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Life Sciences ‚Made in Austria’ – successfully linked research and practice

The fight against cancer is one of the major challenges of our times. However, recent studies fortunately offer hope, especially with regard to the chances of survival. Without doubt, one reason for these positive perspectives is the intense research being carried out. Austria is making a valuable contribution and has been carrying out internationally acclaimed cancer research for a long time. The underlying recipe for success is the close intermeshing of this scientific research with practical treatment.

Strong research centers with international appeal

For example, the competence center Oncotyrol in Innsbruck works with Austrian and international partners on transferring personalized cancer medicine from the laboratory to people’s hospital beds. The Institute for Cancer Research of the Medical University of Vienna is one of Austria’s leading cancer research facilities. It has enjoyed so much success due to its proximity to Vienna General Hospital, amongst other reasons. Last May the Medical University of Vienna published a study on a cancer drug in collaboration with researchers from Germany and Hungary. It demonstrated the promising efficacy in treating malignant pleural cancer, which is a particularly fatal tumor. A new drug called Nintedanib prevents the growth of new blood vessels in the tumor and thus inhibits the supply of nutrients and oxygen.

Austria’s cancer medicine also owes its good reputation to Boehringer Ingelheim, one of the world’s 20 largest pharmaceutical companies, which operates three major research and development centers across the globe. One of them is the Regional Center Vienna which conducts cancer research as well as basic research at the Research Institute for Molecular Pathology. The German pharmaceutical group invested EUR 700 million in this research facility in 2017 alone. In addition, Boehringer Ingelheim announced plans in September 2018 to acquire a 100 percent stake in the Tyrolean biotech firm ViraTherapeutics at a cost of EUR 210 million, thus strengthening Austria as a research location with another large-scale investment. The start-up, a spin-off of the University of Innsbruck founded in 2013, specializes in virus-based cancer therapies and also boasts promising strategies. Cancer cells can become vulnerable and be destroyed with the help of viruses.

Support by a research-friendly government

On balance, Austria not only stands out in cancer medicine but generally in the field of life sciences, thanks to a large number of innovative research institutions which operate at the highest level from an international perspective. Not only outstanding universities and research centers but also companies and start-ups focusing on therapeutic, medical and diagnostic approaches as well as suppliers of key technologies combine to create a dynamic environment.

Political decision makers have provided incentives based on attractive research conditions. For years Austria has been in the top ranks when it comes to tax incentives for research. At the beginning of 2018, the research tax credit was even raised from twelve to fourteen percent. In the last two decades, the research ratio of gross research expenditures to GDP has climbed from 1.53 percent to the current level of 3.19 percent. Austria is among the few countries which have already outperformed the declared research policy objective of the EU of achieving a research ratio of three percent by the year 2020. This impetus is important, because ultimately it involves the health of people. It fills us with pride that Austrian research promotion is making a decisive contribution to the fight against cancer, and thus helps to save lives. 

Friedrich Schmidl

Director Northern Germany, Life Sciences
+43-1-588 58-22
f.schmidl@aba.gv.at

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