(Vienna, 02 December 2020) On 01 December 2020, Elisabeth Förster-Waldl, Head of Clinical Immunology at the Division of Neonatology, Intensive Care Medicine and Neuropediatrics at MedUni Vienna's Department of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine and Comprehensive Center for Pediatrics took up a Chair in the interdisciplinary subject of clinical immunology.
Based on her dual specialist and postdoctoral qualifications in paediatric and adolescent medicine and clinical immunology, Elisabeth Förster-Waldl represents and works in the associated clinical areas and corresponding areas of research.
Förster-Waldl's research and clinical work is focused on aspects of clinical immunology relating to immune dysfunction. both age-related dysfunction associated with prematurity/infancy referred to as 'immaturity of the immune response' and 'inborn errors of immunity’.
In particular, Förster-Waldl's research group is studying modified infection control as a sign of an immune dysfunction in ex-vivo in-vitro experimental settings in human cell populations. These research works, which resulted from numerous local, national and international collaborative projects, describe molecular mechanisms of immunological immaturity and identify new immunodeficiencies in humans, the focus over the last few years having been on mechanisms of innate immunity.
Förster-Waldl's work could lead to better prevention and treatment of patients with immunological disorders in the future, due to a more exact understanding of the underlying mechanisms. The aim of Förster-Waldl's research is to pave the way for personalised therapeutic interventions for these groups of disorders.
Förster-Waldl's research projects have given rise to numerous publications, the acquisition of third-party funding and participation in joint international research activities, the collaboration with the globally active Jeffrey Modell Foundation www.info4pi.org being particularly worthy of note.
As a clinical scientist, Förster-Waldl is pursuing a long-term approach that could be characterised as "bedside to bench and back to the patient". Under her professorship, she intends to strengthen the links between MedUni Vienna's Immunology research cluster and the clinical Centers of Vienna General Hospital, such as the Comprehensive Center for Pediatrics and other clinical institutions that diagnose and care for patients with immune dysfunction. For example, in a collaborative approach with partners from different clinical disciplines and diagnostic and medical theory institutions, she plans to accelerate basic, translational and clinical research to produce more detailed analysis of the numerous pathomechanisms of immunological disorders. The scientific area she intends to cover in the near future includes register research, coupled with Deep Phenotyping, the broad field of immunogenetics together with Deep Sequencing collaborative partners through to cell biology and molecular laboratory research, which will continue to focus on providing a better understanding of cellular functions of diminished infection control.
Teaching and advancement of young scientists
In her work as a lecturer at MedUni Vienna, Förster-Waldl is likewise strengthening the link between the curriculum for paediatric and adolescent medicine, the PhD course in immunology and the PhD course in Organ Failure, Replacement and Transplantation (POET), in order to acknowledge the great importance of interdisciplinarity in clinical immunology. Förster-Waldl is very keen to support young colleagues early on in their careers, as both teacher and mentor, and is always sensitive to gender-related issues.
A major aim going forward is to continue to inspire and foster enthusiasm for paediatric immunology and clinical immunology, to develop career pathways in these areas and also to provide a role model for an academic career.
About Elisabeth Förster-Waldl
Elisabeth Förster-Waldl studied medicine in Vienna – with teaching placements in Tübingen, Boston and Freiburg im Breisgau – and started her career as a research assistant in a laboratory for cell biology and immune dermatology. She then did specialist training courses to become a consultant in paediatric and adolescent medicine and clinical immunology. An Erwin Schrödinger international scholarship enabled her to spend a two-year research placement in the Laboratory for Pediatric Immunology at the University of Basel. Other joint international projects took her to La Jolla and Berlin. She qualified as a university lecturer in paediatric and adolescent medicine in 2004, and in clinical immunology in 2019.