Research of the Institute of Clinical Medicine

The academic staff of the Institute of Clinical Medicine is leading around 30 different scientific projects. The research is in tight connection with the research of other institutes of the Faculty of Medicine, especially the Institute of Biomedicine and Translational Medicine.

Here you may find the lead research areas of the Institute of Clinical Medicine.

Project's name: Elaboration of prognostic measures and potential therapies based on severe cases of COVID-19 patients

The current project describes COVID-19 hospitalisations in Estonia during 2020, their treatment outcomes and investigates risk factors for severe disease. We will evaluate the treatment standard variety in different hospitals in Estonia. Genetic studies will hopefully provide the risk groups for COVID-19 disease acquisition. We plan to analyze the immune response dynamics of COVID-19 patients during and after hospitalization together with long term evaluation in Estonian cohort of patients. Effectiveness of convalescent plasma therapy in the treatment of COVID-19 patients will be evaluated. There are several different specialities included in the project: clinical medicine, epidemiology and biostatistics, immunology, virology and genetic experts of the University of Tartu. We will cooperate with all the COVID-19 treating hospitals in Estonia. This collaboration will hopefully provide the most important aspects to consider during infectious diseases outbreaks in the future. Read more.

Period: 2021-2022
Contact: Professor Joel Starkopf

Project's name: National Centre of Translational and Clinical Research (CTM)

The National Centre of Translational and Clinical Research (CTM) is a national research infrastructure formed by the University of Tartu, Estonian University of Life Sciences and Tartu University Hospital. The mission of the CTM is to ensure a high-level preclinical, veterinary and clinical health research in Estonia. The CTM is a professional partner for various interest groups (companies, state agencies, medical institutions, other organizations) in conducting scientific and implementation studies and offering solutions to the development needs of Estonian society. The infrastructure ensures the availability of research results to the public and advises stakeholders on science-based innovation in health research. Read more from ERIS and CTM web-page.

Period: 2021-2024
Contact: Professor Külli Kingo


Project's name: Novel treatment options of glioblastoma that influence DNA-repair: from in vitro tests to academic clinical study

This project has two main goals: (1) to find most efficacious treatment combination of drugs and/or radiotherapy to treat glioblastoma in preclinical setting, (2) to create, according to the results of preclinical studies, clinical phase I-II study protocol and to start with academic clinical trial in glioblastoma. The project is funded from baseline funding of the Institute of Clinical Medicine, University of Tartu.

Period: 2019-2022
Contact: Professor Jana Jaal

Project's name: The diagnostics and prevalence of rare congenital myopathies and neurometabolic disorders.

Period: 2019-2023
Contact: Professor Katrin Õunap

Project's name: Oligogenic inheritance in genetic diseases

Period: 2022-2026
Contact: Associate Professor Sander Pajusalu

Project's name: Rare disease genomics: developing methods to complement exome sequencing

Period: 2020-2022
Contact: Associate Professor Sander Pajusalu


Project's name: Improved diagnostic output in large sarcomeric genes

Period: 2020-2023
Contact: Professor Katrin Õunap


Project's name: Establishing innovative approaches for optimal infection prevention of resistant bacteria in NICUs by integrating research, implementation science and surveillance in a sustainable global platform


Period: 2021-2026
Contact: Professor Tuuli Metsvaht

Project's name: Exposomic determinants of increasingly common childhood chronic illnesses

Period: 2021
Contact: Professor Vallo Tillmann

Project's name: Drug resistant epilepsy in childhood: prevalence, stricture and etiology in Estonia

Period: 2019-2022
Contact: Research Fellow Klari Heidmets    

Project's name: Expanding the profile of continuous glucose monitoring usage in clinical practise

Period: 2019-2022
Contact: Lecturer Aleksandr Peet     

Project's name: Little-NIRVANA- a New and ImmeRsive VR experience for kids AgaINst pAin
Each year many millions of children are exposed to painful medical events such as vaccinations, blood sampling, minor surgery or invasive examinations. Children often perceive these events as very fearful, which leads to treatment failure, slower healing and anticipatory anxiety, even throughout adult life. The majority of these kids might benefit from a (VR) distraction intervention to increase comfort; hiwever, current tools insufficiently meet clinical and psychological needs. Little-NIRVANA aims to develop (and validate) a novel, pediatric pain management solution directed towards empowerment and trust. It consists of an educational app for home-use, a multisensory VR distraction experience and a dashboard for care-givers that allows modulation of the distraction based on the patient´s status. The holistic approach zooms in on all the needs from home2bed, creating a continuous care pathway that will leads to improved wellbeing and eventually a cost-reduction in health care.

Period: 2020-2022
Contact: Associate Professor Anneli Kolk 

Project's name: Power of Integrated Modern Technology in Pediatric Neurorehabilitation: Multitouch-Multiuser TableTop and Virtual Reality Platforms for Remediation of Social and Cognitive Deficit in Children (PowerVR)

Period: 2020-2023
Contact: Associate Professor Anneli Kolk 

Project's name: Development of social skills and Estonian communication speech for children with nervous system impairment using robot-based intervention
The aim of the project, together with experts in robotics and informatics, is to teach the robot to communicate in Estonian and answer a child's speech in order to develop communication skills, vocabulary and non-verbal communication of children with social deficits, speech problems and learning difficulties. Another goal is to implement communication robots in pediatric neurorehabilitation. The project is funded from the Feasibility Fund of the University of Tartu.

Period: 2020-2022
Contact: Associate Professor Anneli Kolk 

Project's name: Retinal periphlebitis as a prognostic and subphenotype marker in multiple sclerosis

Period: 2019-2022
Contact: Research Fellow Janek Vilisaar    

Project's name: Peripheral nervous system involvement in Parkinson's disease

Period: 2020-2024
Contact: Professor Pille Taba  

Project's name: ERA Chair - Center for Genomics, Evolution and Medicine (cGEM)

Period: 2018-2023
Contact: Professor Andres Salumets

Project's name: Developing the University of Tartu to a well-networked PATient SAFEty research center in Estonia
Patient safety is a serious global public health problem affecting all countries. Estimates show that 1/10 patients are harmed during hospital care resulting in 23 million disability-adjusted life years lost per year. Research advancement is emphasized by all expert groups as a key precondition for safer care . The PATSAFE project will enhance Institute of Clinical Medicine of the University of Tartu (ICM-UT) research potential and capacities in patient safety in order to improve and strengthen knowledge and skills in methods, techniques and experience for patient safety research. Strategic partnership with Avedis Donabedian Foundation (FAD) from Spain and IQ Healthcare (IQ-HC) from The Netherlands, both international leaders in patient safety research, enables developing a long-lasting knowledge exchange alliance allowing ICM-UT to capitalise on its current achievements and to overcome gaps in scientific excellence in the field of patient safety research.

Period: 2019-2022
Contact: Associate Professor Kaja Põlluste


Project's name: Exploration of therapeutic targets associated with formation of premacular membrane
The overall objective of the current project is to identify critical gene regulatory network modules and promising therapeutic targets in controlling fibrotic responses in primary premacular membrane (PMM). The specific aims are as follows: (1) To characterize distinct cell populations constituting premacular membranes and unveil the subpopulations/states of myofibroblasts using single-cell (SC) transcriptomics. (2) To profile the transcriptional landscape in cells progressed to contractile stage and their non-fibrotic progenitors by scRNA-Seq. (3) To reveal and functionally validate critical regulons accounting for MF transdifferentiation/ progression of PMM.
The project is funded from baseline funding of the Institute of Clinical Medicine, University of Tartu.

Period: 2020-2023
Contact: Associate Professor Kuldar Kaljurand

Project's name: The role of endometrium as a major factor affecting female fertility and pregnancy outcome

Period: 2021-2025
Contact: Professor Helle Karro

Project's name: Presentation of data based on the database of sexual assault centres to the public as digital infographics
The aim of the project is to develop a prototype of public data presentation on the basis of the existing database of sexual assault centres and, as a final solution, regularly updated and publicly available digital infographics.The main target groups are the general public, including potential victims of sexual violence; but also the public and private sectors, including the Ministry of Social Affairs, Justice and Home Affairs and their subdivisions (eg the Victim Support Department of the Social Insurance Board, children's homes, the Police and Border Guard Board), and representatives of the third sector.
Problem to be solved:
To help victims of sexual violence, sexual assault centres (SACs) have been established in health care institutions and a database has been created at the University of Tartu, where data on survivors and perpetrators of sexual violence, sexual crime, seeking help and services provided to victims are collected. At present, the problem is that this data is available in the database, but is not available to the public in a comprehensible and non-personalized form in order to raise awareness of the problem of sexual violence in society and access to help. Another problem is that public and private sector partners do not currently have a rapidly up-to-date and publicly accessible overview of referral and help services’ parameters on which to base needs- and research-based activities and cooperation in the public sector and to improve the quality of assistance to victims.

Period: 2021-2022
Contact: Lecturer   Kai Part 

Project's name: Fetal structural and genetic abnormalities in Estonia: prenatal detection, management and prognosis
Aims of the project are: (1) to set up a ready collaborative network involving all key providers of prenatal diagnostics in Estonia to provide high-quality and specialized services for every family; (2) to provide essential epidemiologic information  and detection rate of antenatally detected congenital anomalies in Estonia; (3) to analyse pregnancy outcome  of antenatally detected fetal anomalies: termination of pregnancy, application of fetal therapy, perinatal mortality and morbidity; (4) to assess the prognostic value of different ultrasound markers of antenatally detected structural anomalies; (5) to assess the diagnostic yield of application of currently used genetic tests behind the detected fetal structural anomalies. The project is funded from baseline funding of the Institute of Clinical Medicine, University of Tartu.

Period: 2019-2022
Contact: Associate Professor Kristiina Rull     

Project's name: Innovative Training Network in Female Reproductive Care

Period: 2019-2023
Contact: Professor Andres Salumets

Project's name: Ethically Responsible INnovations in reproductive medicine
ERIN project was initiated to spread the academic excellence to University of Tartu (UT) in Estonia as representative of the Widening country, by enhancing networking activities with internationally-leading counterparts, Karolinska Institute (Sweden) and Maastricht University Medical Centre (The Netherlands). The consortium increases the scientific, innovation and clinical superbness of UT and its partners, by raising the R&I profiles, and the proficiency to identify, explore and resolve the ethical challenges in female reproductive medicine. We deal with the most intimate aspects of human life, by medically assisting conception, by carrying out a genetic analysis of an embryo or fetus to have a healthy baby, and by preserving fertility in women whose fertility is at risk. In the era of rapidly progressing technologies, novel solutions emerge fasten than the conclusive clinical evidence is collected and ethical challenges are addressed. Reproductive medicine is also often unsatisfactorily publicly supported, creating an inequality in access for the most vulnerable category of the patients, women waiting for childbirth. This is why reproductive medicine, covering human life from fertilization till birth, requires special attention to tackle all possible ethical concerns, risks and vulnerabilities, and involving all stakeholders, from individual patients to broad community. By addressing these challenges, we aim to bring more ethically responsible innovations into clinic that do not harm the interests of the various stakeholders, are evidence-based, cost-effective and therefore could be implemented in a sustainable way to ensure that these novel solutions become widely accessible. As an outcome, ERIN improves the responsible innovation practices, establish ethical system in R&I, expands knowledge and innovation capacity of the UT, and improves proficiency of all partners to facilitate the equity of access to research advances in reproductive medicine.

Period: 2020-2023
Contact: Professor Andres Salumets

Project's name: Endometrial Cell Atlas in Recurrent Implantation Failure

Period: 2021-2023
Contact: Professor Andres Salumets

Project's name: Cardiovascular And MEtabolic Risk after Arthroplasty: the CAMERA study

Period: 2021-2024
Contact: Research Fellow Kaspar Tootsi 


Research centres that have received Estonia's largest research funding are starting work

Doctoral defence: Maarjaliis Paavo “Short-wavelength and near-infrared autofluorescence imaging in recessive stargardt disease, choroideremia, PROM1-macular dystrophy and ocular albinism”

19. juunil kell 14.00 kaitseb Maarjaliis Paavo doktoritööd „Short-Wavelength and Near-Infrared Autofluorescence Imaging in Recessive Stargardt Disease, Choroideremia, PROM1-Macular Dystrophy and Ocular Albinism“.
Pilvi Ilves ja Tiina Tamm

Pilvi Ilves and Tiina Tamm were nominated for the portal of leading women researchers AcademiaNet