Rising to the challenge

Timeline of Covid-19 at Vienna BioCenter (left) and in Austria (right)

With the arrival of SARS-CoV-2 in Europe in early 2020, scientists at the Vienna BioCenter quickly recognised the potential of basic research equipment and expertise for the development of innovative testing approaches. Within weeks, initiatives sprung up that soon led to important discoveries and tangible approaches for improving the monitoring of the virus.

December 2021

© L. Schedl/IMP

The original mission of in-house COVID testing was accomplished and testing on Vienna BioCenter campus is continued via 'Alles gurgelt'. Read more...

November / December 2021

3G mandatory at workplace, 2G rule applies everywhere else (start of lockdown for unvaccinated persons)

European Medicins Agency approves BioNTech's vaccine for children 5 years and older

Country-wide hard lockdown from Nov 22 to Dec 12

First case of new variant 'Omikron' in Austria

15 million vaccine doses administered, 3 million people received 3rd vaccination ('booster')

October / November 2021

Valneva reports Positive Phase 3 Results for Inactivated, Adjuvanted COVID-19 Vaccine Candidate VLA2001

Valneva signed an Advance Purchase Agreement (APA) with the European Commission (EC) to supply up to 60 million doses of its inactivated COVID-19 vaccine candidate, VLA2001, over two years. 

Valneva confirmed that the European Medicines Agency (EMA) has started a rolling review of VLA2001.

September / October 2021

New tightening measures according to the federal government's step-by-step plan (FFP2 masks become mandatory indoors, 3G rule applies)

August 2021


Minister of Health W. Mückstein visits Vienna BioCenter. Through presentations and a campus tour, the contributions of Vienna BioCenter scientists in fighting the Covid-19 pandemic were showcased.

97.4 percent of approx. 800 employees at the campus' non-university research institutes vaccinated

May to July 2021

Country-wide opening steps (incl gastronomy, tourism, sports)

European Medicins Agency approves BioNTech's vaccine for children 12 years and older

Delta variant becomes most common variant in Austria.

5 million vaccine doses administered in Austria

May 2021

Ulrich Elling, Luisa Cochella, and others publish the method "SARSeq" in the journal Nature Communications. It could be adapted to many more pathogens, according to the scientists. Read more...

April 2021

3 million vaccine doses administered in Austria

Partial lockdown in eastern Austria ('Osterruhe')

Wolfgang Mückstein appointed Minister of Health after Rudolf Anschober's resignation

April 2021

Valneva initiates phase 3 clinical trial for its inactivated, adjuvanted COVID-19 vaccine candidate, VLA2001

March 2021

1 million vaccine doses administered in Austria

Start of 'Alles gurgelt' campaign in Vienna (free PCR self-sampling tests)

January / February 2021

Non-profit reagent kits for performing RT-LAMP and bead-LAMP are provided by the VDRC team at the Vienna BioCenter Core Facilities via see https://www.rtlamp.org/kits/

First Next Generation Sequencing run with SARSeq-S-tiling detects a cluster of B.1.351 variant (originally from South Africa) in Tyrol

Contract with AGES is signed for SARSeq-team to sequence a minimum of 1,000 positive SARS-CoV-2 samples per week in order to monitor variant spread and to identify new mutations

Valneva announces production start of its inactivated, adjuvanted COVID-19 vaccine candidate in parallel to the ongoing clinical studies

Dec 2020 - Jan 2021

Third hard lockdown in effect from Dec 26 to Jan 24, later extended until Feb 7

First person in Austria vaccinated, Start of country-wide vaccination campaign

December 2020

Valneva announces the initiation of a Phase 1/2 clinical study for its inactivated, adjuvanted COVID-19 vaccine candidate "VLA2001"

First variants of concern containing N501Y identified by the SARSeq team using Sanger sequencing and reported to AGES

Mid November 2020

Record number of reported new infections (9.209)

County-wide hard lockdown starting Nov 17 (all shops except basic services closed, 24h curfew)

October / November 2020

RT-LAMP website with complete protocols goes online: www.rtlamp.org steered by Pauli/Brennecke; European patent filed for Elling/Cochella SARSeq

SARSeq allowing high throughput testing of SARS-CoV-2 and other viruses is published as preprint on medRxiv

In-house testing at Vienna BioCenter is expanded to include VBC Companies

October 2020

Austrian Agency for Health and Food Safety (AGES) endorses RT-LAMP as fast, cheap and reliable testing method and viable complement to PCR tests

ÖQUASTA approval for SARSeq and RT-LAMP

September 2020

Sample processing and analysis moved to VCDI screening lab run by Vienna Biocenter Core Facilties

New test-kits and sampling logistics are rolled out under the responsibility of Johanna Trupke

Testing at Vienna BioCenter is expanded to include Max Perutz Labs and DOME

September 2020

Corona “traffic light” introduced by Austrian government

Press Conference: Heinz Faßmann and Peter Hacker present mobile testing initiative for schools in Vienna: gargling method, analysis at Vienna BioCenter

Mid May to August 2020

1.1 million Euro granted to IMBA by the European Commission as part of the MAD-CoV 2 project, funding further COVID19 research

Start of antibody-testing for IMP/IMBA/GMI/VBCF employees

VCDI releases complete SOP for routine SARS-CoV-2 monitoring

VCDI initiates large-scale monitoring project at Austrian schools using gargling in combination with pooling and RT-qPCR

May 2020

Restaurants reopen in Austria, border to Germany and Switzerland reopens

Gradual reopening of Austrian schools; second Austria-wide prevalence study

2,000 confirmed active cases in Austria

Second half of April 2020

Gradual reopening of the institutes with shift plans and safety measures in place

Start of in-house COVID-19 testing at IMP/IMBA/GMI/VBCF (regular RT-qPCR tests on pharyngeal lavage samples) - voluntary and anonymous

14 April 2020

Partial lockdown in Austria eased gradually

Early April 2020

© Max Perutz Labs

Several research institutions join forces to form the “Vienna COVID-19 Diagnostics Initiative (VCDI)”, later renamed into “Vienna COVID-19 Detection Initiative

IMBA receives WWTF funding for its involvement in three different COVID19 projects, as part of the WWTF’s COVID-19 Rapid Response Funding

Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) shared with employees to allow regular RT-qPCR testing for IMP/IMBA/GMI/VBCF staff

Meinrad Busslinger initiates IgM/IgG antibody testing for employees

16 March 2020

Partial lockdown in Austria, schools and universities close

Mid March 2020


Andrea Pauli (IMP) and Julius Brennecke (IMBA) & team start a project on fast and easy SARS-CoV-2 detection using RT-LAMP

Johannes Zuber (IMP) and team start testing alternative sampling-methods (gargling)

Luisa Cochella (IMP), Ulrich Elling (IMBA), Alexander Stark (IMP) and Ramesh Yelagandula (IMBA) start a project on NGS-based COVID-19 testing

IMP/IMBA/GMI/VBCF issue strict limitations and safety rules, operations are reduced to a minimum, all but essential staff is working from home

11 March 2020

WHO declares pandemic

10 March 2020

Safety regulations at the institutes are tightened, events with more than 100 participants cancelled

25 February 2020

First COVID-19 infections detected in Austria