Institute of Molecular Biotechnology

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Institute of Molecular Biotechnology (IMBA)
Founded 1999
Headquarters Dr. Bohr-Gasse 3
1030 Vienna

The Institute of Molecular Biotechnology (IMBA) is an independent research organisation founded as a joint initiative of the Austrian Academy of Sciences in cooperation with the company Boehringer Ingelheim an international pharmaceutical company with headquarters in Germany. IMBA operates in close collaboration with the Research Institute of Molecular Pathology, Boehringer's basic research center both located next to each other at the Campus Vienna Biocenter (VBC).

Main Research Areas[edit]

IMBA’s vision is to understand the fundamental molecular mechanism in molecular biological processes and currently focus in cell biology, RNA interference, and epigenetics research performed by independent research groups. The topics actually addressed at the institute are:

  • Bones, Immunity and Cancer (Josef Penninger)
  • Epigenetic Regulation by the Polycomb and Trithorax group proteins (Leonie Ringrose)
  • The piRNA Pathway in the Drosophila Germline - an RNA based Genome Immune System (Julius Brennecke)
  • Mechanisms of RNA silencing in human cell (Javier Martínez)
  • Editing the Epigenome: Plasticity and Memory of Chromatin Structure (Oliver Bell)
  • Asymmetric cell division and proliferation control in Drosophila (Jürgen Knoblich)
  • RNA-directed DNA elimination in Tetrahymena (Kazufumi Mochizuki)
  • Design and function of molecular machines (Thomas Marlovits)
  • Mechanism and Biology of RNA Silencing (Stefan Ameres)
  • Cytoskeletal and membrane dynamics in cell division (Daniel Gerlich)
  • Inflammatory regulation by ubiquitin networks (Fumiyo Ikeda)
  • Molecular control of the oocyte-to-zygote transition (Kikue Tachibana-Konwalski)
  • Mechanisms underlying cell motility and guidance (Emeritus Group: Vic Small)

Core Facilities[edit]

IMBA services are shared with the Research Institute of Molecular Pathology (IMP) offer a state-of-the-art infrastructure for scientists who are dedicated to making a difference in biological molecular research. Services offered comprise the Bioinformatics department for sequence analysis, scientific data mining with hardware and software infrastructure. The BioOptics facility offers analytical flow cytometry, cell sorting and microscopy. The Genomics department, for DNA microarray services and next-generation sequencing devices. There is a protein chemistry department for mass spectrometry experiments. The Max Perutz Library provides information service for all literature needs. An animal house helps managing mice colonies, and other facilities include the service department, the workshop, and an art department.

Associated projects[edit]

The Vienna Drosophila RNAi Center (VDRC) is located at IMBA, and is available to researchers worldwide. It collects an RNAi library with above 22,000 Drosophila strains. The animal facility supervises care of mice and hosts the Austrian Network for Functional Mouse Genomics which focus on transgenic mouse technologies.

International PhD Program[edit]

The Campus Vienna Biocenter and the University of Vienna coordinate a high-standard international PhD program to training outstanding students who want to pursue a scientific career. The students are selected twice a year and are invited to Vienna for a week of interviews, where the candidates talk to all the group leaders and get to know the institute facilities. The successful candidates are selected in agreement with principal investigator’s choices and the students perspectives.


In 1999 the Institute of Molecular Biotechnology was founded as a joint initiative of the Austrian Academy of Sciences and Boehringer Ingelheim. The Austrian Government and the city of Vienna would also contribute to its funding and in 2002 the geneticist Josef Penninger started as the Scientific Director of IMBA who would recruit Barry Dickson as the first group leader; Dickson became managing director of the neighbouring institute Research Institute of Molecular Pathology (IMP) in 2006. The construction of the institute started in 2003 until 2006 when it was finally inaugurated. The institute lies wall-to-wall with the IMP, to enhance collaborations and with whom they share the scientific facilities. IMBA goes on expanding and in 2007 the Vienna Drosophila RNAi Center (VDRC) in collaboration with the IMP is opened. Since 2007 IMBA has a Scientific Advisory Board (SAB) for decision making chaired by Nobel prize winner Eric Kandel.


Even being a newcomer in the Molecular Biology community, the IMBA has soon received recognition in the form of awards to its researchers and grants for outstanding projects. Josef Penninger, the scientific director has been elected as a full member of The Austrian Academy of Sciences (ÖAW), he has been awarded with the Ernst Jung Prize for Medicine by the Jung-Stiftung for Science and Research, the Descartes Prize for Research by the European Commission and has received the Carus-Medal by the German Academy of Sciences Leopoldina. In 2012 Josef Penninger was awarded with the Innovator Award for his project “Novel Approaches to Breast Cancer Prevention and Inhibition of Metastases” through the US Department of Defense. Congressionally Directed Medical Research Program: In 2013 Josef Penninger received his second European Research Council’s (ERC) Advanced Investigator Grant for his research in the field of haploid stem cells.

Jürgen Knoblich, deputy scientific director at IMBA, was recognized with the Wittgenstein Award which is the most generously supported research program in Austria, awarded by the Federal Ministry for Science. The institute has also received support by the European Research Council and Kazufumi Mochizuki has received one of the European Research Council’s first awarded "ERC Starting grants".

Science Communication[edit]

IMBA is concerned with bringing science to the public, and it has started a program to teach basic scientific knowledge in Molecular Biology in collaboration with the incorporated society Dialog Gentechnik, the result opened in 2006 as the Vienna Open Lab, the first biomolecular hands-on laboratory in Austria, which only after few months from its opening, already welcomed its thousandth guest.

External links[edit]