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Environmentally friendly drugs, targeted cancer treatment, obstacle course for blood cells

Thursday, 17 October 2019 04:46

Life Science Awards Austria 2019 given to young Austrian researchers

Each year, the ÖGMBT initiates a unique nationwide search in order to find the brightest young researchers in the Life Sciences field across all of Austria. At the 11th Annual Conference in Salzburg, five young scientists were honoured for their internationally sensational work. The promotion of young scientists is one of the ÖGMBT’s main pillars. Regularly awarding scientific prizes is an important measure to support early-stage researchers. Additionally, these awards highlight the excellence in the Austrian research landscape and increase the visibility of exceptional life sciences topics in the public. With the support of the Federal Ministry for Digital and Economic Affairs (BMDW) and the industrial sponsors Polymun Scientific and THP Medical Products the prestigious awards together with prize money in the total amount of EUR 11.000 EUR were awarded.

Two different awards were available: The Life Science Research Awards Austria and the Life Science PhD Awards Austria. Both in the categories basic research and advanced science. An additional Research Award in the category


In the basic research category, the Life Science Research Award 2019 went to Jörg Renkawitz from the Institute of Science and Technology Austria in Klosterneuburg (IST). His work "Nuclear positioning facilitates amoeboid migration along the path of least resistance" was published in the renowned journal Nature.

Obstacle course for white blood cells

With an innovative obstacle course in the micrometer range, Renkawitz has microscopically observed the migration of white blood cells and obtained important insights in the process. Jury Chairman Joachim Seipelt: "Among other things, it was possible to show that these cells use the path of least resistance and that the cell nucleus is used as a yardstick. In the human body, lymphocytes constantly patrol the body to monitor the immune system and play an important role in the defence against pathogens". The findings can also help to understand how cancer cells migrate. This could be useful for new cancer therapy approaches.

Involved in every fifth cancer: Price for analysis of BAF mutations

Every fifth human cancer involves a mutation in one of the BAF complex genes. The BAF complex plays an important role in chromatin remodelling. In turn, chromatin organises the approximately two metres of DNA in the nucleus of every human cell so that certain genes can be activated and others switched off depending on the cell type and condition. It is currently largely unknown how BAF mutations contribute to the development of cancer. There is also no therapy for the targeted treatment of cancer condemned by BAF mutations.

Sandra Schick from the CeMM Research Center for Molecular Medicine of the Austrian Academy of Sciences (CeMM) systematically analyzed the importance of BAF subunits and received the Life Science Research Award 2019 in the category applied research. In her paper published in the scientific journal Nature Genetics, she describes previously unknown combinations of BAF subunits whose simultaneous inhibition could be used for the targeted treatment of cancer.

DOI: 10.1038/s41588-019-0477-9

Environmentally friendly production of osteoporosis drugs

For the second time, this year´s special prize for scientifically outstanding research with social relevance was awarded to Aline Telzerow from the Graz University of Technology. Her work, published in the renowned journal ACS Catalysis, describes an innovative biocatalytic process that can be used for the production of important drug precursors. This process enables the efficient and environmentally friendly production of various drugs that could be used, for example, for the treatment of osteoporosis.



Brain dynamics and Animal Behaviour

The dissertation prize in the basic research category goes to Harris Kaplan of the Vienna Research Institute of Molecular Pathology (IMP). In his dissertation on nematodes, Kaplan investigated how brain dynamics influence animal behaviour. The results are relevant for the entire animal kingdom in order to understand the influence of the nervous system on behaviour. Jury Chair Viktoria Weber: "The results of this work contradict intuition. This further strengthens the influence of this work on the understanding of animal behaviour".

Biotechnological use of CO2

The doctoral thesis of Thomas Gaßler from the University of Natural Resources and Applied Life Sciences Vienna (BOKU) describes how the industrially frequently used yeast Pichia pastoris can be modified in such a way that it can use CO2 as the sole carbon source. The work could help to reduce the greenhouse gas CO2 by using it as a carbon source in fermentation processes and also lead to significant cost savings in production. In order to be able to carry out the necessary genomic changes, Gaßler has co-developed a new CRISP/Cas9 toolbox for Pichia pastoris, which will be useful for many laboratories and companies.


11 years of ÖGMBT: Conference as stepping stone to an international career

ÖGMBT President Prof. Dr. Lukas Huber: "The work of the winners will be internationally recognized - thus once again proving the top level of Austrian life science research. The ÖGMBT's dissertation and research prizes have been awarded for eleven years. Over the years, it has become clear that the ÖGMBT has been a great success: The Life Science Awards Austria are a national and international career turbo and are made possible by the BMDW, THP Medical Products and Polymun Scientific through many years of support".

Federal Minister Dr. Elisabeth Udolf-Strobl: "Public research funding and the participation of industry are important inputs for the creation of innovations. The BMDW spends € 100 million per year on location-relevant research. A large part of this is invested in cooperative research between science and industry. Prizes and awards are a somewhat smaller but very effective part of the long-term support. This highlights the research potential of the location and brings successful personalities and important social issues before the curtain".

Students, scientists and companies from all over Austria come together for the annual conference and exchange views on the latest research results. This year the conference took place in Salzburg with 300 participants.


Many thanks to the jury of the Life Science Awards Austria 2019!

Viktoria Weber, Helmut Bergler, Ludger Hengst, Simon Hippenmeyer, Michael Sauer, Harald Pichler, Martin Wagner, Ruth Prassl, Florian Grebien,  Thomas Caspari, Lukas Mach, Joachim Seipelt, Monika Schmoll, Alexandra Lusser, Wolfgang Doppler, Gerhard Schütz, Eva Stöger, Fritz Aberger, Oliver Spadiut and Wolfgang Mikulits


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