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Long live life science!

What an anniversary celebration: the biotech industry turned out in force for the 20th Life Science

Held from 23-25 May, the 20th Life Science Meeting brought together some of the leading lights from the biotech sector, with industry, teaching and research all well represented. And lots of IMC alumni travelled from far and wide to attend the event. Once an IMC grad, always an IMC grad. This unique spirit was an integral part of the Life Science Meeting over the course of the three days. This year’s event focused on regenerative medicine as well as medical and pharmaceutical biotechnology – a broad field of research that will unlock various opportunities for society, as well as providing numerous jobs in the future. And graduates of the Medical and Pharmaceutical Biotechnology degree programme are in a prime position to fill these posts. “A bachelor degree in this subject opens lots of doors,” explained degree programme director Prof. Harald Hundsberger. 

How to found a biotech startup? "You have to step out of line and dare", finds Dr. Elisa Arthofer; (c) Pamela Schmatz

The courage to do things differently

From research into arthritis and bone transplants to founding cancer therapy start-ups: IMC students were able to pick up a host of new insights at the Life Science Meeting. From Dr Elisa Arthofer, for instance, whose talk was titled How to launch a biotech start-up in 365 days. An IMC graduate, Arthofer is just about to do precisely that – in summer she will establish a start-up that is set to branch out in completely new directions in cancer therapy research. “We’ve deliberately phrased the question we want to answer loosely: in an ideal case, what do we need to cure this type of cancer? That’s completely different to the usual approach to research.” The entrepreneur had another tip for students: “You have to do things differently to everyone else and step outside of your comfort zone. That’s the key to finding many opportunities.”

IMC Krems: a biotech research hot spot 

The line-up of high-profile speakers from industry and research is what sets the Life Science Meeting apart from other events. And it’s something that gives students an overview of the careers open to them, as well as the opportunity to forge new contacts. Including with the Orth an der Donau campus, where the Center for Innovative Biopharmaceutical Technologies is located. But Krems itself is also the focal point for many biotech careers. The town is home to Europe’s largest tissue bank, the Cells + Tissuebank Austria. At the Life Science Meeting, its director spoke about her current research on bone transplantation, which IMC student Adrian Lendvai is involved in. The event highlighted just how many regenerative medicine research projects IMC Krems is currently participating in. And the same goes for basic research into different forms of cancer, where a team headed by Dr Rita Seeböck of St. Pölten University Hospital, and Prof. Gerda Egger, Associate Prof. Wolfgang Mikulits and Associate Prof. Mario Mikula of the Medical University of Vienna are investigating the question of how cancer cells develop resistance to chemotherapy – the research is being carried out in cooperation with Dr Harald Hundsberger of IMC Krems.

30 countries, one degree programme

Internationalisation at home is one of IMC Krems’ guiding principles. And as if to prove it, speakers from 15 different countries attended the event at the university in yet another example of how people can share ideas with virtually the whole world in the heart of Krems. Generally speaking, that’s one of the advantages of a biotech degree, according to Prof. Barbara Entler: “Our students come from all over the world – Egypt, Spain, China. At the moment, we have students from 30 countries on the Medical and Pharmaceutical Biotechnology programme.” IMC Krems’ excellent reputation proceeds it – and across international borders, too. Many foreign students decide to come to Krems following word-of-mouth recommendations. But internationalisation also works well in the other direction: “Many students use the compulsory internship as an opportunity to spend time abroad,” Barbara Entler pointed out. An exchange semester at one of the partner universities in the Netherlands, Sweden or Ireland is another popular choice. Students on the master programme can study for a double degree from IMC Krems and Linköping University in Sweden. 
The Life Science Meeting also gives biotech companies and research institutes the chance to show off their credentials as prospective employers. This was the reason why Prof. Hanna Taipaleenmäki from Munich’s Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität decided to attend: “University research is a path that’s definitely worth considering. That’s what I want to highlight here. And what does it take? Self-discipline and a good dose of curiosity.”

Awards for outstanding achievements

The awards presented during the annual Life Science Meeting are among the highlights on the schedule. Prof. Wolfgang Schütt was named Honorary President of the Meeting, while this year’s Practical Training Semester (PTS) Award went to Emily Patrasso, whose research at Northwestern University in Illinois, USA, looked at RNA modification in liver tumours. It’s another piece in the cancer research puzzle. “Lots of these little parts of the jigsaw help us to take the next step forward,” said Barbara Entler, summing up. 
How do you get a biotech start-up off the ground? “You have to do things differently to everyone else and step outside of your comfort zone,” said Dr Elisa Arthofer