on lipid levels. Nature Genetics 2015 May 11. doi: 10.1038/ng.3300.

Pietiäinen V., Vassilev B., Blom T., Wang W., Nelson J., Bittman R., Bäck N., Zelcer N., Ikonen E. 2013. NDRG1 functions in LDLR trafficking by regulating endosomal recycling and degradation. Journal of Cell Science. 1;126(Pt 17):3961-71.

Pietiäinen V., Marjomäki V., Upla P., Pelkmans L., Helenius A., Hyypiä T. 2004. Echovirus 1 endocytosis into caveosomes requires lipid rafts, dynamin II, and signaling events. Molecular Biology of the Cell. 11:4911-25.

Internal links

External links

+358 50 415 6651

Job title

Senior Researcher

Areas of expertise

Cell biology
Microscopic imaging
High throughput screening
Drug testing
RNAi screening

Started at FIMM



M.Sc. (Clinical Biochemistry), Faculty of Biosciences, University of Helsinki
Ph.D. (Virology), Faculty of Medicine, University of Helsinki
Last updated: 21.11.2018 - 10:56