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Heimo Breiteneder, a “Pioneer in Allergy Research”, takes up the professorship for Medical Biotechnology

(Vienna, 17th May 2011) The fundamental researcher, Heimo Breiteneder, took up the newly created professorship for Medical Biotechnology at the MedUni Vienna in May. His research and teaching is devoted not only to the investigation of the causes of allergic diseases, but also to the development of vaccines for cancer.

When Heimo Breiteneder began his research work on the triggers of allergies in 1985, there was hardly any knowledge in this field anywhere in the world. Four years later he presented the results of his research work, in which he had identified on a molecular level, for the first time, a protein of birch pollen as the trigger of the birch pollen allergy. This work enabled subsequent targeted research into triggers in other allergies to be performed. The significance of this discovery is reflected in the fact that his work is one of the most cited publications in allergy research.

Important allergen database at the MedUni Vienna
Breiteneder continued his pioneering work with his colleagues with the building of a database in which all of the known allergens and their classifications are collected. This database at the Medical University of Vienna, which is the only one of its kind in the world, enables, amongst others, allergens to be compared and therefore also the risk of a cross allergy to be estimated. Cross allergies are, for example, food allergies which are triggered through a previously existing pollen allergy.

At the same time Breiteneder is also Chairman of the international “Allergen Nomenclature Sub-Committee”, which judges the significance of newly discovered allergens as a disease trigger and gives them their internationally valid name.

Research into the causes of allergies and vaccines for cancer
Breiteneder sees two particular priorities in both his current research activities as Head of the Department of Medical Biotechnology at the Institute of Pathophysiology and Allergy Research at the MedUni Vienna (Director Prof. Dr. Erika Jensen-Jarolim) as well as within the context of his professorship.

The first priority is dedicated to the research of the causes of allergies. Although the triggers are now known in the majority of cases, we do not know why allergies actually occur. Answering this question would be another great pioneering achievement, something which Breiteneder and his team of researchers and students are striving to do.

Heimo Breiteneder sees his second task as cooperation with the University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences in the development of vaccines for cancer. Even in this field he and his colleagues have already shown remarkable research findings, which for example, have shown promising initial research for a vaccine for melanoma and which has resulted from collaboration with the Department of General Dermatology of the University Department of Dermatology (Director Prof. Dr. Hubert Pehamberger).

At the same time Breiteneder is working on the EU project “EngCaBra” together with the Vienna University of Technology in the development of a chip to diagnose cancers and brain diseases.

Heimo Breiteneder sees the professorship as “an excellent opportunity to continue my teaching and research in the investigation of the mechanisms of allergy onset as well as to develop successful cancer vaccines through cooperation with other Austrian universities.“

Prof. Dr. Heimo Breiteneder, born in 1959, studied Botany and Biochemistry at the University of Vienna. Following on from his dissertation on the subject of “Genome organisation of endosymbiotic cyanelles” and his doctorate in 1985, Breiteneder began research into birch pollen allergy and identified, for the first time, the main allergen of birch pollen on a molecular level. From 1991 to 1993 he undertook a research trip to the USA where he examined the stability of RNAs and worked on the production of antibodies for plant viruses.
Upon his return to the Medical Faculty of Vienna Breiteneder again worked on the subject of allergies and qualified as a professor in 1995 at the Institute of General and Experimental Pathology with the subject “Molecular, biological and immunological characterisation of the main allergens of early-flowering trees (birch, alder, hazel)”. Subsequently Breiteneder formed the study group for Biotechnology and Biochemical Diagnostics at the Institute of Pathophysiology of the University of Vienna, until he ultimately took on the directorship of the Department of Medical Biotechnology at the Institute of Pathophysiology and Allergy Research at the MedUni Vienna in 2006.
Breiteneder has received numerous scientific awards; he is a member of various international organisations which carry out scientific work into allergies, and works as an expert for many international top journals.

» AllFam Datenbank
» Allergen Nomenclature
» EU Projekt „EngCaBra“