The winners were three biotechnology students who performed outstanding research during their internship, all in the field of medicine. From 3D-printed heart tissue to early diagnosis of liver cancer, Florian Richter, Klavdija Bastl and Mathias Binder were all involved in projects that could save lives in the future.
Helping people, extending lives: this is the motivation for many of the students enrolled on the Medical and Pharmaceutical Biotechnology degree programme. Klavdija Bastl, who took second place in the PTS Awards, is one of them: “The idea of being able to help people with the work I do is fantastic. This is my way of giving something back to the world.”
The trio told us about the focuses of their research in their own words. The interviews took place during the recent Life Science Meeting at IMC Krems.
All a matter of the heart
- First place went to Florian Richter, who produced heart tissue using a 3D printer
Title of the research project : 3D Bioprinted Vascularized Cardiac Spheroids: a Novel in vitro Model to study Heart Angiogenesis?
How do you print a heart? Tell us more about your internship.
I was at Sydney University where I was involved in research into the most effective ways to create 3D-printed heart tissue. I concentrated mainly on finding the most suitable material and the right bioink – it needs to be stable, but at the same time flexible as well.
What are the benefits of a heart produced using a 3D printer?
We work with the patient’s own tissue. This reduces the chances that the heart will be rejected by the body. We take some skin cells from the patient, use them to create stem cells and then code them as heart cells.
When will 3D-printed heart tissue be used for the first time?
Unfortunately, the heart is a complex thing, so it will take a while yet. Lots of factors need to come together for that to happen, but we’ve taken the first step.
When will stomach cancer be curable?
- Klavdija Bastl took second place for her study of the mechanisms behind stomach cancer
Title of the research project: Elucidating the physiology of KRAS-amplified gastric cancer
What was the focus of your research during the internship?
I investigated an aspect of stomach cancer. There are many different forms of this kind of cancer, and also a specific gene which I studied. If this gene mutates, gastric cancer can be treated effectively. But if it doesn’t mutate and multiplies instead, at the moment there’s no known cure for the cancer. I was interested in answering the question of why one kind of cancer is curable but another one isn’t. That’s what I worked on during my internship semester.
You’ve almost finished your bachelor degree at IMC Krems. Do you have any plans once you’ve graduated?
I’d like to do my master at another university, maybe in my home country of Slovenia. My long-term goal is to come back to IMC Krems sometime and teach here.
Early diagnosis of liver cancer
- Third prize was awarded to Matthias Binder for his basic research on liver cancer
Title of the research project: Detection and quantification of Gas6/soluble Axl complexes in human serum
You presented your findings at the Life Science Meeting. How does it feel to speak in front of such a distinguished audience?
You always take away so many impressions from the annual Life Science Meeting here at the university. You find out what’s happening in biotechnology all over the world. Obviously, it was an honour to be part of such a high-level group of speakers and to present my findings.
What did you work on during your internship?
I focused on the way in which you can identify and measure proteins in blood. I used a method called ELISA, which means enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay. This is basic research linked to the question of how liver cancer can be diagnosed earlier. The problem with this type of cancer is that it can only be recognised at a late stage. The sooner the condition is diagnosed, the more effectively it can be treated.
What are your plans after you’ve finished your bachelor degree?
I’ve already been accepted onto the master programme at IMC Krems. I’m delighted! I would like to do my next internship in industry – that means I’ll have an insight into research and industry, so then I can decide more easily what career path I would like to take. Nowadays, biotechnologists can work in industry and research, so all doors will be open to me. I think that’s great.