The initiative to found a new Ludwig Boltzmann Institute for Cancer Research was started in 2004 and successfully accomplished in September 2005. Originally, the Ludwig Boltzmann Society initiated a reform process to consolidate their portfolio with the goal to found bigger research units. In response to their first call a consortium of young researchers from the Institute of Molecular Pathology, Medical University Vienna and Biocenter Basel formed a team to explore new ground in cancer research.
They developed a research application in cooperation with the Medical University Vienna, Institute of Molecular Pathology, Children’s Cancer Research Institute and the company TissueGnostics GmbH, which was favourably evaluated by international experts and accepted in December 2004 as one out of six new Ludwig Boltzmann Institutes.
Today the research work of the LBI-CR continues to be conducted in close collaboration with research groups from Austria and abroad in an effort to support clinically relevant cancer research with animal models. Currently more than 30 researchers within 5 research teams led by the key researchers Emilio Casanova, Florian Grebien, Lukas Kenner, Richard Moriggl and Dagmar Stoiber are performing research towards the overall goal: to establish and investigate novel animal models for cancer research.
The LBI-CR continues to produce outstanding science and to compete successfully for external funds, including the FWF, ERC and Horizon2020.
The income of the LBI-CR has continued to grow since its foundation, mainly due to the succesful acquisition of third party grants, which is expected to make an even more significant contribution to the institute's budget in the remaining years.
Measures of Scientific Quality
Several output measures are used to assess the quality of research institutions, which includes the number of publications, their quality as measured by impact factors and the amount of external funds attracted by the researchers. According to all these measures the LBI-CR is performing stably on a significantly high level.
The number of publications in 2015 reached an all time high with 34 per reviewed publications of an impact factor > 3 and maintained this level in 2016.
The cumulative impact factor of the research publications peaked in 2015 with more than 300 and remains at a considerable level in 2016.
The average impact factors/ publications of 8.9 remains a strong indicator of the sustained high quaity of the institute's research output.
Third party funding remains a major output parameter and determines career perspectives of individual researchers. With the acquisition of an ERC grant by Florian Grebien in 2014 an important achievement was reaches, even more so as this constitutes the first ERC grant within the LBG. In 2016 the funds acquired by the instute's key researchers exceeded 1.6 M€, which constitutes an all time high.
Third party funding has been continuously rising throughout the existence of the LBI-CR despite the increasingly competitive situation and is expected to remain close to 600.000 € annually for the forthcoming years based on the currently available third party grants.In 2016 the contribution of external grants to the institute's budget reached for the first time 30%, an important benchmark for the performance of research institutes.
Some of the most important highlights of the institute's development throughout the years
June 2015 is the official start date of the ERC starting grant "ONCOMECHAML" of Dr. Grebien. It is the first ERC Grant, for a researcher at the Ludwig Boltzmann Gesellschaft. With the aid of EUR 1.5 million funding Dr. Grebien will expand his research programme, which he founded in January 2014 with the support of the Institute. The LBG will pay 30 % of the grant as a performance related bonus, which was arranged in a separate agreement to support the successful initiation of EU-funded projects.
In 2015 Emilio Casanova, Richard Moriggl and Lukas Kenner held their inaugural lectures at the Medical University Vienna to celebrate their endowed professorships.
International Research Projects funded by Horizon2020
In 2015 researchers from the LBI-CR were particularly successful to attract funding for their research from the European Unions frame work programme Horizon2020. Despite the intense competition the proposal for a European Tranining Network entitled "ALKATRAS" was funded, which is coordinated by the University of Cambridge. In addition the Research and Innovation Action EAVI2020, which constitutes a flagship initiative in HIV research to overcome bottlenecks in vaccine development against the virus.
Lukas Kenner participates in the ALKATRAS ETN, which encompasses scientists, clinicians and industrial partners with appropriate experience to translate findings to the clinic as evidenced in publications arising from the ERIA network. In particular, as well as investigating the therapeutic efficacy of ALK inhibitors, we will also investigate vaccination protocols and their synergistic effects with standard therapies. This will be achieved using a number of novel murine models of ALK-induced malignancies and then adapted to a human scenario. A PhD student will be recruited to the LBICR to explore under the supervision of Lukas Kenner alternative pathways that can be used as drug targets in ALCL. We will aim to identify kinases that are activated in ALCL and clarify the role of miR-155 which is highly expressed in ALCL ALK-. Moreover, TYK2 and miR-155 might regulate genes which might serve as drug targets for ALCL patients without ALK translocation and could also benefit relapsed ALCL ALK+ patients.
Emilio Casanova contributes to EAVI2020, which received more than 20 M€ funding by Horizon2020 to provide a platform for the discovery and selection of several new, diverse and novel preventive and/or therapeutic vaccine candidates for HIV/AIDS. Emphasis will be placed on early rapid, iterative, small experimental medicine (EM) human vaccine studies to select and refine the best immunogens, adjuvants, vectors, homologous and heterologous prime–boost schedules, and determine the impact of host factors such as gender and genetics. Animal models will be used to complement human studies, and to select novel immunization technologies to be advanced to the clinic. To shift the “risk curve” in product development we will develop innovative risk prediction methods, specifically designed to reduce the risk associated with late stage preventive or therapeutic vaccine failure, increasing the chance of discovery of an effective vaccine. Within the consortium the LBI-CR is responsible to generate appropriate BAC vectors to express specified HIV antigens in CHO cell lines harboring modified glycosylation pathways and helper proteins to improve HIV antigen production and quality. Emilio Casanova has extensive expertise in the generation and use of murine disease models and has recently been designing Bacterial Artificial Chromosome (BAC)-based expression vectors for a highly efficient recombinant protein production in CHO cells, which will be crucial to facilitate a cost effective vaccine production.
Interuniversity Platform for "Comparative Pathology"
The institute initiated a histopathology platform at the VetMedUni, which is now fully operational and supported by considerable equipment as well as personnel investment by the university. Collaboration with TissueGnostics and their technology software tools allows for digital pathology, results and data are stored in clinical databases to get information and metadata with subsequent study results are connectable. This set-up therefore provides access to extensive histological analysis, immunostaining and fluorescence is now available through the LBI-CR as core of an inter-university platform integration the expertise of all key researchers. This platform is essential for the sustainable integration of the institute's expertise into the universities.
External Evaluation 2015
The Ludwig Boltzmann Gesellschaft (LBG) invited with Prof. Dr. Gerard Evan (Head of Department of Biochemistry, University of Cambridge, UK, and chair), Prof. Dr. Aly Karsan (Department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine, University of British Columbia; Medical Director, Centre for Clinical Genomics, Michael Smith Genome Sciences Centre, BC Cancer Agency, Vancouver, Canada), Prof. Dr. Achim Leutz (Head of the Group Cell Differentiation and Tumorigenesis, Max Delbrück Center for Molecular Medicine, Berlin, Germany) and Dr. Christine Petry (Programme Director, Research Centers, Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft, Bonn, Germany) an international team of experts to Castle Seggau, Leibnitz on November 10-11, 2015 in order to evaluate the performance of the Ludwig Boltzmann Institute for Cancer Research since its extension in 2010.
To prepare for this evaluation the LBI-CR provided a concise report about its activities from 2011 to 2014. Moreover, the LBG generated a comprehensive set of questions that served the evaluation panel as terms of reference. The evaluators had the opportunity to discuss in separate meetings with the directors and research manager, key researchers, scientific staff, scientific advisory board as well as partner representatives.
The evaluation panel concluded that the LBI-CR developed into an important center of excellence for mechanistic cancer research since its foundation also due to the visionary funding of this Institute by the Ludwig-Boltzmann-Gesellschaft, the institutes leadership and scientific projects that were chosen to be conducted. The model expertise within this institute provides a very unique contribution to the scientific landscape in Austria and more importantly on an international level, which is confirmed by several independent high ranking publications with significant citations. The scientific performance is facilitated by the contribution of the institute’s Partners. Overall, the progress and quality of work done at the institute was judged as impressive and further funding was strongly recommended
Invitation for the inaugural lecture of Prof. Lukas Kenner and Richard Moriggl at the Vetmeduni
Maintaining critical mass at the Institute after the move of personnel to fixed university structures in recent years and with the end of the first seven years of the LBG funding period was a major concern. Thus, investment for a junior group was high on the institute´s agenda. With the appointment of Dr. Florian Grebien such a junior group could be attracted in 2013 and became operational in spring 2014. Dr. Grebien contributes a complementary research program in acute myeloid leukemia (AML), which is based on many modern methodologies. This appointment was made possible through a financial commitment by the LBG to co-finance future externally funded project grants of Dr. Grebien. The high expecteations set into Dr. Grebien proved valid, when in November 2014 the European Research Council notified the institute that his bid for a prestigious ERC Starting Grant was successful. This is the first ERC grant ever awarded to the LBG and provides evidence of the high quality research environment the LBI-Cr has established.
The team of Florian Grebien (left) in 2014 with Luisa Schmidt, Anna Skucha and Johannes Schmöllerl
With POLYMUN Scientific Immunbiologische Forschung GmbH a new commercial partner committed itself to invest in the research of the LBI-CR. This cooperation was initiated and was formerly financially supported in part by the Austrian Research Promotion Agency (FFG) through the bridge project "BAC-based Expression System Technology" (829611). After completion of this FFg-funded project Emilio Casanova was financially supported to carry on the development of protein production technologies based on BAC expression systems. Since 2015 this research activity is finacially supported by EAVI2020 research programme within Horizon2020.
Richard Moriggl participates in two highly prestigious SFB initiatives funded by the Austrian Science Fund (FWF):
Maintaining its scientific expertise for the Austrian research environment was major objective for the LBI-CR. With the establishment of three LBG-funded endowed chairs placed in context of cutting edge translational cancer research, the LBI-CR met this goal. The Medical University of Vienna and University of Veterinary Medicine advertised according to international criteria three Chairs for “Laboratory Animal Pathology“, “Translational Methods in Cancer Research“, as well as “Transgenic Models in Cancer Research“. After a hearing process, Richard Moriggl, Lukas Kenner and Emilio Casanova were listed primo loco for the respective positions. All three researchers have significantly developed their expertise in the relevant areas in their time at the LBI-CR to ensure their successful application.
Therefore the academic excellence of the LBI-CR is integrated into the two Partner universities beyond the funding period for the LBI-CR. The institute in this case serves as a bridge between the various Partners. Their highly trained scientists can continue their career at a research environment being integrated at the university level. This makes an important contribution to ensure scientific talent is maintained in Austria, as Josef Pröll, President of the LBG stated: "The LBG is working hard to stop the brain drain from Austria".
This year saw the publication of two highly significant publications in Nature Methods and Nature Medicine, which provide strong evidence about the scientific quality of our research.
During tumor progression initially epithelial carcinoma cells, which display distinct polarisation features, adopt a migratory phenotype.
An external evaluation provided a highly positive report about the LBI-CR, which supported a second period of funding by the LBG until 2019. This second funding period was initiated at the end of 2012.
The national GEN-AU Genome research programme funded two network grants with participation of research teams of the LBI-CR entitled Austromouse and Inflammabiota.
The University of Veterinary Medicine joined the LBI-CR and Partners as an institutional member.
Through support of the LBG the LBI-CR ensured sponsoring from a private foundation for melanoma research.
Genetically modified mice have become a key tool to investigate the complexities of cancer in suitable murine models mimicking specific aspects of tumors in vivo.
The large network grant SFB F28 Jak-Stat Signalling: from Basics to Disease was launched with participation of two research teams of the LBI-CR.
The LBI-CR was launched at September 1, 2005 and with the support of five partner institutions, the LBG and the guidance of an international scientific advisory board it has since mounted an internationally competitive research programme. A string of significant research publications and financial support from competitive research grants provide strong evidence for the quality of our research. In the first funding period the financial means provided by the LBG was complemented by more than 2.75 M€ through third party grants from the FWF, FP7, FFG and other sources. Already during the first funding period the institute participated in one SFB and a successful discovery in the treatment of lymphomas was patented and licensed to an Austrian biotech company with support by the MUW.
Anaplastic Large Cell Lymphoma stained for the surface marker CD30 (green) and PDGFRB (red).