Senior Researcher Ritva Heljasvaara received her PhD in 1996 in molecular biology at the University of Oulu, Finland. In 1998 she joined one of the world’s leading extracellular matrix (ECM) and collagen research groups led by Professor Taina Pihlajaniemi at the University of Oulu, and is currently the co-director of the group.
Together with five other teams at the University of Oulu, their research group forms the Finnish Centre of Excellence in Cell-Extracellular Matrix Research of Academy of Finland for 2012-2017.
Dr. Heljasvaara obtained her postdoctoral training in molecular biology and cell biology at the National Institute of Biotechnology, CSIC, Madrid, Spain (1997-1998), and in tumor biology at the University of Oviedo, Spain (2006-2007). She is recognized for her expertise in extracellular matrix and tumor biology and for her work on experimental mouse tumor models. Since 2003 she has supervised/co-supervised five completed PhD theses, and is currently supervising four PhD/MD-PhD students. She has published almost 50 original peer-reviewed scientific articles with important contributions in clarifying the roles of ECM components and angiogenesis regulators in tumorigenesis.
Her current research focuses on understanding the functions of the ECM components in skin and breast cancer microenvironments.