The land of the mountains, the land by the river, proclaims the Austrian national anthem. But it can also be called the land of research, because Austria as a research site has developed very dynamically in recent years. This is confirmed by the facts and figures from the Federal Ministry of Education, Science and Research. As a result, total R&D spending in Austria has increased by a remarkable 70 percent in the last ten years. For example, EUR 12.69 billion was to be spent in this area in 2019, according to the Austrian statistical office. This corresponds to a research quota of 3.18 percent, which is very high compared to the European average. For comparison: the average of this indicator for the EU-28 is currently 2.06%. A leader in Europe with 3.4 percent. is Sweden. But who is actually doing research in Austria? What are the current projects, especially in the health sector, and what research is currently being done in relation to the pandemic? The following article explains.
The research is conducted by 22 universities and almost 3,500 companies
Compared to many other countries, Austria is relatively small, but the country’s research landscape is still remarkable and diverse. For example, in Austria, research is carried out by 22 public universities, and research projects are also carried out by 3,489 companies. These include, for example, the Tyrolean company Montavit, which has been developing drugs in the fields of gynecology, urology and allergy therapy for over 75 years. In general, research in Austria is mainly carried out by small and medium-sized companies, but international corporations based in Austria also play a large role. There are also a number of non-university institutions and research groups, such as the Austrian Institute of Technology. In 2017, more than 76,000 people were employed in research and development in Austria – around a quarter of them women – and the numbers are constantly increasing. The largest area of research is experimental development, which is the most important type of research in Austria. They are followed by applied research and, finally, basic research in third place. When it comes to comparing federal states, Vienna clearly comes first with its numerous universities and institutes. 32 percent is held here. all research projects. Upper Austria and Styria share second place, which are more or less equal. Behind him lies Tyrol.
Current research projects in Austria
But what exactly is being researched? Health is and remains the main area of research, which is why this article focuses on it. Three current research projects are presented below as examples.
Grazer discovered a herbal active ingredient against cancer
Many people get cancer every year – black skin cancer is one of the most dangerous forms. If the disease is caught early, there are still treatments for it. However, once metastases have formed in the body, it becomes more and more difficult. A research group at the University of Graz has now managed to prove the effectiveness of a medicinal plant that has long been valued in traditional Chinese medicine: it is a specific type of lotus. These plants belong to the borage family, which also includes, for example, borage or forget-me-not. In a research project funded by the Austrian Science Fund FWF, more than 250 extracts from various plants were created and tested on various cancer cells – with success! One component in the lotus root eliminates cancer cells – not only in the laboratory, but also in mice that have already developed skin cancer.
Researchers in Salzburg are studying helper cells that can help with chronic wounds
Not only are wounds caused by accidents and acute events, but for many people they are also chronic. These include, for example, the so-called butterfly babies. Such people suffer from an inherited, incurable disease that makes their skin so delicate that it can be compared to the wings of butterflies. But diabetes or circulatory disorders can also lead to chronic injuries. All these people can now find hope because American scientists recently discovered a new type of immune cells in the blood that are likely to have a big impact on the healing process. Scientists at the University of Salzburg will now study these T-helper cells more closely by 2025 and hope to get even more information.
Wiener works with peptides obtained from mites
Dust mites are not actually one of man’s favorite animal friends – yet they are essential and could also play a role in the development of drugs in the future. Scientists from MedUni Vienna managed to provide groundbreaking evidence: they proved that the peptide hormone obtained from these small animals activates a very specific secondary messenger in humans. What is it for? Nowadays, many medications lead not only to the desired reactions but also to side effects. The resulting peptides act as natural tools that may contain them. This could lead to better drugs and therapies in the future.
Crown Pandemic Research
The coronation pandemic is still a topical topic – and therefore largely determines the research activity in Austria. More than 150 COVID-related research projects are currently conducted at the Medical University of Vienna alone. This includes drug research and therapy development research, as well as surveys and accompanying research projects. An example of this is studies on the impact of home isolation in the context of a pandemic on the physical and mental health of Austrians. However, the current risk factors and the occupational situation of healthcare workers are also investigated. Research is also being carried out on the cross-cultural differences in mental well-being during the pandemics in Austria and Turkey, or on the impact of the level of education on self-assessment of risk. Finally, there are also many research projects that look at diagnosis, disease course and immunity.