The Largest Axolotl Colony in the World is Held in Vienna
Among four-legged Vertebrates the Axolotl is the Only One that Can Regenerate Lost Body Parts
Elly Tanaka has been researching the molecular basis of limb and spinal cord regeneration at the Institute for Molecular Pathology (IMP) in the Vienna BioCenter since 2016. One of the subjects of her and her laboratory’s studies is a salamander species, the axolotl. Its ability to regenerate lost body parts is unique among four-legged vertebrates. For the purposes of the study, the laboratory has access to one of the largest axolotl colonies in the world. The multiple award-winning scientist spoke to us about the advantages and disadvantages that Vienna offers as a research location.
- How do you personally view the business location of Vienna for your industry?
As a business location, Vienna is rather small, but possesses the right level of quality. This is especially relevant for the biomedical sector, which is also growing dramatically. As a country, Austria seems to be very entrepreneurial by European standards. The transition from basic research, for example, to medical applications or another form of commercialisation often takes place faster here than anywhere else.
- Where do you see Vienna on the international stage in terms of innovative drive, start-up culture, research and development?
The start-up culture and innovative drive may perhaps be limited to small sectors, but I see a lot of activity there – even more than in Dresden, where I lived and researched previously. In terms of research and development, things could be more diverse, but I find the location very promising. New start-ups appear on a regular basis. The conditions for cooperation between researchers and companies are good. Both sides are also able to come together.
- What are especially positive “properties” of Vienna as a business location, and which are more negative?
Unlike in the USA, there are very few private investors here to drive forward the commercialisation of basic research. The opportunities for bringing together relevant players from research and business are, however, very good in Vienna. What’s more, I find that people here are more flexible than in other countries I have worked in.
- How suitable do you find Vienna as a life sciences location?
It is generally rather good and there are a good number of excellent scientists here. Of course, the life sciences scene could be bigger, and compared to large science centres in the USA, inter-disciplinary exchange is rather low. But support for science is good; unfortunately, basic research is an exception here; the budgets of important funding authorities have not been able to keep up with inflation and the general expansion of science and research.
- How has Vienna developed as a research location in recent years?
Vienna is changing very quickly and is good at integrating modern developments into the older aspects of its culture, something which I find interesting and exciting. I firmly believe that in the future, a lot of momentum will come out of universities and research institutes in this city and I hope that the positive trend of recent years will continue. Speaking to people that lived and researched here 20 years ago has given me an idea of how much the city has changed and opened up and I think there is still a lot of potential for further positive developments. Art, culture and science have experienced rapid growth and I hope this will continue. In any case, it is exciting to be here in Vienna today.
IMP Forschungsinstitut für Molekulare Pathologie
Dr. Bohr-Gasse 7, 1030 wien