Division of
Medical Biotechnology
Department of Pathophysiology and Allergy Research

Research at the Division of Medical Biotechnology

Areas of research

The research activities of the Division of Medical Biotechnology aim at bridging the gap between basic science and application-centred development of better diagnostic and therapeutic concepts in allergology and tumour immunology.

For more details, view the pages of the individual research groups:

Our main areas of research are:

Interaction of allergens with the innate immune system
The first step in the allergic sensitization is the uptake of allergens by professional antigen-presenting cells, such as dendritic cells (DC). Activated DC then induce the differentiation of naïve CD4+ T cells into TH2 cells. The generation of a TH2 inducing signal also involves other cells such as epithelial cells, innate lymphoid cells and innate-like lymphocytes. We investigate various aspects of this process using cells from allergic and non-allergic donors as well as cell lines. One goal is the elucidation of the role of allergens and non-allergenic immunomodulatory compounds, such as lipids, in allergic sensitization.
Identification, characterisation and clinical application of food allergens
Our division has a long-standing experience in identification and biochemical characterisation of allergens and their production as recombinant proteins in various expression systems such as bacteria, yeast, insect cells and plants. We aim at using these allergens for various applications such as producing recombinant allergen-specific antibodies for detection of allergens, pure standardized allergen preparations for diagnostic applications and hypoallergenic derivatives for allergen-specific immunotherapy.
Characterization of the allergen-specific antibody response
Besides immunoglobulin E (IgE), allergic patients also produce allergen specific antibodies of other isotypes such as IgG and IgA. We investigate the epitope repertoires of allergen-specific antibodies using various approaches such as allergen-specific recombinant monoclonal antibodies, peptide mapping and chimeric proteins. Our goal is to elucidate the clinical relevance of these epitope recognition profiles in terms of cross-reactivity between different foods, clinical consequences of pollen-food cross-reactivity and efficacy of allergen-specific immunotherapy.
Evolutionary biology and classification of allergens
We have previously shown that most allergens belong to a surprisingly small number of protein families. We established the AllFam database of allergen families to provide the scientific community and clinicians with a tool to obtain a quick overview on important allergen families and their member allergens. Ongoing projects in bioinformatics tackle the question "What make a protein an allergen?" We hope to shed light on this question by comparing allergen sequences and structures with those of non-allergenic proteins.


Funding sources

Currently, research in the Division of Medical Biotechnology is funded by the following projects:

Danube Allergy Research Cluster
This programme is funded by the province of Lower Austria and coordinated by Rudolf Valenta from the Department of Pathophysiology and Allergy Research. It comprises 16 research groups from the Karl Landsteiner University of Health Sciences, the Medical University of Vienna, The Univeristy of Natural Resources and Applied Life Sciences Vienna, the University of Veterinary Medicine Vienna, and the Austrian Institute of Technology. The aim of this project the development of new strategies for the prevention of Allergy as well as new methods for diagnosis and therapy.
PhD programme Molecular, Cellular and Clinical Allergology
This programme is jointly organized by the Medical University of Vienna and the Veterinary University of Vienna and funded by the Austrian Science Fund. It aims to to select, educate and promote the best possible PhD students in the field of allergy research and to strengthen long-term perspectives of allergy research in Austria but also abroad and to develop innovative strategies for diagnosis, therapy and prevention of allergic diseases.
Marker allergens for the diagnosis of nut allergies in peanut allergic patients
The project was granted to Merima Bublin and is funded by the Anniversary Fund of the Austrian National Bank. Its aim is the identifiation and characterization of cross-reactive allergens from tree nuts with the aim of improving component resolved diagnosis of peanut and tree nut allergies and predicting clinical cross-reactivities in nut allergic patients.
The role of dietary advanced glycation end products in allergic sensitization
In this project, which is led by Sabine Geiselhart and funded by the Austrian Science Fund (FWF), we examine the impact of dietary advanced glycation end products (dAGEs) on local immune processes of the gastro-intestinal tract in general and food allergy related immune responses in detail. For more information, visit the project page.