Disease Mechanisms, Immunology, Pathogens

How can we use fundamental biological knowledge to better understand, diagnose, and treat disease?

Exploiting the wide range of expertise and model systems at the Vienna BioCenter, researchers ask how certain mutations lead to disease, how organisms defend themselves against pathogens and malignant cells, and how we can use this knowledge to develop better therapeutics and improve agriculture.

Rapid advances in deep-sequencing and functional genetic tools have fundamentally changed the way we can study physiological processes as well as disease models and mechanisms in complex organisms.

One of the greatest challenges for the next decade will be to translate these complex datasets into a better mechanistic understanding of disease.

Scientists at the Vienna BioCenter study how errors in signaling pathways, protein quality control, ubiquitination, autophagy, and other biological processes lead to ageing and diverse diseases including neurodegenerative disease, metabolic disease, autoimmune disease, myopathies, and cancer.

The genetic complexity, heterogeneity, and plasticity of human cancers pose daunting challenges for the development of effective therapies. At the Vienna BioCenter, functional genetic screens (using e.g., CRISPR/Cas9-, advanced RNAi-, and degron-based technologies) are used to probe the vulnerabilities of cancer cells and identify targeted therapies. However, targeted therapies are often rendered useless by the emergence of drug-resistant clones; therefore, the mechanisms associated with tumor relapse are also under investigation. Novel insights here may lead to more effective combinatorial or sequential targeted therapies that circumvent resistance.

Immune systems protect their host from harmful intruders such as pathogenic microorganisms. Immunology research at the Vienna BioCenter investigates how the many different types of specialized immune cells develop from their progenitors and how they are able to generate the vast repertoire of antibodies that keep our bodies free from infection. The more primitive innate immune response is also being studied. Pathogen research includes the mechanisms of viral infection (in particular of the virus responsible for the common cold), human fungal pathogens, and plant pathogenesis.

Researchers in these fields are supported by several dedicated Core Facilities. The Preclinical Phenotyping Facility uses comprehensive behavioral tests and physiological assays to characterize phenotypes of genetically modified animal models relevant to human diseases. The Preclinical Imaging Facility provides comprehensive magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), focusing on in vivo mouse imaging, while the HistoPathology Facility offers tissue processing, sectioning, and staining to enable the complete analysis of diseased tissues.

Research Groups "Disease Mechanisms, Immunology, Pathogens"

Research Group Institute Topic
Baccarini Max Perutz Labs Deciphering the MAPK pathway in vivo
Belkhadir GMI Plant cell signalling at the interface of growth and defences
Blaas Max Perutz Labs Early interactions of viruses with host cells
Busslinger IMP Stem cell commitment in haematopoiesis
Clausen IMP Molecular mechanisms of protein quality control
Dagdas GMI The role of autophagy in plant development and stress tolerance
Decker Max Perutz Labs Host responses and innate immunity to bacteria
Elling IMBA Functional genomics in embryonic stem cells
Foisner Max Perutz Labs Lamins in nuclear organization and human disease
Fuchs Max Perutz Labs Stress response in simple epithelia
Haubensak IMP Circuit mechanics of emotional behaviour
Knoblich IMBA Brain development and disease
Kovarik Max Perutz Labs Signaling and gene expression in inflammation
Kowalski Max Perutz Labs Molecular and structural biology of picornaviruses
Kuchler Max Perutz Labs Host-Pathogen Interactions & Mechanisms of Drug Resistance & Fungal Pathogenesis
Leonard Max Perutz Labs Structural Biology of Lipid-Activated Signal Transduction
Martens Max Perutz Labs Molecular Mechanisms of Autophagy
Martinez Max Perutz Labs Biochemistry, physiology and disease of the tRNA splicing pathway in mammalian cells
Obenauf IMP Molecular mechanisms of metastasis and drug resistance
Ogris Max Perutz Labs PP2A enzyme biogenesis and monoclonal antibodies
Pavri IMP Molecular mechanisms of antibody diversification
Penninger IMBA Modeling human disease
Skern Max Perutz Labs Interactions between viruses and cells
Swarts Max Perutz Labs Tree-ring genomics
Swarts GMI Tree-ring genomics
Van der Veeken IMP T cell differentiation and function
Versteeg Max Perutz Labs Ubiquitin-mediated regulation of immune signaling
Zuber IMP Finding and probing cancer drug targets using advanced RNAi technologies