The Team

We are a skillful and persistent group of nine Finns. We started as a group of students who didn't really know each other, assuming that we were going to spend our summer studying synthetic biology with strange colleagues. In the end we got a bunch of new friends and (in addition to studying synthetic biology) we just might have spent one of the best summers of our lives.

Our group is interdisciplinary and it comes from the University of Helsinki and Aalto University; the two big universities located in the capital of Finland, Helsinki. We have expertise in many different fields ranging from genetics to product development and from computer science to food technology. Throughout the project, we basically needed all of the special skills of each member to make our visions come true. The diverse set of skills made it possible to have a broad view on any problem.

There were also moments when we noticed that no one in our team fits a specific task perfectly but we always took it as a possibility to learn something new and there was always someone up for a challenge! While everyone mostly got to do things they enjoyed the most and were good at already, all of us learned a lot during this project - about all kinds of things.

So, even while the team was divided to different subgroups who would focus on a certain part of the project, everyone got the chance to experience and learn something that they had never done before. Being a part of this team has been an amazing opportunity. It's difficult to imagine life without being in this team: how is it possible that we didn't even know each other a year ago?

While we all worked intensely on the project, we wouldn't be here without the amazing support that we received!

Here's the link to our Official Team Profile.

From left to right: Niklas Itänen, Laura Laakso, Lassi Vapaakallio, Otto Lamminpää, Oskari Vinko, Martina Ikonen, Mikko Laine, Minttu Salmela, Pietu Roisko.

Team Members

While it was possible for every member to take part in everything, there were some focus areas for every person in the team.

  • Leading the Team: Oskari made sure that everything that needed to be done would get done. While he didn't always have to do this alone, the importance of proper leadership isn't questionable! Oskari also founded the team and recruited the members.
  • Business: Pietu, Niklas, Otto and Oskari took part in Summer of Startups and brought the entrepreunial views to the team. Pietu is our main pitcher and Niklas and Otto focused on creating the business plan.
  • Research: The background research, designing our genetically engineered machine and the bioinformatics was mostly done by Oskari, Lassi and Laura.
  • Lab: Minttu and Martina spent the summer in the lab playing with bacteria and BioBricks.
  • Modeling: Niklas and Otto are our modeling agency. They took care of both the mathematical modeling and the business model. Oskari participated in their work by giving comments and suggestions.
  • Simulation: Otto and Niklas took care of the computing whereas Oskari created the user interface for the python script and web based simulation. Lassi ported the computational parts into JavaScript for the web simulation.
  • Software: Lassi was in charge of the software development, created the Seekers and taught everyone to use GitHub. Most of the team members programmed something, but Lassi was usually the first person who you'd go to when your code didn't work. Pietu programmed and built the LED rig and Laura worked with the web pages.
  • Wiki: Laura designed the looks and the structure of the wiki, Lassi implemented the core of the wiki, Pietu made the wiki upload tool and Oskari scripted a neat way to refer to figures in the research section. All of us contributed to the content.
  • Media: Mikko did a wide range of things to hype us in the media, created and constantly updated our social media sites and wrote a big story for Kemia magazine.
  • Visual Appearance: Laura took care of the visual appearance, often asking opinions from the other team members. This included e.g. our logo, web/wiki page layouts, poster, team banner and illustrations of lambda repressor. Minttu made the gene circuit and lamp pictures and took many photos of the lab.

As already mentioned, we didn't always follow this categorization. Lassi and Otto, "the competent boys" (Finnish version: "komppipojat") e.g. made competent cells in the lab a couple of times, Niklas made sure that that the layout of the modeling page on the wiki was perfect, Minttu and Laura held a presentation even though they were the most uncomfortable presenting anything in front of a crowd and Pietu designed the layouts for our business cards and the pitch deck for SoS Demo Day, and also photographed the team! Mikko tried out pitching on our trip to Tallinn!

Oskari Vinko

Aalto University
University of Helsinki

I’m a synthetic biology enthusiast with a mathematical background and crazy ideas. I’m definitely an optimist so often I need somebody to keep my feet on the ground. I’m very curious and one of the best entertainment is to find out how everything works. I also love to code but lately, I haven’t had too much time for that. In fall 2014 I started my Master’s studies in Biotechnology at ETH Zürich and I’m majoring in Synthetic Biology.

In 2013 I heard about iGEM and I knew immediately that I want to participate in it. I took an initiative to found the first-ever Finnish iGEM team and thus, I ended up being the team captain. This means I’m the jack-of-all-trades trying to peek my nose to everything but I’m not really getting things done. I’ve been writing tons of emails, funding applications and developed new ideas but pretty much all the credit of implementing them goes to the rest of our awesome team.

I used to play piano and frisbeegolf, do scouting and go cycling. Since I moved to Switzerland (this odd country with a weird set of languages not familiar to me) I’ve tried to enjoy cycling as much as possible because those other hobbies do not really work out here. After iGEM I’m going to look forward to try something new and get involved in new projects. And I already miss sauna and rye bread!


Minttu Salmela
Lab Rat

Aalto University

A fourth-year Chemical Engineering student majoring in Bio and Food Technology.

I am the second half of our lab team and I have been in charge of the wet lab with Martina. I have spent most of my days in the lab working with Biobricks and our dear bacteria. I am also the Travel Manager of our team so I have been responsible for all the things related to the Boston trip.

In the beginning of the summer I knew barely anything about gene technology, let alone synthetic biology, so it has been amazing to learn a whole bunch of new things and actually getting to do stuff in the lab on our own.

One highlight of my summer was when we got our first sequencing results and we finally had concrete proof that we had actually managed to ligate pieces of DNA together. Before that we just had to have faith in ourselves and hope things were going the right way. Now I know why some people say that science is like a religion!

Music, puppies, travelling, a good cup of tea and sleeping in on a Sunday morning are my favourite things in the world.

Laura Laakso

University of Helsinki

I’m a fourth-year student majoring in Molecular Biosciences and minoring in Computer Science. I’m also interested in art and design. In our iGEM team my main responsibility has been designing things; both the genetic switch and our own visual appearance.

I’d have the required skills to work in the laboratory, too, but I ended up spending most of the summer either researching, drawing or coding. I learned a lot about designing genetic mechanisms and also an enormous amount of CSS tricks. It was amazing to see that it was actually possible to do all the things that interest me for the same project, even though they seem so far apart at first.

Sometimes I entirely lose the sense of time and place while focusing on something interesting. I might fixate on a drawing, a game, a problem, or even studying, and completely forget everything else for a while. This is often useful, but sometimes also troublesome.


Lassi Vapaakallio
Cool Title

University of Helsinki

A third-year Computer Science student with 2 years of Biotech background.

My main responsibility was programming various software tools to help research and lab work, as well as developing our website and wiki. I also racked up a surprising amount of lab hours considering the last time I worked in the lab was 3 years ago.

I also did a bunch of bioinformatics. I found myself playing around with Geneious a lot, making primers, analysing sequencing results and building things virtually before we assembled them in the lab.

The coolest thing during the summer was making the BioBrick Seeker and seeing what can be achieved by a group of students in a field that we barely knew anything about.

Random fun fact: I’m the 36th best pinball player in Finland.

I’m kind of a huge game enthusiast. I love spending time with people playing games, whether it’s card games, board games, pinball, table-top RPGs or any kinds of computer games.

I also play all sorts of drums.

Pietu Roisko

Aalto University

I am a third-year student in the School of Electrical Engineering. I’m majoring in Bionics, i.e. combining engineering with existing biological systems. Measuring electrical signals in the human body is one of my key interests.

My contribution to the team was more on the entrepreneurial side as biochemistry is not my field of study. I really enjoyed taking our work to the public via the Summer of Startups program. I worked much on the presentations we held, and did quite a lot of pitching too.

Later in the summer I researched and built the LED rig we used to perform our measurements. I really enjoy building things. I enjoy coding too, but ended up programming very little, because we have so many great coders in our team.

I did learn a whole lot of gene technology and lab-work on the side too. This was a really awesome project to be part of and I can assure that interdisciplinarity really took us far.

Keep it simple. I enjoy photography, building things, programming and entrepreneurship.


Martina Ikonen
BioBrick Master

Aalto University

I’m a Bachelor of Science (technology) in Chemical Engineering. This is my fourth year and I’m starting Master’s studies majoring in Bio and Food Technology at Aalto University.

I have spent the summer mostly in the lab and made loads of gel runs, ligations and transformations, that is, the cloning. My special skill is knowing the Biobricks well as I had already had an introduction to them when making my Bachelor’s thesis last spring. So I knew the principles of the assembly techniques although I had never done any gene technology lab work before.

During the work with my thesis I regretted I would never know if Biobricks are useful in reality. The stroke of luck came in the form of an announcement to build the first-ever Finnish iGEM team. In theory, Biobricks sounded like a cool way of making genetic engineering easier but now I really got an opportunity to do some hands-on work with Biobricks!

In my official hobbies I would include synchronized skating and scouting which both I have been into since I was a kid. In addition, I like knitting, spending time outside in the nature and geocaching. I'm certainly going to find some geocaches in Boston, too!

Otto Lamminpää
Mathematical Modeling Agent

University of Helsinki

A third-year Mathematics and Theoretical Physics student in University of Helsinki with an additional year of experience in Chemistry from University of Turku. With my colleague Mr. Itänen, I shared the responsibility of designing and creating both mathematical and business models for our project. I also did programming for our simulation, worked in the lab making electrocompetent cells and participated in the Summer of Startups.

Although you can often find me lost in thought, I’m generally quite outgoing and spend most of my time discussing recent topics with my colleagues and sampling fine brews, such as coffees and ales.


Niklas Itänen
Mathematical Supermodel

University of Helsinki

A third-year Mathematics and Theoretical Physics student in University of Helsinki.

My main responsibilities were to create a mathematical model with my colleague Otto Lamminpää, as well as to participate in the Summer of Startups incubator programme. I was also responsible for designing and writing our Business Plan with Mr. Lamminpää. Before the summer I had no previous experience in molecular biology and I have really learned a lot, cheers!

During the summer, me and Mr. Lamminpää ended up using most of our spare time walking around the city discussing mathematics and mysteries of life itself.

Mikko Laine
Media Guru

Aalto University

I'm a fifth-year Bachelor of Science (Technology) in Chemical Engineering. I major in Bioprocess Technology and minor in Economy.

In this project I’ve been in charge of the communications. My main task has been stirring a bustle in the media; both traditional and social. My job has included updating Facebook, Twitter, Flickr and Youtube accounts and writing a blog on our website. I’ve also been contacting Finnish press and written a few stories in relevant magazines.

My interests cover a wide area of different fields; from biochemistry and gene technology to communications and influencing. I have also given the team members tips in performance, since I have quite a lot performing experience. Likewise the other members, I have also been a little bit all over the place, sometimes working in laboratory and sometimes attending the Summer of Startups program. I also wrote, directed and produced our teaser video to Demo Day.

The summer has been a fantastic experience! Learning about gene circuits and BioBricks has been very interesting, but also taking a sneak peek in communication on the field has been educational.

I have a wide range of hobbies; theatre, singing, dancing and writing are just a few to mention. I’m also involved in student associations. I rarely just stand still!

Random fun fact: I host a kids’ tv channel in Finland


Advisors and Mentors

Markus Linder, Professor, Aalto University

Markus has helped us and believed in us from the start. During this project we have worked under his research group and got financial aid in lab costs.

Bartosz Gabryelczyk, M.Sc., VTT/Aalto University

Bartosz is the one who has helped us the most. He introduced us to every single step in the lab, eg. how to calculate the amount of DNA in different reactions, and how to prepare a gel for electrophoresis. He has also helped us with ordering kits, enzymes, oligos, synthesized parts etc.


Help with the Business View

Summer of Startups

In the Summer of Startups incubator programme, we met many people giving us advice in form of talks and one-on-one discussion sessions. We also received a 5000€ grant from Aalto Entrepreneurship Society (AaltoES) which is the organizer of the SoS programme. This year, Panu Paljakka and Ville Riola were taking care of the practicalities during the summer.

We want to thank Aape Pohjanvirta, Ville Miettinen, Moaffak Ahmed, Miia Bovellan, Erkki Tenhunen, Mike Bradshaw and Micki Honkavaara for all the coaching, business insights, feedback, pitching advice, inspiration and encouragement.

Biotech Start-Up Management (BSUM)

We met Jari Rautio and and Juhani Lahdenperä from Biotech Start-Up Management (BSUM), thanks to Miia Bovellan. They have been very supporting but also pushing us forward to get connected with university intellectual property right experts and potential pilot customers. We have received very high quality feedback on our business plan which has helped us to learn and make it better through multiple iterations. BSUM has been of great help in realizing our priorities and opportunities. They have become our mentors with commercial aspect. In return, we have promised to redesign their company website.

People in the Lab

Sanni Voutilainen, Ph.D., Aalto University

During the last month before the Giant Jamboree, Sanni helped us with some clonings that we couldn’t get to work and as we were already busy with school courses. She also helped us with any urgent issues we had, such as figuring out how to send out our BioBricks.

Georg Schmidt, Ph.D., Aalto University

Georg with his expertise in electroporations, ligations and PCRs, has given us many tips on what sort of things need to be taken into consideration in the lab and how to improve the success rate in our cloning etc. We had many debugging sessions with him when our protocols didn’t work.


Tanja Maria

Tanja Maria kindly let us use her photos. The photos ended up being a fairly large part of our wiki's appearance and they look so good here! You can find more art by Tanja Maria from her DeviantArt page.

Stewart Dowden

Stewart took some pictures of our lab and office in action and we got to use the photos, too! You can browse through his photos on his website.


We want to thank our sponsors for all the support they've given us. In the beginning there was no guarantee that we'd get any support at all. Even if we expected that we might get some support, the amount of people offering their help far exceeded our expectations.

From the following list you can find all our partners, what/who they are and what they did for/with us. A big thank you to all!

Aalto University

"Aalto University is a new multidisciplinary university, where science and art meet technology and business." (

Aalto University helped us in multiple ways. They offered us great mentors and a work environment where you could ask anything from the experienced lab people around you. They gave us space in the lab to work in, they supported us us financially, they ordered us reagents when we needed them. Synthesizing our gene switch wasn't a problem either. It feels like we couldn't have done this, or at least this would have been a severely harder project, without Aalto.


"Aaltoes stands for Aalto Entrepreneurship Society, Europe’s largest and most active student run entrepreneurship community." (

Aaltoes helped Aalto-Helsinki by offering us the possibility to participate in Summer of Startups, "a 9-week full-time program which is targeted for ambitious people to help them get started with their own businesses". The program made us view our project from the business point of view and gave us the opportunity to learn how to talk about science with business people.

Biocentrum Helsinki

"Biocentrum Helsinki is a large umbrella organization founded in 1994, and hosted by the University of Helsinki and Aalto University, with some 600 people engaged in research in molecular biology, experimental biomedicine, biotechnology and bioinformatics." (

Biocentrum Helsinki supported us financially.

The Academy of Finland's Centre of Excellence 2014-2019 HYBER

"HYBER is the Academy of Finland's Centre of Excellence in Molecular Engineering of Biosynthetic Hybrid Materials research (2014-2019). HYBER combines four groups working on molecular self-assembly, genetic engineering of proteins, biotechnical production of engineered biomolecules, and plant cell wall materials." (

They offered us a chance to participate in HYBER workshop on October 24th, arranged in Långvik, Kirkkonummi. We will hold a 1-hour presentation about iGEM and our project. They supported us financially, too.

University of Helsinki

"The University of Helsinki is one of the best multidisciplinary research universities in the world. The high-quality research carried out by the university creates new knowledge for educating diverse specialists in various fields, and for utilisation in social decision-making and the business sector." (

The University of Helsinki offered us a lab space to work in (even though we ended up spending our summer in the labs offered by Aalto University) and also supported us financially.

VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland

"VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland is the biggest multitechnological applied research organisation in Northern Europe. VTT provides high-end technology solutions and innovation services." (

Bartosz, our mentor and an irreplaceable helper in the lab, works at VTT. They also let us use their equipment when we needed something: we made quite a few measurements in their labs!

Heureka, The Finnish Science Centre

"Heureka introduces the public to science and technology in an engaging and interactive way. Visitors can experience the joy of discovery through spectacular exhibitions, planetarium films and events. Located in the Tikkurila area of Vantaa, Heureka first opened its doors to the public in 1989. Heureka is one of Finland's most popular recreational centres, attracting an average of nearly 300,000 visitors each year." (

Heureka is planning a synthetic biology event with us. The event will be held during the spring 2015. We'll turn bacteria into superheroes!


"ERASynBio is an ERA-NET from the seventh framework program for the development and coordination of Synthetic Biology in the European Research Area. This ERA-NET started on January 1, 2012, with a duration of 3 years." (

ERASynBio helped us with the Jamboree registration fees.


"First released in 2005, Geneious is one of the world’s leading bioinformatics software platforms, used by over 2,500 universities and institutes and commercial companies in more than 65 countries." (

Geneious let us use their program for free during our project. It was amazing to notice how a program can really speed up the research!

Biotech Start-Up Management

"Biotech Start-Up Management (BSUM) is a one-stop service provider for life science ventures. BSUM expert services help you with all the steps from innovation management to goal oriented international business development." (

BSUM helped us by providing their thoughts about our business plan and ideas.

Business Print

"Business Print Oy is a company founded in 1994, offering a broad range of graphic design services to both private customers and companies. Graphic design, photography, and different kinds of printing products. Customer service is our strength." (

Business Print Oy printed us the poster, the roll-up and the business cards free of charge.


Vitrea is an import and marketing company of special glass that was founded in 1952. (

Vitrea supported us financially.


"Flowdock is a team collaboration app for desktop, mobile and web. It allows you to work on things that matter, be transparent and solve problems across tools, teams and time zones." (

Flowdock let us use their application for free. It's really amazing how such a simple tool can make your life so much easier. You can chat, share documents and images, and access it all on the phone and computer. Even when the team worked separately, even in different countries, Flowdock made it possible to keep the team together and working effectively!