Josef Penninger receives CEE Innovation Award

April 25, 2017

Vienna, April 25th 2017 For his extraordinary scientific achievements and his international pioneering role in genetics and cancer research Josef Penninger, Scientific Director of IMBA (Austrian Institute of Molecular Biotechnology of the Austrian Academy of Sciences) was awarded the second CEE Innovation Award.

Laudator Reinhold Mitterlehner presents the CEE Innovation Award to Josef Penninger

In a festive ceremony that took place on April 24th  in the Austrian National Library laudator Reinhold Mitterlehner, Vice Chancellor and Federal Minister of Science, Research and Economy, presented the  CEE Innovation Award 2017 to Josef Penninger.
In 2016 the first CEE Innovation Award was awarded to Christian Kern for his position as CEO of the state-owned Austrian Federal Railways shortly before being appointed as Austrian Chancellor. Initiated by Atos, a European IT services corporation, in 2015 the CEE Innovation Award Award is dedicated to the topic of innovation in the sectors public and healthcare.

It is awarded annually to CEO's of companies in CEE countries, Austria, Italy and Switzerland. Together with Atos, a jury designates the nominees and subsequently decides on the winner, assessing the nominees’ innovative activities of the past two years on the basis of predefined criteria.

Penninger accentuates importance of Life Science Hub Vienna  
Josef Penninger was deeply honored to receive the CEE Innovator Award and emphasizes  the role of Vienna´s hub for life sciences bridging Eastern and Western Europe. “We are happy that IMBA can attract excellent scientists from all over the world. The prospect of working in a vibrant scientific environment with access to a top-notch infrastructure in the heart of Europe is particularly appealing to many research talents from the Eastern Countries. New technologies in the field of life sciences have tremendous potential for research and modern medicine. Considering that the human genome was only deciphered 15 years ago the pace of biomedical innovation has accelerated significantly since then. We hope that our findings will help to tackle societal challenges like cancer,diabetes, cardiovascular and neurodegenerative diseases by paving the way for new therapies.”

Research achievements of Josef Penninger
In the course of his outstanding research career, Josef Penninger has always been driven to unveil the molecular mechanisms that underlie a range of common human disorders, to explore possible therapeutic targets and treatments, and discusses new technologies and resources to study disease mechanisms.

His major accomplishments include the discovery that the RANKL protein is the primary regulator for osteoporosis, and he was able to pinpoint the link between RANKL and the drastically increased risk of breast cancer associated with taking synthetic sex hormones, for example during hormone replacement therapy. New findings also show that genetically determined breast cancer can be largely prevented by blocking a bone gene. An already approved drug could be quickly available and would then be the first breast cancer prevention drug – a milestone in breast cancer research. Recently his team could contribute exciting findings in the field of immunotherapy and show that a inhibition of protein CBLB protects from lethal fungal sepsis.

About Josef Penninger
Josef Penninger was born in Gurten, Upper Austria, in 1964. He moved to Canada in 1990 after receiving his doctoral degree in medicine from the University of Innsbruck. There he worked as a post-doctoral researcher at the Ontario Cancer Institute at Princess Margaret Hospital before becoming an assistant professor, and later a full professor, at the University of Toronto. In 2002 he answered the call of the Austrian Academy of Sciences to come to Vienna to establish the IMBA – Institute of Molecular Biotechnology. The IMBA started operations in 2003. The aim of the research institute is to conduct basic research in the fields of molecular biology and medicine, shed light on molecular processes in cells and organisms, and identify underlying causes of various illnesses. Twelve research groups address issues in the fields of RNA biology, cell biology, stem cells, cancer, and infectious diseases.

The Vienna Biocenter in the third district of Vienna has established itself as the premier location for life sciences in Central Europe and is a world-leading international bio-medical research center.


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