Day 2

Producing Current Trends in Antibody Engineering and Development

In this session four experts from industry talked about their field in general, their products and new trends in antibody development and production. Especially in cancer treatment monoclonal antibodies are becoming more and more relevant. Looking back to the pre 90ies, the treatments to fight cancer comprised only surgery, cytotoxic therapy, hormone therapy and standard radiotherapy. Between 1990 and 2010 the first antibody treatments emerged and during the last decade even more promising treatments were established exploiting checkpoint modulating antibodies and bispecific antibodies. For example, one of the most often used applications of bispecific antibodies is the simultaneous binding of surface antigens on tumour cells as well as T cells. Thereby, the cancer cell is directly targeted to be destroyed.
The production of monoclonal antibodies was also addressed by Gloria Esposito, who presented the so called TrianniTM mouse, a solution of Austrianni, a new biotechnology company founded in 2015. This “humanized” mouse was genetically modified to express antibodies with the full repertoire of human variable domains.
Randolf Kerschbaumer from Shire, Austria, talked about antibody discovery and which factors are crucial for bringing this technology on the market. The key for going through successful clinical trials is to implement developability as early as possible, already during drug design.

Capturing the Smell – Biotechnology to Reshape F&F Production

Smell and taste are omnipresent in our days. The perfume industry is depending on biotechnology to deliver methods for producing flavors and fragrances. Christopher Dean from the perfumery division at Firmenich, a company founded in Geneva in 1895, talked about different flavors for applications in markets such as food and beverages, nutrition or perfumes and the increasingly complex regulatory environment. „Although regarding perfumes there are no limits in terms of creativity, there are aspects like costs and performance as well as safety regulations the industry has to take into consideration. „Is there an allergy potential of the perfume for the skin? What happens to the perfume when it gets into waste water and further into our environment?“, someone from the audience asked. The same, and even more, applies for flavors in foods: „Since you are what you eat, flavors have to fulfill a lot of requirements in terms of labeling, e.g. organic, kosher, halal or free from certain ingredients“, Dean explains issues in the context of important topics like an increasing world population. „How can we add to a favorable future? By thinking in broader terms and by taking renewables and biocatalysts into account“, Dean says, mentioning success stories like terpenes, the biosynthesis of sclareol to amrox or a patchouli oil called clearwood without forgetting to consider future challenges like the nearly extinct Indian sandalwood tree, which makes its valuable oil even more pricey.

John Morrissey talked about trends in bioflavor production with yeast in some of the areas mentioned by Dean, but also in cell factories or chemicals. Yeast functions as a flavor factory for producing substitute flavors resembling apples, bananas, roses or phenolics. Morrissey mentioned examples of companies like Amyris or Ginkgo Bioworks, which produce flavors out of an engineered yeast with the help of plants as their main source e.g. raspberries, vanilla or citrus. Stating synthetic and system biology as tools of the future, he points out the CHASSY project, on the one hand using mathematical modelling to tell scientists how a yeast needs to change to accumulate the correct building blocks and, on the other hand, synthetic biology to effect the changes. In the end, as a result of those Key Enabling Technologies (KET) the yeast should not only survive but flourish and produce the desired compounds under industrial conditions. Remaining challenges are the robustness of the yields and the technology itself, which still finds little acceptance.

Boris Schilling from Givaudan, a company founded in 1768, mentioned „natural“ trends. „Products not only have to be environmentally friendly and natural, they have to be sustainable since nature cannot supply the quantities needed.“ Therefore, Givaudan also specializes in bioscience research and focuses on biobased ingredients using chemistry or biocatalysis. Giving examples of four patents which all got granted, Schilling works on vanillin derived from ferulic acid, nootkatone from valencene using laccases or P450 human enzymes to name a few. Also mentioning the project ROBOX, where Givaudan and acib are working closely together on oxidative processes producing higher yields as a key for the industry. within a consortium of 16 European countries.. From traditional medicines to fragrance molecules – Schilling mentioned several examples like KerationSens, an animal-free testing system, and ways to make biocatalysis more successful and accepted given its green chemistry principles and safety of materials for humans and the environment. „More and more libraries are available, making it possible to find specialised enyzmes we also can afford.“

Holger Zorn, Professor & Director of the Institute of Food Chemistry and Food Biotechnology from Justus Liebig University Giessen, Germany, took us on a journey to the past, where millenia before the chemical industry, food and beverages like wine, beer, soy sauce, tempeh and other traditional foods were produced in biotechnological ways. Today, securely controlled and operated on a large scale, there are varieties of different biotransformation processes and complex flavor mixtures setting even higher expectations in terms of food quality and of course supplying the steadily increasing world population with products. Other aspects Zorn mentioned are the provision of enough nutrients in particular of proteins and the enrichment of food with functional ingredients. Loss of food due to spoilage or over-storage must be avoided. Instead, bio-preservation of food can help in using available food resources in a more sustainable way. And, as the other speakers already mentioned, biotechnology has the task to replace existing chemical processes with more ecologically friendly ones in order to enhance the production of food and feed while ensuring the quality of the ingredients.

Start Up – Start Through – Start Now! Produce your Own Company

Starting up is a difficult business in any industry but especially in life sciences. As a founder you not only have to build up a team, you can rely on and to raise a lot of money, but you also deal with the protection of IP and freedom to operate, which means you need to develop your own IP and to keep track of the IP of your competitors. In the session, an inspiring mix of successful founders, investors and supporters shared their experience and discussed the biggest challenges to be confronted with when founding a company. Among them were Johannes Sarx, Managing Director of ARGE LISA Vienna and in charge of life science start-ups at AWS as Chair of the session, Angelika Bodenteich, Co-Founder and Head of Development, Marinomed Biotechnologie AG, Vienna, Clemens Lakner, Associate Life Sciences, Merck Ventures Merck KGaA, Darmstadt, Bernhard Koch, Team Leader Transfer & Technology, Boku Vienna, Alexander Murer, Co-Founder &CEO, Briefcase Biotec GmbH, Graz and Manfred Schuster, CEO and Founder RMB Research, Vienna.

The discussion desulted in the following common recommendations: First, prepare yourself, attend incubator programs, where you will not only learn entrepreneurship in theory, but make your first steps in a protected area with hands-on support, resources, and a network to bring you to the next level. One of those programs is INiTS, the Viennese AplusB center, ranked number 3 of best academic incubators in Europe and 11th best worldwide according to the Swedish UBI Index.
Prepare yourself well for meetings with financial investors by focusing not on technical issues but on how to commercialize your project. Don’t forget to make a business plan that you can use as a checklist for yourself.
Regarding IP, be precise with regulatory and legal issues. You might rely on external advice. Documentation is of utmost importance. If you have a „hole“ in your IP, one of your competitors might find and fill it.

Another point that was brought up is your team. Get yourself a skilled team with experience in many fields covering all entrepreneurial issues. Don’t underestimate the team building process and also the energy and time it needs to smoothly work together. Talking about people, collaboration & culture are important as well. Be aware of the different quests and quality standards in science compared to industry. Whereas the focus in academia is on publishing, reproducibility is required in industry.
Accept that you might not always understand the agenda and strategies especially of large companies. They click differently compared to a small entity and their responsibilities and decision making processes are distinct.

In terms of financing, find the right investor. Someone who understands what he is investing in and fits to the stage you are in. You need an investor who would carry you through tough times and doesn’t drop you if another financial round is needed. The right set of investors will help you to accelerate your business. For early stage investments, business angels will rather meet your needs, whereas later on (after clinical trials, for example) a Venture Capital partner might step in. Take your time, reach out early to be able to develop strategies with the investor and get him involved. Try to always have some „spare“ money to not get squeezed if you need more trials and experiments to fulfill a contract.

Very important: Get a good understanding of the market and how to differentiate and commercialize your product. Define the critical steps to reach your goal. Be aware that accepting new technologies at the market will be a slow and stony process and that you will be facing many obstacles. You might be confronted with a price situation which is dictated by other players on the market or you might be confronted with patterns and logics of other industries who function in a completely different manner (like health insurance sector). The vision of a big market is not sufficient. Get someone in the team who is familiar with the do’s and dont’s to enter the market (e.g. one who is experienced in the admission process). And last but not least:
Don’t lose track of your goals and remember, the people you work with are your biggest asset.

acib Connecting Regions – Croatia

To intensify existing collaborations between Croatia and Austria in the field of industrial biotechnology and building on the strengths and traditions that have been established in the recent past, the fifth Croatian – Austrian Science Day was held within the esib 2017 in Graz, the capital of Styria.
“Styria is one of the most innovative regions in Europe. Due to close collaborations between our universities, research institutions and competence centers and the contributive spirit of Styria, we do a lot to achieve this high quota. We are very pleased that Croatia and Austria are working very close together and are keeping this spirit alive”, says Christian Buchmann, representative of the Styrian Parliament and Government.
Siegfried Nagl, Mayor or Graz, also emphasized this fruitful exchange of knowledge: “Graz has a long tradition being the center of international exchange and is very well known as home of many universities, innovative companies and industries. Joining forces, we can contribute a lot to the common future.”
As the motto of the esib2017 “Products and Production for a better future” stated, products and their making are going to be key elements for the collaboration and are of high importance for Croatia. “I’m very thankful that we are able to get the opportunity to discuss ongoing activities, evolve existing networks and define new strategies in joining forces and interests in the field of Industrial Biotechnology together with acib, the Ruđer Bošković Institute and Graz University of Technology”, said Antonio Starčivić, Vice-dean of the Institute of Food Technology and Biotechnology, University of Zagreb, also referring to the bonds between the two countries long before the EU.
“This bon is still strong between the universities of Zagreb and Graz”, continues Horst Bischof, Vice-Rector of Graz University of Technology. “We establish many Master programs in English, since TU Graz hosts many students also from Croatia. Apart from that, there are already joint projects being carried out. The esib is a good opportunity to develop further ideas – for current projects or future ones”, Bischof pointed out.
Since science has never minded borders and the only borders existing are those in our heads and minds. Both countries will benefit from each other: The Croatian Biotechnology community with its access to the wealth of marine life can provide Austrian scientists with relevant and novel information and materials unavailable in landlocked Austria.
And, in return, acib with its large network of industrial and scientific partners as well as a history of more than 25 years in this field, will play a significant role in supporting Croatia e.g. with its very recent development of interdisciplinary research- and excellence centers in Croatia. Since 2014 the Ministry of Science has established 13 Excellence Centers at a value of 50 Mio € in Croatia, increasing the international visibility of scientific research and manifold innovations. “Building up a strong regional network and matching basic as well as applied research with industrial interests takes time. The expertise of Austrian scientists and science managers in fields like material science, biosciences or personalized medicine is a very important input for their Croatian colleagues”, says Starčivić. A first step: More than 30 scientists and students from Croatia got the chance to present their work in lectures and posters within this year’s esib, highlighting research topics from novel antibiotics’ production employing Streptomycetes to biofuels made from renewable raw materials. Further activities are planned.

Biocatalytic oxygenations – towards new sustainable products

Selective biocatalytic oxygenations – how can they be applied to produce new, sustainable compounds leading to scale-up success stories showing that high value products can be synthesized in an economically viable bioprocess? Willem van Berkel gave an overview of this topic, talking in detail about four enzyme classes that, in his opinion, are the most promising oxygenases for industrial applications: Unspecific peroxygenases (UPOS), lytic polysaccharide monooxygenases (LPMOs), styrene monooxygenases and flavin-containing monooxygenases (FMOs). Moreover, he addressed the challenges for future applications of oxygenases: Those challenges are for example simpler co-factor regeneration, higher catalytic activity, higher robustness of the protein and lower enzyme costs.

Vincent Eijsink pointed out one enzyme class, the LPMOs and how this enzyme can be used to break glycosidic bonds by oxygenation. In contrast to classical hydrolases, which are commonly used in lignocellulolytic protein mixes, LPMOs are able to bind to most crystalline parts of cellulose. Therefore, these enzymes are very interesting for the industrial application of cellulose degradation.
Marco van den Berg, one of the industry experts from DSM, Netherlands, explained in a case study how DSM developed a more step process exploiting a reprogrammed Penicillium chrysogenum strain and a P450 monooxygenase expressed in a bacterial host to produce Pravastatin – a cholesterol lowering drug.
The second expert from industry, Martin Schürmann from Innosyn, Netherland, talked about a P450 monooxygenase, the so called BM3. In an effort to broaden the substrate scope of BM3, which naturally acts on fatty acids, they generated a combinatorial mutation library and developed an impressive high-throughput screening method using Ultra Performance Liquid Chromatography, lowering time for one run to under four minutes. Now they have a mutant library available, which are active on different, very relevant targets. Moreover, he showcased a systematic up-scaling, going from 20 ml up to 100 l biotransformations, yielding product in a kg scale with one these BM3 mutants. Thanks to the great participation of the audience the session closed with a very lively discussion.

Microbiome-based Products for Agriculture & Industry

The word “Microbiome” is very young – it did not exist 20 years ago. Since then microbiome-research has revolutionized science and human/animal/plant health. Christine Moissl-Eichinger, Professor for Interactive Microbiome Research at Medical University Graz & BioTechMed, talked about the “The power of the microb(iom)e” with two powerful examples: Microbiomes “of the deep” found in sulfidic springs around Regensburg (Germany) can attach the cells to different surfaces, which makes them perfect for the development of nano-velcro, nano-glue for nano-robots, etc.
Another example was the human microbiome, which is Influenced by factors like diet, disease or medication. Moissl-Eichinger named Metformin, re-establishing butyrate-forming microorganisms in the gut, helping diabetes patients. Medication also has effects on the microbiome, which might metabolize the therapeutics to useful or toxic compounds. For example, within 30min the microbiome converted an extract of willow bark to new substances with new functions. In addition, the extracts also have an effect of the microbiome itself. The same principles are also true for other herbal extracts, which might sometimes work only through interacting with the right microbiome.

The next talk was about “Microbial plant protection products” by Christina Donat; Technical Director & COO at Bio-ferm GmbH. Aureobasidium pullulans (an Ascomycete – yeast-like fungus) is the important player occurring in two sub-strains. They occur naturally in the environment and have been isolated from leaves of apple trees. They can prevent fire blight and storage disease in both apples and pears. The mode of action is a competition of space and nutrients: Micro scratches on the fruit surface represent natural entrances for pathogens. However, if Aureobasidium pullulans colonizes this scratch it proliferates fast and doesn’t let any room for pathogens. Thus it acts as a natural shield by sealing the scratch. The strain is commercialized under the brand name Botector® and Blossom Protect™. It works also against pathogens in grapes and strawberries, which are now investigated by Bio-ferm. Interestingly, microorganisms ands fungicide works synergistically (more than just additive effects). The pathogen has not only to cope with the fungicide, but has also to fight for nutrients in presence of the competitor.

The third talk was about “Plant-Microbiome Engineering to influence agricultural practices” by Virginia Ursin, Director of Scientific Collaborations, Indigo Ag, Inc. The strain collection of Indigo comprises more than 30.000 strain with every detail of information about them. Using a machine learning process the best candidates are selected: Thousands are put to high-throughput screening, hundreds of hits undergo greenhouse-tests and tens of microbes are used in field trials. Several products have already been launched a for cotton/wheat/corn/rice/soybeans and are being grown on approx. 10.000 ha following the motto “Indigo harnesses nature to help farmers sustainably feed the planet”.

The last talk was on the “Importance of Microbiota characterization in two original agronomical situations” by M. Haissam Jijakli, Professor in Urban Agriculture and Plant Pathology, Director of Integrated and Urban Plant Pathology Research Laboratory, Gembloux Agro-Bio Tech, University of Liege, Belgium. He also emphasized the importance of microbiota, naming the characteristic of protecting post-harvest losses: His group discovered two strains, namely Pichia anomala (strain K) and Candida oleophila (strain O) which are efficient against wound disease. The registered and final strains have an even a higher efficacy than chemical pesticides. The other example he mentioned were: Aquaponic systems (aquaculture + hydroponic plants). Fish and their feces support plant growth, which degrade the sludge of the fish. They support each other in a symbiotic relation. Thus the waste of agriculture is used as a fertilizer. Green Surf was founded as a new company for this kind of urban agriculture. Positive effect of aquaponics water to lettuce growth due to the microbiome of the system has been shown.

Discovering the Latest (Bio)pharma Production Technologies

In the biotechnological und pharmaceutical industry, being up-to-date in the latest production and formulation technologies is of utmost importance.. Thomas Purkarthofer, Head of Business Development of the Graz-based company VTU Technology GmbH, said that “the only thing that is constant is change” and emphasized the growing importance of biologics in the pharmaceutical industry. The trend for biologics goes in the direction of more engineered and fewer natural proteins, with increases stability and activity. In the manufacturing processes when it comes to cost reduction, single use technologies and deeper process knowledge the most important question is: “Can we do that?
VTU provides a wide array of Pichia pastoris platform strains, a yeast particularly known for its biotechnological importance, as well as plasmids to fine-tune protein expression.
The technical milestones include MeOH-free expression from an engineered AOX1 promoter and modified glycosylation (GlycoSwitch Toolbox) in Pichia pastoris.

As a second speaker Markus Fido, CEO and Head of Business Development of VelaLabs GmbH gave an insight into analytics in the pharmaceutical and biotechnological industry. VelaLabs, as a member of the Tentamus group, deals with the development of analytical methods for products and biosimilars as well as bioanalytics. The analysis methods, depending on the application, focus on comparability, differences in production batches, validation of products and overall characterization of biopharmaceutical and biosimilars. One of the most challenging tasks in terms of analytics are bioassays, which are used to measure the effect of a target drug in an in vitro system as similar as possible to the final environment. Another important task is the detection and characterization of excipients, which are by-products in the final formulation, as they can be important for the stability of the active pharmaceutical ingredient (API).

The third presenter was Andreas Marchler, Chief Executive Officer of the ZETA holding GmbH, a global player in the fields of engineering, plant engineering and automation technology in the biotechnological industry. Their question “What can ZETA do?” is answered with: Everything from upstream over midstream to downstream processes. The current challenges in production plant engineering are securing plant functionality, including stable production processes, safe operations, high yield and a minimum of process losses as well as efficient process automatization.
To shorten execution time ZETA invests in “in parallel” techniques in comparison to sequential project execution. Another approach is modular project execution, which involves the pre-assembly of different modules of the plant in the ZETA factory.

Ruth Staubmann, Plant Manager of Fresenius Kabi Austria GmbH presented the challenges in the production of pharmaceutical products and equipment. At their location in Graz Fresenius Kabi operates in the field of infusion therapy, clinical nutrition, medical devices and transfusion technology, providing therapy equipment and care for critically and chronically ill patients, in hospitals as well as at home.
Their production processes are focused on aseptic processing, automated filling in isolators, manufacturing of oxygen-controlled highly sensitive products, complex aqueous solutions, emulsions and water free products. To keep the manufacturing process sterile, a special focus has to be kept on the layout of the manufactory chain, including filtration systems, pressure cascades and clean rooms as part of a complex system. As humans are the main source of contamination, the degree of automatization needs to be as high as possible. Workers involved in the process have to be trained accordingly.

Enzyme Cascade Reactions in Industrial Biotechnology

In the session “Enzyme Cascade Reactions in Industrial Biotechnology” new perspectives and the lasted trends in the field of cascade reactions were discussed. Robert Kourist from Graz University of Technology welcomed experts from industry and academia, who are applying enzymatic cascades in their daily routine.

Wolf-Dieter Fessner, Professor in Organic Chemistry at the University of Darmstadt offered an academic perspective on biotechnology and cascades. In an ideal flow system substrate is fed and products with 100% purity are obtained. However, this is often not achieved due to the enormous complexity of cascade reactions. Non-natural substrates are often not accepted by natural enzymes and enzyme optimization is required. Fessner listed examples including a one-pot cascade using seven enzymes and the successful engineering of a transketolase. In addition, he stressed the importance of enzyme panels with maximum sequence diversity to increase the scope of interesting substrates.

Francisco Moris, co-founder and managing director of the company EntreChem introduced the companies’ technological advantages such as combinatorial biosynthesis, genetic engineering and biocatalysis. Among other things EntreChem develops innovative cancer treatment drugs. Conventional cancer treatment strategies use different drugs to target different pathways. In contrast EntreChem offers a single drug formulation to target different pathways with minimal toxicity. Moris stated that the implementation process of novel drugs on the market is well defined. In biocatalysis similar value chains and risk metrics should be developed. The new developments in the field of biocascades must beat existing inhouse processes to become economically feasible.

Dörte Rother, Junior professor at the RWTH Aachen, aims at filling the gap between setting up cacascades and industrial demands. This can be achieved, if low price substrates can be converted to high value active pharmaceutical ingredients, if economic efficiency is combined with economic friendliness, if the product diversity is achieved by modular enzymes combinations, and if easy to use cascades can be designed. Rother presented several strategies to improve non-efficient cascades using sequential cascades. Moreover, she introduced the application of enzymatic cascades in unconventional media and microaqueous reaction systems. For this, the whole-cell biocatalyst, substrate, organic solvents and buffer are mixed. The enzymes are protected by a cellular envelope. Advantages are the increased downstream processing, that co-factor supplementation is not required and the low production price of whole cell biocatalysts. According to her, future trends are the development of neat substrate systems, where substrate can be directly added to the biocatalyst, an increase in space-time-yields and the use of renewables for enzyme production.

Martin Schürmann, principal scientist at the company InnoSyn, presented technologies including biocatalysis, chemocatalysis, metalcatalysis, organocatalysis, photo catalysis and crystallization for the development metabolite production processes. He defined “cascades” as the use of at least two enzymes in series or one enzyme and one chemo catalysts or chemical reaction. Moreover, he stated the importance of the high intrinsic activity of enzymes over several hours for industrial processes. He introduced several examples including an aldolase cascade to produce statin side chains and the aminomethylation by threonine aldolase and tyrosine carboxylase. He stressed that enzyme catalysis should only be applied to solve “real problems” and the importance of extended enzyme portfolios to meet industrial demands.

Sustainable Production using C1 Carbon Feedstocks

Many bulk chemicals are produced from fossil resources. A major goal is to replace these chemicals by renewable and sustainable feedstocks in the future. Both, new processes and new products need to be developed. Key technologies to enable this transformation are biotechnology and metabolic engineering. Promising renewable substrates are found amongst the C1 molecules CO2 and methanol. In this session, insights into the utilization of these important substrates were provided.

Professor Brautaset from the Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU) started the session with a talk about the use of methanol with the microorganism Bacillus methanolicus. By now, this organism is well described on a genomic, transcriptomic and proteomic level and enzymes, which are required for methanol metabolism are characterized. With new genetic tools it is now possible to engineer the metabolism of this bacterium and use it for the production of value added products like amino acids (L-glutamate, L-Lysine) and derivatives (GABA, cadaverine).

The second speaker, Professor Jean Marie François from University of Toulouse, focused on increasing the overall efficiency of the cellular metabolism towards a desired product. He showed that it is possible to increase the efficiency of a metabolic pathway in E. coli by re-wiring the biochemical reactions for the production of glycolic acid. In this case, a metabolic pathway variant was chosen, which reduces excessive formation of carbon dioxide.

Promising organisms to utilize both carbon dioxide and hydrogen are acetogenic bacteria, which were presented by Professor Dürre from the University of Ulm. He explained that those organisms use a special metabolic pathway, the Wood–Ljungdahl pathway, to assimilate carbon dioxide. Nowadays, bacteria like Clostridium ljungdhalii can be used to produce chemicals like acetone. Also, metabolic engineering is possible to obtain strains, which can produce bioplastics like PHB from syngas (mixture H2, CO, CO2). He also pointed out that the company Lanzatech is currently building a commercial plant for ethanol production in China using the syngas from a steel factory as substrate.

The session was concluded by a presentation from Thomas Gassler (ACIB, BOKU), who presented a novel approach to assimilate carbon dioxide with yeast cells. The yeast was equipped with a functional Calvin cycle, which is the natural pathway of plants to incorporate carbon dioxide. The engineered yeast system has the capability to grow on carbon dioxide and incorporate it into its biomass.

How many Bioinformaticians does it Take to Make a Product?

The Bioinformatics session began with a presentation by Bertram Weiss, Head of Bioinformatics at Bayer AG, Berlin, Germany. He presented the Bioinformatics analysis strategies, which are used at Bayer for drug development and also pointed to interactions with academic groups, for example the group of Prof. Hofreiter (one of the other speakers of the session). The next talk was held by Rene de Jong, Senior Scientist at the DSM Biotechnology Center in Delft, the Netherlands. He focused on the discovery of novel enzymes and their application in a bio-based economy. Both representatives from major companies were adamant that the need for Bioinformatics was growing within their organizations and that new recruitments were ongoing within their companies at this point in time.

The next presentation was given by Thomas Rattei from the University of Vienna who introduced ATBI, the Austrian Bioinformatics Platform, which connects the academic groups in Austria working in the field of Bioinformatics. ATBI is currently working with the Austrian Government on joining the European EXILIR initiative, which already unites most European countries, including all of Austria’s neighbors, under one umbrella. It should be noted that three of the four directors of ATBI (Rattei, Hochreiter and Sensen) were participating in the ESIB Bioinformatics session.

Sepp Hochreiter from Linz presented a fascinating talk on “Deep Learning”, with many demonstrations of how deep learning can impact on people’s daily lives. He also showed, how the algorithms that his group is developing are used in large-scale industrial projects, for example in collaboration with Bayer AG.

The last speaker of the session was Christian Gruber, Senior Scientist at acib and also one of the Co-Founders of InnoPhore GmbH in Graz, a company using structural algorithms for protein design and engineering. This SME has recently been incorporated and Gruber was able to show its capabilities in the Proteomics and Structural Biology sector and provide a unique perspective on the needs for Bioinformatics and Bioinformaticians from the SME point of view as well.

All session chairs were asked by the ESIB organizers to come up with a funny title for their session. While the funny aspects of most other session titles eluded this rapporteur, the title of the Bioinformatics session really caught on, leading to lively discussions around how many Bioinformaticians are currently in the field and what the future will hold. All speakers of this well-attended session agreed that there is a need for more Bioinformaticians and that Bioinformatics is becoming an important aspect of a growing number of steps in the industrial product development pipelines in Biotechnology and Biomedicine.