Career Stories

Benjamin Backfisch

I studied biology at the University of Heidelberg and worked as a diploma student in Detlev Arendt’s lab at the EMBL where I first came into touch with the marine model system Platynereis dumerilii. As Florian Raible established his own research lab at MFPL, I decided to join his group for my PhD thesis in 2008. Amongst others, I established transgenic technologies in Platynereis dumerilii and optimized in-situ staining protocols. After graduating from the VBC International PhD Programme, I joined Baxter in 2013. Since then, I have held different positions in the pharmaceutical Quality Control. The focus of my current position as Analytical Expert at Shire, is the transfer and the validation of test methods used in the quality laboratory. As part of an interdisciplinary team, I apply analytical skills I have developed during my PhD to ensure the successful and timely validation of test methods. Moreover, my recent tasks also include investigations correlated to test methods as well as the participation in audits and internal inspections. The pharmaceutical industry is a dynamic environment offering a variety of career opportunities in different areas. I am curious which perspectives will emerge in future.

Konstantin Byrgazov

I started my Molecular Biology journey in 2007 when Isabella Moll accepted me as her first PhD student within the doctoral program “RNA Biology”. My background from the Chemistry Department of the Moscow State University was very useful for studying protein-protein interactions on the ribosome. At the same time, I dove into the world of Life Sciences, where it is important to draw a line between molecular interactions and their impact on the physiology of a living cell. My time at the MFPL ended in 2013 when I started to look for a new challenging position where I could continue using my skills and experience. I am grateful to the DP RNA Biology and the MFPL that provided multiple opportunities to develop soft skills, which are important both in and outside the realm of science. I am currently working as a Postdoc in the Children’s Cancer Research Institute in Vienna, where I am involved in a Special Research Program to study myeloproliferative disorders. Now, besides molecules and cells, patients are also in the focus. I am happy to continue my journey in this wonderful world.

Federica Catalanotti

I joined the MFPL in November 2003, as a PhD student of the Vienna Biocenter International PhD program in Molecular Sciences in Manuela Baccarini’s lab. My main doctoral work consisted in the discovery of an unexpected uncoupling of the roles of the kinases MEK1 and MEK2 in the control of ERK1/2 activation. After my PhD, obtained in 2008, I continued to work in Manuela’s lab, starting a new project focused on a novel function of MEK1 as an essential regulator of lipid/protein phosphatase PTEN, through which it controls AKT signaling. In 2010, I started a postdoctoral training at the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center (MSKCC) in the lab of David Solit, where I moved into translational medicine. My work is focused on the identification of the mechanism of resistance to vemurafenib in BRAFV600E mutant melanoma. As of today I am working at MSKCC as a Research Associate, collaborating with several clinicians in the field of melanoma. The combination of the training at MFPL and MSKCC gave me the expertise to study signal transduction from bench to bedside, allowing me to pursue a career in clinical trial analysis and management.

Regina Cencic

My motivation to pursue a career in scientific research stems from an enthusiasm to explore the unknown. I am also very much interested in improving health through basic research discoveries. I joined Tim Skern’s lab at the Vienna Biocenter in 2000 to investigate structure-function relationships in picornaviral proteinases as part of my master’s and PhD thesis. This work helped me get a good foundation in molecular biology while appreciating how viruses can overtake cellular processes. After finishing my PhD in 2005, I moved to Montreal to continue my studies as a PostDoc at McGill University in the lab of Jerry Pelletier. I focused on discovery and characterization of small molecule inhibitors targeting the eukaryotic translation initiation factor (eIF) 4F. We have been able to show that inhibition of this central translation factor displays impressive anti-cancer activity in pre-clinical cancer models. After finishing my PostDoc in 2010, I stayed on as a Research Associate to continue working on these exciting inhibitors while also implementing powerful CRISPR/Cas9 genome engineering technology to dissect the role of translational control in tumor initiation and maintenance.

Mareike Fischer

After finishing my Master’s degree in mathematics at the University of Kaiserslautern (Germany), I realized I wanted a more applied project for my PhD. Therefore, I gladly took the opportunity for a PhD project in mathematical phylogenetics under the supervision of Prof. Mike Steel at the University of Canterbury (New Zealand) and funded by a PhD studentship of the Allan Wilson Centre for Molecular Ecology and Evolution. After graduating in 2009, I joined the Center for Integrative Bioinformatics Vienna (CIBIV) at MFPL. I continued to focus on the mathematical aspects of phylogenetics and population genetics. I strongly benefited from the scientific freedom I was granted at MFPL and the close collaborations with biologists. In 2012, I was offered a tenure track assistant professorship in discrete biomathematics at the University of Greifswald (Germany) and as of April 2016 I will be an associate professor. I am still closely connected to MFPL and CIBIV – in particular to Prof. Arndt von Haeseler.

Gergana Galabova

I joined MFPL in 2003 as a postdoctoral researcher in the laboratory of Manuela Baccarini. As part of her group, I was pleased to find a unique supportive team, great colleagues and friends. My research was focused on the in vivo and in vitro deciphering of the Raf/Mek/ERK pathway, and in particular, on the role of the oncogene B-Raf in extra-embryonic development, in myelination during postnatal central nervous system development, and in pancreatic beta-cell carcinogenesis. In addition to my scientific contribution, I managed the MFPL Histology Facility. In 2009, I left the academia and joined the biotech company AFFiRiS AG, located at the Vienna Biocenter. Initially, I worked as a senior scientist and project leader of the PCSK9 program, focusing on the treatment of hypercholesterolemia. I led the successful preclinical proof-of-concept studies, which advanced the program into early clinical development. Since late 2015, I am head of the Neurodegeneration Department at AFFiRiS AG. My team is focused on the preclinical research and development of immunotherapy for the treatment of Parkinson’s disease and Alzheimer’s disease.

Chris de Graffenried

I started out my scientific career as a chemistry graduate student at UC Berkeley and then moved to Yale to join Graham Warren’s lab as a postdoctoral fellow. I moved with Graham from Yale to the MFPL in 2008. I hadn’t really considered doing a postdoc overseas, but the opportunity to spend time in Vienna and experience how research is done in Europe was appealing. My work in the Warren lab focused on the function of the kinase PLK in Trypanosoma brucei, with an emphasis on the biogenesis of the parasite cytoskeleton. During my time at the MFPL, we developed a quantitative understanding of kinase function, working closely with Gustav Ammerer and Dorothea Anrather in the proteomics facility. In 2013 I left the MFPL to become a professor at Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island. My work at Brown has focused on identifying and characterizing TbPLK binding partners. I have very fond memories of my time in Vienna, especially when I see my daughter Sophia, who was born there.

Ingo Ebersberger

I started off as a molecular geneticist at the University Mainz, Germany, where I was investigating intron evolution in insect hemoglobin genes. For my PhD - which I did with Svante Pääbo at the MPI for Evolutionary Anthropology, Leipzig - I slightly changed topics to now compare humans and chimpanzees on a genome wide level. After not finding what makes us human but becoming increasingly interested in the concepts behind data analysis, I left the wet lab and started my career as a bioinformatician. I joined Arndt von Haeseler’s group at the University of Düsseldorf and moved 2006 with him to Vienna to become part of the CIBIV within MFPL. Molecular evolution and phylogenomics became my main research interests. In recent years I began integrating the evolution of species, of their genes and of the encoded molecular functions, which is still main focus of my work. In 2012 I moved as full professor for applied bioinformatics to the Goethe University Frankfurt, Germany. Still, I have a tight connection to the CIBIV via joint projects with Arndt, and thus visiting Vienna means also visiting MFPL.

Christine Eresheim

I did practical courses in several labs at the MFPL during my undergraduate studies of Molecular Biology. Among them was Marcela Hermann´s lab, where I started my Diploma thesis focussing on the investigation of lipid metabolism during chicken embryonic development. I enjoyed working in the lab and the atmosphere on the second floor. That´s why I seized the chance to do my PhD in Johannes Nimpf´s lab in a related field and studied the role of the Reelin signaling pathway during chicken follicle development. In addition, I regularly supervised students and was involved in practical courses as a tutor. I recognized that I really like teaching and getting students excited for my field. After finishing my PhD, I started working at FH Technikum Wien. I am a co-worker in a team focussing on teaching cell culture techniques. Furthermore, I am involved in several practical courses as well as lectures and enjoy my multifaceted job. My former colleagues are now working in various fields but we are still in regular contact and vividly remember our time at the MFPL.

Heather Esson

I earned my BSc in botany at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, Canada. A focus on biodiversity and natural history piqued my interest in evolution, and I completed a PhD in evolutionary protistology at UBC. My research explored how developmental processes influenced the evolution of cortical cytoskeletal morphology in euglenids, a group of unicellular eukaryotes. Since my doctoral work relied almost exclusively on morphological analysis and electron microscopy, I wanted a postdoc where I could acquire skills and background knowledge in cell biology. I joined Graham Warren’s lab in 2009 and began working with Trypanosoma brucei, a parasitic protist that is related to the euglenids. I used immunoelectron microscopy to help describe the morphology of the hook complex, a multi-protein cytoskeletal structure that had been previously detected with antibodies but never visualized. After performing my first western blot and acquiring an abiding fondness for Falco, I began my current position as a research worker at the Institute of Parasitology (Czech Academy of Sciences) in České Budějovice in 2013. I now study photosynthesis and evolution in Chromera velia, a photosynthetic relative of apicomplexan parasites.

Monika Gullerova

I did my undergraduate studies in Molecular Biology at the Comenius University in Bratislava and completed my PhD in the lab of Andrea Barta at the Medical University of Vienna, which is now part of MFPL. My work focused on an RNA recognition motif containing cyclophilin, which plays a role at the interplay of transcription and pre-mRNA processing. From 2006 to 2012 I was a Postdoctoral Research Associate in Nick Proudfoot’s lab at Sir William Dunn School of Pathology (University of Oxford). My main research focused on transcription termination, but I was also interested in RNAi and its role in gene expression regulation. Part of my work I did in Mitsuhiro Yanagida’s lab at Kyoto University and in Danesh Moazed’s lab at Harvard Medical School, Harvard University. My work in Nick Proudfoot’s lab resulted in several publications in renowned scientific journals and the L’Oreal/UNESCO Woman in Science UK & Ireland Award in 2011. In 2012 I was awarded the MRC Career Development Award and since 2013 I am a group leader at Sir William Dunn School of Pathology. The major research focus of my lab is on gene expression regulation by transcriptional gene silencing in normal and breast cancer cells.

Kyo Ikeda

I had been trained as HIV immunologist in Rome, before I was recruited to MFPL through the first call of the PhD Program Molecular Mechanisms of Cell Signaling in 2009. I enjoyed working on flagellum inheritance in Trypanosoma brucei until December 2013. In Graham Warren’s lab, I became fascinated by mechanistic cell biology, and I pursued that topic in a different field. I now work on rhomboid-like proteins, a conserved superfamily of polytopic-membrane proteases. Since a year and a half, I am a Postdoc in Prof. Matthew Freeman’s lab at the Dunn School of Pathology, Oxford University, and am now funded by a Marie Skłodowska-Curie Fellowship for two more years. Even when compared to these historically renowned places, I think that MFPL has many locally underappreciated qualities to export; for instance, here I coordinate a departmental seminar series and symposia inspired by those at MFPL. Running them is hard but in a few years it will certainly pay off. I am often at the MFPL and the Warren lab, looking for feedback on my current research or something new to learn.

Tina Köstler

I started my scientific career at the MFPL when Arndt von Haeseler (CIBIV) accepted me as a diploma student in 2008. This was directly after an internship at the Stockholm Bioinformatics Center where I gained my first experiences in the field of evolutionary biology. I enjoyed working at the CIBIV and became more and more interested in sequence evolution. I therefore decided to continue research and started as a PhD student where I for example developed an algorithm to identify proteins in different species that share the same function. I finished my PhD 2012, but stayed for another year as a postdoc before I chose to move away from academia. I am now working as a Bioinformatics scientist at Exosome Diagnostics – a US based startup company in Munich. Exosomes are microvesicles containing RNA, DNA and proteins and are therefore powerful messengers that are released by all cells into biofluids. We develop diagnostic tests by analyzing the footprint of cells covered in exosomes.

Markus Kubicek

I studied Molecular Genetics at the University of Vienna, and joined the lab of Reiner Prohaska for my diploma thesis, where I got a profound training in protein biochemistry. For my PhD thesis, I joined the laboratory of Manuela Baccarini where I gained extensive experience in cell signaling. Later I was able to combine my excitement for both protein chemistry and cell signaling during a Marie-Curie funded post-doctoral stay in the laboratory of Vicente Andres at the CSIC in Valencia, Spain. Here I also started applying proteomic techniques to cardiovascular research.

Fascinated by the concept of studying not only single molecules but to assess the state of potentially all proteins in a particular pathologic situation, I happily accepted the offer to run my own proteomics research group at the Department of Laboratory Medicine at the Medical University of Vienna.

My academic career came to an end in 2010 when I joined the Austrian Science Fund (FWF) as a scientific project officer in the fields of biomedical research. It was not an easy decision to leave the bench, but to me it was the right move. I like the saying “once a scientist, always a scientist” and am glad that I continue to be so tightly connected to academic research. I can help move the horizons of scientific knowledge by facilitating funding decisions for highly competitive projects. 

Anne Kupczok

I studied Bioinformatics in Jena, Germany, and then chose to pursue my PhD in the group of Prof. Arndt von Haeseler at the Center for Integrative Bioinformatics Vienna (CIBIV). As I aimed to deepen my theoretical background, my PhD studies focused on method development in the field of phylogenetics. Additionally, I was involved in collaborations with biologists and medical scientists. I was thus able to acquire various skills in method development and in data analysis. After completing my PhD, I went to IST Austria and joined the group of Asst. Prof. Jonathan Bollback for a PostDoc position. There, I studied microbial genomics and in particular the evolution of the bacterial immune system CRISPR/Cas. Currently, I am a PostDoc in the Genomic Microbiology group of Prof. Tal Dagan at Kiel University. Both of these groups are composed of experimental and computational scientists. I am interested in the genetic heterogeneity present in bacteria and phage populations, which can be deciphered using metagenomics data. Thus, I switched from comparing different species using phylogenetics methods to studying the diversity inside species using population genetics approaches. I am involved in several collaborations with experimental scientists from other research groups. Both the theoretical knowledge and the ability to collaborate, are two basic tools that I acquired during my PhD, and prepared me well for my scientific career in bioinformatics.

Alexander Lorenz

After studying Botany and Genetics in Vienna and Cologne, I gladly accepted the opportunity Josef Loidl offered me in 1999 to study for a PhD in Genetics on the nuclear architecture in Saccharomyces cerevisiae. Before finishing my PhD in 2003, Josef and I developed a project on Schizosaccharomyces pombe meiosis to fund me staying on in his lab as a postdoc. During this exciting project we demonstrated the evolutionary conservation of meiosis-specific chromosome axis components. My successful and enjoyable time in Josef’s lab taught me the importance of reproducibility studies and also allowed me to pursue my own research ideas with a healthy measure of independence. In 2005, I secured an FWF Erwin-Schrödinger-Fellowship and moved on to Oxford to study molecular mechanisms of meiotic recombination with Matthew Whitby. I stayed in Oxford until 2013 when I got offered a lectureship at the University of Aberdeen, where I also received tenure in 2016. Currently, my lab studies how meiotic recombination outcome is regulated by genetic and influenced by environmental factors.

Dana Matzen

I started my scientific career at the MFPL in 2002 when Manuela Baccarini accepted me as a PhD student in her lab. I was fortunate to work on B-Raf knockout mouse models in her lab. After completing my thesis in 2006 I went to the UCSF comprehensive cancer center as postdoc to work on B-Raf V600E in Martin McMahon’s lab supported by a Genentech fellowship for outstanding research. In 2008 I decided to leave the bench for the business side, accepting an offer from L.E.K. Consulting to work as a Life science specialist, first in London and then in Los Angeles. After this strategy consulting role I moved to Montreal, Canada to join Paladin Labs, a specialty pharma company where I am the Associate Director of Business Development. Here I focus mainly on licensing late stage therapeutics for the Canadian market, but interestingly one of my recent agreements was with Vienna Biocenter based Aperion Biologics AG, where we obtained the commercial rights to APN-311, a novel biologic in late stage development to treat neuroblastoma.

Katrin Meissl

I obtained my initial scientific training in Manuela Baccarini’s group studying kinase-independent functions of c-Raf. As part of an international group that was motivating, inspiring and supportive, but also challenging and critical, I could learn and grow. After I completed my PhD in 2008, I got the chance to join the group of Daniel Peeper at the Netherlands Cancer Institute in Amsterdam. One focus of the group is oncogene-induced senescence in neavus and related melanoma development. My aim was to identify tumour suppressor genes with the help of shRNA screens in vivo. It was an amazing experience to see how challenging questions could be addressed, and it was also useful to learn how to recognise and overcome experimental limitations. After four years back in Vienna I was sure I wanted to do science in an academic setting. I was presented with a great chance - a Post-doc position in the group of Birgit Strobl at the Veterinary University Vienna. Embedded in a big JAK-STAT community in Vienna, my work now focuses on STAT1 isoforms and their specific functions in the context of cancer immunoediting - connecting two very interesting topics immunology and cancer research.

Marco Antonio Mendoza Parra

I joined MFPL in 2003 as a PhD student in the lab of Franz Klein. During this period I got interested in understanding the yeast chromosomes’s organization and its interplay with meiotic recombination. For this reason, I joined the team of K. Shirahige at the Tokyo Institute of Technology in June 2005 for getting trained in the use of chromatin immunoprecipitation combined with microarrays hybridization (ChIP-chip). This collaboration represents a major reference in my scientific path because it opened my mind towards the use of global approaches for studying biological systems. In 2008, I joined Hinrich Gronemeyer (IGBMC, France) to address, during a post-doctoral training, the role of the RAR/RXR nuclear receptors in the process of Retinoids-induced cell differentiation. I worked on the setup of ChIP-sequencing and related assays from the wet-lab, but also from the data processing. Notably, in 2013 I made available the largest worldwide collection of quality grades assessed over public ChIP-seq assays ( Thanks to this and other contributions I was recruited in 2013 by the French National Center for Scientific Research (CNRS) as permanent research scientist. While as part of my current projects I do not have a direct connection to MFPL, I would be more than glad to establish fruitful collaborations in the future.

Birgit Nikolay

I started my career in molecular biology at the MFPL with Prof Marcela Hermann investigating the lipoprotein metabolism in chicken. After my master studies, I developed a very strong interest in infectious disease research and I travelled to Senegal for an internship in molecular virology with Dr Amadou Sall at the Institut Pasteur de Dakar. Supported by Prof Tim Skern as my supervisor, I applied for a PhD fellowship to return to Senegal and to investigate the transmission cycle and phylogeny of Usutu virus, a mosquito-borne flavivirus. Since then I have been fascinated by the research on infectious disease transmission and its application to disease control. I enrolled for the MSc Control of infectious diseases at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine (LSHTM) to obtain also a background in epidemiology, statistics and public health and I am now working at the LSHTM investigating the epidemiology of helminth infections. I continued the collaboration with Prof Skern until recently and I always like to come to the MFPL during my home visits to discuss with my previous supervisors and colleagues.

Daniela Piazzolla

With a degree in Biology from the University of Milan, I joined the laboratory of Prof. Baccarini at the MFPL and obtained my PhD at the University of Vienna in 2005. Under her motivating guidance, I studied the Raf/MEK/ERK signal transduction pathway, whose alteration has been associated with human diseases including cancer, and contributed to the identification of novel functions of Raf-1.
After a short post-doc at the MFPL, I joined Dr. Manuel Serrano’s laboratory at the Spanish National Cancer Research Centre, supported by an EMBO post-doctoral long term fellowship. There, I studied the impact of genes involved in stem cell determination in ageing and cancer.
I always considered the translation of the scientific knowledge into products and services for the society to be of utmost importance. To complement my scientific expertise with business management skills, I completed an Executive Programme offered by the IE Business School in 2013.
Since 2014, I am a manager at the Science and Technology Transfer Unit of the Botín Foundation, Spain’s largest private non-profit foundation. I now support the identification and commercialization of inventions in the fields of biomedicine and the creation of biotech companies, with the aim of contributing to socio-economic development.

Andreas Pilz

I started my academic career in Vienna studying Microbiology and realized early on my fascination with the immune system. During my Master and PhD thesis in the laboratory of Thomas Decker I focused on type I interferons and their influence on immune cells. As a Postdoc I had a very fruitful Collaboration with Intercell on Adjuvants, which steered me in the direction of vaccine research. In 2008 I joined Baxter as a Research Scientist and soon after lead my own team. We successfully developed, validated and performed preclinical and clinical assays contributing to the development of vaccines against Borrelia, TBE and influenza. In 2014 I joined as Head of R&D Origimm Biotechnology, a startup company developing a vaccine against acne. Me and my team are responsible for all internal and external research from discovery to preclinical and clinical development of our lead vaccine. My time at MFPL prepared me well for the challenges in the world of Immunological research both on a scientific and personal level. Many of my MFPL colleagues became friends, co-workers and trusted collaborators.

Norbert Polacek

My time at the MFPL started in 1995 when I joined the group of Andrea Barta for my diploma and subsequent PhD thesis. This was also the time when I got heavily in contact with RNA research at the Vienna Biocenter, a topic that has never ceased to fascinate me ever since. After completing my thesis on the structural dynamics of translating ribosomes in 2000, I left the MFPL and moved to Chicago for a postdoc working on ribosomal catalysis. In 2003 I returned to Austria and started my own research group at the Medical University of Innsbruck. While still continuing doing ribosome-related research I gradually embraced also other aspects of RNA biology in my research. This process was significantly stimulated by the START award from the FWF (2007) and the GEN-AU initiative (2009), which actually enabled me to re-connect to several MFPL RNA scientists including my Viennese mentors Andrea Barta and Reneé Schroeder. In 2012 I left Innsbruck to become a professor for biochemistry at the University of Bern.

Dieter Pullirsch

In 2000, I started my scientific career at the Vienna Biocenter in the laboratory of Reinhold Hofbauer. During my master thesis I worked on angiogenesis in cancer and cardiomyopathy. After my PhD in the laboratory of Anton Wutz at the IMP (X chromosome inactivation, heterochromatin and stem cell differentiation) and a short postdoc position at the Institut Pasteur, Paris, (cellular senescence) I returned to the MFPL and joined the laboratory of Michael Jantsch to study adenosine to inosine RNA editing. Basic research was fascinating but I always knew that at one point, I would like to move on to a more application-oriented and practical field. Therefore, in 2010 I joined the Austrian Agency for Health and Food Safety (AGES). I started at the Official Medicines Control Laboratory (OMCL) of the Austrian Medicines and Medical Devices Agency, which is part of the AGES. My main responsibilities are testing of plasma pools and official control authority batch release of plasma-derived medicinal products and of vaccines ( My current position is deputy head of the department “Analytics of Biological Medicinal Products”. I definitely had a great time at the VBC and will always retain fond memories.

Bartek Tarkowski

In 2012, almost a year after I graduated from the VBC International PhD Program, I started my post-doc at the IIMCB in Warsaw in Jacek Jaworski lab thanks to the generous grant from the Polish National Science Center. As in Manuela Baccarini’s lab, I am still using genetic mouse models, but this time I am trying to create some of my own. To achieve this, I am using the Cas9 enzyme described few years ago just across the corridor on the MFPL's 4th floor by Chyliński and others from Emmanuelle Charpentier's lab. Hopefully soon I'll be able to use these models to answer some biological questions in the field of developmental neuroscience. For now, I am dividing my time between the lab, my family that increased by one member almost 2 years ago, and some IT courses that I do over the internet to boost my professional skill set.

Ivo Vojtek

Shortly after qualifying as a pharmacist, I was given a unique opportunity by Udo Bläsi to enhance my expertise in the field of microbiology and genetics at the MFPL. Later, I completed my dissertation on interactions between S. pyogenes and their bacteriophages, as one of the first students of Emmanuelle Charpentier.
My career within the pharmaceutical industry started with oncology clinical research in the UK, where I learned about how to collaborate with key opinion leaders to address gaps in access to treatment of rare conditions. During this time, I also became a Fellow of the Royal Society of Medicine and a member of the Special Interest Group at the Institute of Clinical Research.
After my stay in the UK, I relocated to France, where I had the opportunity to continue my work in the field of biologicals in late phase clinical development for various clients, including Wyeth. All my experiences were ideal for my next position as Clinical Scientist at GSK Vaccines in Belgium. There, I became part of a cutting-edge cancer vaccine development program aimed at therapeutic vaccines.
After several years of clinical development, I became increasingly interested in fostering dialogue between industry, health care professionals and public health stakeholders and joined the Global Medical Affairs team at GSK Vaccines, focusing first on the development of pneumococcal vaccines. Later, I joined the Above Brand team which addresses a wide variety of vaccination topics from a perspective across GSK vaccine portfolio and is active in educational and research activities.
Looking back at my years at the MFPL in Vienna I have come to recognize, that it was not just the knowledge that helped me in my career, but also the way of thinking through projects. The approach to solving problems encountered along that journey accompanied me ever since then.

Albert Weixlbaumer

My scientific career started at the MFPL in a very supportive environment: Renée Schroeder accepted me as a diploma student and I discovered my love for RNA. To understand the chemical aspects of biology, I joined Venki Ramakrishnan’s group at the LMB in Cambridge, UK as a PhD student. I was fortunate because this was a truly eye opening experience. In his lab I solved crystal structures of functional ribosomal complexes, which had implications for decoding, ribosome recycling and termination of translation. I then moved to the Rockefeller University in New York as an HFSP postdoctoral fellow and joined Seth Darst’s lab to work on transcriptional pausing. Along with biochemistry several crystal structures provide insights into this process and have implications for transcription termination. I recently started my own lab at the IGBMC in Strasbourg, France, where my team will combine biochemistry and structural biology to study how transcription is regulated. I always stayed connected to the MFPL through Renée and I am happy that our paths are crossing due to our shared interest in RNA regulators targeting RNA polymerase.

Nikolai Windbichler

I joined Renee Schroeder's lab at the Vienna Biocenter in 2000. I studied how the HIV RNA genome dimerizes and small non-coding RNAs in bacteria for my Masters and my PhD theses. Renee’s lab was like a playground and she gave everyone the freedom to follow their interests and make all the beautiful mistakes you need to make to learn and grow. These were the times before funders started fetishizing translation, we had little pressure and lots of fun. In 2006 I relocated to London as a Postdoc at Imperial College to work on developing genetic tricks that may eventually be used to control insect pests or vectors of human diseases such as the malaria mosquito. We generated genes that cheat during meisois e.g. so that male mosquitoes would produce exclusively sons. These technologies continue to be developed by a consortium and will be tested in the field. In 2013 I received an ERC starting grant and decided to follow my interest in synthetic biology. My group at Imperial works on generating entirely synthetic gene networks and artificial reproductive barriers.

Michael Wong

I studied neurobiology and chemistry at the University of Pennsylvania and first came to the MFPL as a VBC summer student in 2013 for an electrophysiology project studying the response of rod cells to single photons. After graduating, I returned to Dr. Alipasha Vaziri’s lab in 2014, helping with the vision project and working on characterizing a novel microscopy method. After leaving, I took a job at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in the radiation biophysics lab. Here, I study the effects of space radiation and microgravity on humans and cultured tissue. Combining studies on the ISS done in collaboration with astronauts and ground based models we have reported on changes in gene expression, DNA repair, and signatures of DNA damage from cosmic rays. Finally, in 2015 what began as a collaboration with Boeing led myself and two others to start our biotech company Spectraserve using a new method for detecting cancer tissue around surgical margins in human patients.