Key research areas of the Department of Pharmaceutical Sciences

Biomolecules for a Healthy Lifespan

Our disability-free life expectancy is considerably shorter than general life expectancy. So far, measures aiming to increase the lifespan spent in good health have mostly been limited to adapting one’s lifestyle. The effects of biomolecules of the primary and secondary metabolisms – which are either endogenously produced by the organism itself, or exogenously originating – on health and age-related physiological changes have not yet been studied to a sufficient degree.

The goals of the key research area of biomolecules for a healthy lifespan are thus oriented towards (i) understanding the modes of action of biomolecules and natural products of pharmaceutical relevance in health-related bio-logical processes at the molecular, cellular and organismal levels, (ii) examining their influence on the number of years spent in good health, and (iii) identifying new biologically active natural products and their targets. The results will help to characterise biomolecules which have a positive effect on life expectancy and possibly on the number of years in good health. Additionally, this research will help to discover the mechanisms by which these biomolecules act. This topic is being discussed as a central research area within the new Horizon Europe programme.

Computational Life Sciences

This key research area coordinates the numerous activities at the Faculty that focus on applying and developing information technol-ogies in the life sciences. In addition to forming topic-related clusters, this key research area is aimed at the interdisciplinary establishment of new methods in the fields of pharmacoinformatics, in-silico metabolomics, proteomics and bioinformatics, genomic evolution, sequence-function relationships, multiomics methods, machine learning, deep learning and artificial intelligence, as well as structural and systems biology. Particular emphasis is laid on processing high-throughput biological data, the development of mathematical methods for modelling biological and biomolecular systems, large-scale metagenome analyses, computational drug design, molecular informatics, as well as data integration and data mining.

This key research area cooperates closely with other centres and faculties, the Austrian Academy of Sciences and the Max Perutz Labs. The move to the new location at the Vienna Biocenter Campus will further intensify the exist-ing cooperation with the Center for Integrative Bioinformatics Vienna (CIBIV).

The pharmaceutical sciences at the Faculty of Life Sciences of the University of Vienna have great expertise regarding modern research into, and development of, active substances. This expertise is being maintained and further expanded in cooperation with national and international academic institutions, as well as life science enterprises. Based on the development and application of innovative platform technol-ogies, the aim here is early-stage research and the development of pharmaceutical drugs in the areas of chemotherapeutics, neuroscience and metabolic disease, and encompasses fields such as computational molecular design, research into natural products, identification of molecular modes of action, molecular imaging, formulation, quality control, nanomedicine and clinical pharmacy. The integration of this research area into the Faculty of Life Sciences with its well-established key research areas (biomolecules for a healthy lifespan, computational life sciences, and cognition, behaviour and neuroscience) places it at the central interface between chemistry, molecular biology (Max Perutz Labs) and medicine.

Innovation in pharmaceutical research rep-resents the basis of, and a great opportunity for, further fruitful translational research in the pharmaceutical field, since companies active in biomedical research are increasingly deciding against carrying out preclinical early-stage research themselves and are instead collabo-rating with academic institutions to implement programmes for reaching new goals.