• OeAW Annual report 2022

OeAW Annual report 2022

Table of contents


The OeAW Annual Report provides an opportunity to look back on an eventful year and to celebrate what has been achieved. Within this report, you will find a series of stories showcasing significant events associated with the Academy. After all, a lot happened at the OeAW in 2022.

The Academy celebrates

However, you don’t have to look far for the highlight of the year: a Nobel Prize for an Austrian! The presentation of this most prestigious scientific award to the former OeAW President Anton Zeilinger threw a spotlight on Austria as a research nation and put one of the places of work, the Academy, in the center of attention. Zeilinger has played a significant role in shaping the OeAW over the years and conducts his research on quantum entanglement here. While the Nobel Prize belongs to him alone, the entire Academy joins in celebrating with him.

The 175th anniversary of the Academy and the opening of the wonderful campus took place while Zeilinger was still President. With its institutes, the OeAW has moved into the center of the city. With the move to the Postal Savings Bank, a lively “research mile” has been created in the middle of Vienna city center and not somewhere on the outskirts of the city. Research is where the people are – that is important to us and to the city as well.

The Academy is researching in Austria and all over the world

The Academy has research facilities in almost every federal state. It is, after all, the Austrian Academy of Sciences, and Austria’s population, history, cities, landscapes, and cultural heritage are also the subject of research. But our horizon goes beyond that, and we explore the historical structures and the cultural and spiritual heritage of Asia, we continue to excavate successfully in Ephesus, and we work on the political and cultural development of Eurasia. And finally, we deal with issues without geographical reference: with cells, genes, health, quanta, sound, culture, media, mathematical modelling, physical properties of materials, and with the question of whether we are alone in space.

The Academy is growing

In 2022 the OeAW grew. In October, the new Cori Institute for metabolism research was launched. Transdisciplinary research meets multi-institutional cooperation in Graz: The OeAW is working with the University of Graz, TU Graz, and MedUni Graz in the fields of computer science, mathematics, biology, chemistry, medicine, biomedical engineering and engineering sciences in metabolism research. At the same time, we are establishing a memorial to the couple Carl and Gerty Cori.

The Academy is fighting

It is fighting against science skepticism. We must recognize that around a third of the population maintains a certain level of skepticism towards science and would rather place their trust in alternative explanations instead of scientifically verified ones. However, we do not dismiss this reality; instead, we see it as a call to action. Science skepticism and disillusionment with democracy are related and both pose challenges to Austria’s further development. We communicate with society more than ever. Many scientific lectures are aimed at the general public, we publish science comics and hold age-appropriate, scientific lectures in schools. We support our researchers when they address the public, we bring journalists together with scientists, and we stand by the scientists when they are confronted with a negative response.

The Academy is grateful

The OeAW conducts excellent basic research every day, as evidenced by numerous prizes, scholarships, and ERC grants. This would not be possible without the excellent cooperation with our partners in science, politics, and society. I would therefore like to take this opportunity, on behalf of everyone, to thank our patron Alexander Van der Bellen and Federal Minister Martin Polaschek and, of course, the Austrian population and their financial contributions, because without public funding, no basic research can be carried out – neither in Austria nor worldwide.

Heinz Faßmann

President of the Austrian Academy of Sciences

Vienna, May 2023

Quantum Rebellion

Our modern society strives to measure the world as precisely as possible. However, the realm of quanta, despite being the arena for a fundamental scientific and technological breakthrough of our time, does not play along in this endeavor.

Unlike in many other areas of knowledge, the factor of chance is not taboo for quantum research. On the contrary, since quantum physics has been working specifically with scientific unpredictability, amazing breakthroughs have been made – most recently in quantum communication and with quantum computers. At the same time, the rebellion of the quanta does not end with unpredictability. Their behavior is often in complete contradiction to our everyday understanding of time, place, and reality. A contradiction that is as unprecedented as it is fascinating, and one that has been driving physicists in their exploration of the quantum world for over 100 years.

Allure of the impossible

As early as 1900, the physicist Max Planck introduced the concept of quanta to the realm of scientific discourse. These particles, which defy human comprehension by simultaneously existing in multiple states and only assuming a definitive state upon measurement, captivated the minds of prominent scientists from the very beginning. Even Albert Einstein struggled to grasp the concepts of quanta and quantum mechanics that emerged in the 1920s: “God does not play dice”, the renowned thinker once said, attempting to put unpredictability in its place.

One of the most fundamental realizations in quantum physics is that there is pure coincidence.”
Anton Zeilinger

Austria’s cat

However, what may initially seem like a significant drawback compared to classical physics, which is bound by precision, quickly revealed unprecedented possibilities in quantum physics. Through probability calculations, among other things, quantum mechanics not only provided a mathematical framework to comprehend and utilize the general behavior of quantum particles but also greatly enhanced our understanding of the behaviors of the smallest constituents. Without this first revolution in quantum physics, fundamental technological achievements of the 20th century, including lasers, semiconductors, superconductors, transistors, computers, and mobile phones, would have been inconceivable. Physicists from Austria and from the OeAW were involved early on in this revolution. Among them was Erwin Schrödinger, a contemporary of Einstein and an Academy member. He devised the most well-known thought experiment in quantum physics, “Schrödinger’s cat”: the metaphor of a cat locked in a box, simultaneously considered both dead and alive until the moment the box is opened.

Momentum in Vienna and Innsbruck

Towards the end of the 20th century, Austria and the OeAW continued the tradition of quantum physical thinking with ever-growing dedication – spearheaded by the OeAW quantum physicist and Nobel laureate Anton Zeilinger, along with his OeAW colleagues Rainer Blatt and Peter Zoller, who have received multiple accolades themselves. In 2003, the OeAW consolidated the momentum of this research field by establishing the Institute for Quantum Optics and Quantum Information, with locations in Vienna and Innsbruck. Both were later to garner global acclaim in different scientific areas.

Entangled quanta

The prerequisite was once again to scientifically embrace the unpredictability of the quantum world. “One of the most fundamental realizations in quantum physics is that there is pure coincidence,” Zeilinger stated. “So, there are individual events that have no underlying cause,” the former President of the OeAW said. With this premise as a foundation, enormous progress was made in the investigation of what is known as quantum entanglement. In numerous experiments, this phenomenon – dismissed by the quantum skeptic Einstein as “spooky action at a distance” – was demonstrated at ever greater distances, across the Danube, across the historic city center of Vienna, and even into space. These achievements held immense potential for the advancement of a quantum internet and quantum encryption in the future. Not altogether surprisingly, Zeilinger was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics in 2022 for his work in this field.

The OeAW researchers in Innsbruck also gained worldwide recognition in quantum physics – likewise beyond the borders of science, in the field of research on quantum computers. The teams led by Rainer Blatt and Peter Zoller, for example, succeeded in creating the world’s first “quantum byte” to develop elementary building blocks of a quantum computer architecture whose potential dwarfs the maximum computing power of conventional computers.

We might not have the infrastructure and the money that large corporations have, but we have exceptional people and we have ideas.
Rainer Blatt

From research to everyday life

The immeasurable possibilities opened up by recent quantum physical advances have long attracted the interest of industry. Technology giants around the world are now investing billions in funds to transfer the findings of basic research into applied quantum physics and ultimately into marketable products – and thus to herald the next technological revolution. The Academy actively supports this knowledge transfer, not least with the creation of spin-offs such as Alpine Quantum Technologies GmbH (AQT), which is based on knowledge from the OeAW and the University of Innsbruck and is dedicated to the development of commercially usable quantum computers. Despite enormous international competition, AQT co-founder Blatt is convinced of the success of this project given the circumstances: “We might not have the infrastructure and the money that large corporations have, but we have exceptional people and we have ideas.”

The economic significance of the latest findings from basic research cannot yet be assessed precisely. After all, chance will ultimately play a decisive role here too – exactly as the world of quanta would have it.

Science meets city

With the completely renovated campus, the Austrian Academy of Sciences has brought one of Vienna’s most historically significant hubs of knowledge into the 21st century – and made it accessible to both research and the public.

Science has been practiced here for more than six centuries: The Collegium Ducale, the cornerstone of the University of Vienna, was established between Schönlaterngasse, Postgasse, and Dr. Ignaz Seipel-Platz in 1385. With the newly renovated Campus Academy, the historic university district was transformed into a modern center of knowledge in spring 2022. Just in time for the 175th anniversary of the Academy, it was handed back to science and the public.

“The Campus Academy not only has a long history, it also has an extremely lively present. Here, in the heart of downtown Vienna, exciting research work is taking place that will shape our future. This should not happen behind closed doors – we want to open up science to society,” Heinz Faßmann, President of the OeAW, emphasizes.

With the Campus, a new research mile has been opened from the main building of the OeAW via Sonnenfelsgasse and Bäckerstraße to the former Postal Savings Bank on Georg Coch Platz. The area encompasses around 30,000 square meters and a total of around 1,200 jobs for basic research.

Breathe in history, experience the future

All of this was preceded by a comprehensive renovation and modernization of the buildings of the Old University starting in 2020 by the Bundesimmobiliengesellschaft (BIG) and under the planning of Riepl Kaufmann Bammer Architektur. The Federal Ministry of Education, Science and Research provided a total of 34.5 million euros for this work.

The research area, which stretches from Seipel-Platz to Coch-Platz, offers a new home to many of the OeAW institutes from the humanities and social sciences as well as from the natural sciences – to name a few; the Austrian Center for Digital Humanities and Cultural Heritage, the Institute of High Energy Physics, and the Acoustics Research Institute.

Not only research, but also the public benefits from the Campus Academy. A showpiece of the area is the former library of the Old University with its 240 square meter baroque ceiling fresco by Anton Hertzog. Here, across 350 square meters including an imposing gallery, the thousands of books from the OeAW library find their home – accessible to science and the public alike, barrier-free.

This opening to the public is also reflected architecturally by the inner courtyard of the campus building on Bäckerstraße: via the glass entrance, you can reach the arcades to the library that were once walled up and have now been uncovered. The courtyard of the building complex constructed in 1630 is also accessible again: a “G’stettn” (in Viennese dialect) before the renovation, a green zone is now open to visitors as an oasis of calm and reflection.

“The image of the ivory tower no longer applies.”

OeAW President Heinz Faßmann looks back on the Science Year 2022. The newly introduced Science Barometer will give an annual overview of the level of trust and skepticism among Austrians with regard to science. New initiatives aim to bring OeAW researchers into the spotlight and provide them with support when the public reception is negative.

In 2022, the OeAW conducted a Science Barometer for the first time. What prompted you to do this?

We have trustworthy research, in some disciplines we have world-class research, we are a research nation.”
Heinz Faßmann

Heinz Faßmann: 2022 was an ambivalent year for science: On the one hand, the vaccines, developed in record time, took the edge off the COVID-19 pandemic. On the other hand, there were too many people who did not believe this groundbreaking scientific discovery. They marched through the city at the weekend chanting anti-science slogans. Scientists were subject to hostility when they appeared in public. In addition, there was the now famous Eurobarometer study on science skepticism from 2021, which did not give Austria good marks. I find this a shame because it runs counter to the objective facts. We have trustworthy research, in some disciplines we have world-class research, we are a research nation; the Nobel Prize – as a scientific highlight in 2022 – has shown that. And yet we are met with skepticism. I wanted and still want to understand this better. Where does the skepticism come from? Who are the skeptics? However, the Eurobarometer is only carried out every ten years. That is why we have developed an annual tool similar to that in Germany and Switzerland.

What are the most important findings?

Faßmann: Around 70 percent have a high level of trust in science, while 30 percent do not. Whether that is a lot or a little is a matter of interpretation. For me, as President of the Academy of Sciences, the proportion of skeptics is too high. 37 percent also believe that common sense should be relied on more than scientific studies. After the Nobel Prize, quantum computers, and the successful fight against the pandemic, we should be seeing an all-time high in the area of research.

And who are these science skeptics? Does the barometer tell you anything about this?

Faßmann: The key variable is education. The higher the level of formal education of the respondents, the greater the trust. The trust index is 41 percentage points for those who have had no or only compulsory education, and 85 percentage points for those with a university education. That is a considerable difference. The trust index is the proportional difference between trust and distrust and shows at a glance how this emotional valuation of science is doing.

What conclusions do you draw from these results?

Faßmann: We can no longer rely on the authority of our scientific word. If that ever existed, it does not anymore. We have to fight. Gone are the days of blindly accepting scientific knowledge without question. Criticism has become a valuable asset and all societal subsystems – from the church to politics to schools – must confront this reality. That’s good, but it also entails a responsibility to embrace a new mandate of openness, explanation, and persuasion, which our scientific institutions have not fully embraced until now.

“We encourage our employees to talk about their work and make their knowledge available to the general public.”
Heinz Faßmann

What does this mean for the OeAW?

Faßmann: We encourage our employees to talk about their work and make their knowledge available to the general public. There are numerous outreach activities at the OeAW, from the Academy in the Classroom to participation in the Children’s University to media work, which is increasingly shifting to social networks. While maintaining a critical perspective, these should and must be used – not only by the institutions, but also by the scientists themselves, because social media is consumed in particular by young people who have turned away from traditional media. We also offer special training courses for interacting with the media and, through the “Science Care” contact point, provide help if there is a negative response to media appearances. In the “Science Update” format, newly created in 2022, we bring together scientists and journalists to compare notes on a current research topic: e.g., COVID-19, the energy transition, and genetic engineering are discussed openly – much more intensively than at a traditional press conference. The OeAW is doing a lot.

What do these measures achieve?

Faßmann: In any case, a high level of visibility for the OeAW and numerous low-threshold opportunities for exposure to research. The OeAW Science Barometer will measure how skepticism changes in the coming years. And we also measure how often the OeAW, its members and employees appear in the media. The notion of the ivory tower, if it was ever applicable, certainly no longer applies to the OeAW. After all, anyone seeking public support in the form of research funding and advocating for its increase must actively strive for public backing. By using public funds, we also assume a social responsibility, and I assure you, we are committed to fulfilling it.

All data from the OeAW Science Barometer:



Science Update

To bring journalists up to date on current topics, the OeAW launched the Science Update format in 2022. In a relaxed atmosphere, employees and members as well as scientists from other institutions are available for questions and discussion. So far, the topics of COVID-19, energy prices and energy transition as well as green genetic engineering have been discussed with great interest from the media.


Science Care

The OeAW is financed by the public sector and would therefore like to make its knowledge available to the general public. Scientists do this, among other things, in media appearances such as interviews, discussions, and guest commentaries. Often, however, they are then confronted with a negative response or hate messages. In these situations, the Academy stands by its researchers with Science Care and supports them in crisis communication and legal issues and, if necessary, also offers psychological counseling.


Ephesus: Sensational insights into ancient life

Archaeologists from the OeAW made a sensational find in October 2022: They discovered an early Byzantine business and gastronomy district that had been buried under a layer of soot for 1,400 years.

As if life had suddenly frozen 1,400 years ago: in October 2022, an excellently preserved district of Ephesus was uncovered. The area was apparently suddenly destroyed in 614/615 AD. All the household goods in the rooms were sealed with a thick layer of fire debris and thus preserved for posterity, making it possible to get unique snapshots of life at that time. The archaeologist Sabine Ladstätter talks about the importance of the find for archeology and what this district tells us about ancient city life. She is head of excavations in Ephesos and Director of the Austrian Archaeological Institute of the OeAW.

Dr. Ladstätter, in 2022 you and your team made a sensational discovery in the ancient city of Ephesus. You uncovered a district that had been buried under a thick layer of rubble and ash for 1,400 years. What did you find?

Sabine Ladstätter: We discovered a compact 170-square-meter business district, similar to a bazaar district. We uncovered a storage room full of vessels, jugs, cups, and plates, with a kitchen in front. There we found not only the stoves built into the wall, but also the cookware, gridirons, and skewers. Due to the excellent state of preservation, we were able to assign a precise function to each room. We also found a shop selling lamps and Christian pilgrim ampoules and a woodworking workshop.

Plants and coins reveal the date

This find gives insight into a day between 614/615 AD. How can you be so precise about the date?

Ladstätter: We can pinpoint the year based on the thousands of coins found in four cash registers. Based on charred plants we found, our archaeobotanists think it was an autumn day.

You can even reconstruct what was prepared in this kitchen 1,400 years ago. How?

Ladstätter: First of all, we not only excavated all the soil, but also elutriated it, which entails treating it with water. As a result, the sediment settles, allowing the preservation of even the tiniest seeds and bones. The amphorae we found contained small fish bones. One of our specialists was able to determine that the bones came from so-called Atlantic tuna, which is a type of mackerel. All the fish were cut down the middle and salted. This not only gives information about trade relations, but also about eating habits at that time.

A flourishing business in tourism

One of the biggest sensations were the 700 pilgrim ampoules you found. Can you explain the significance of these?

Ladstätter: The business district is at the top of Curetes Street, part of the pilgrimage route that leads from the port to the major pilgrimage centers. The 700 pilgrim ampoules were found in the entrance area of a shop. They were used as devotional objects to fill with earth, dust, or oil from the holy places. For some perspective: Ephesos has been excavated for 130 years, and so far only 20 pilgrim ampoules were known.

The business district remained untouched for 1,400 years. Why?

Ladstätter: The fascinating thing about the excavation for us was that the collapsed roof was completely sealed. That means nobody has been digging around here before us. We were able to document very nicely how one roof tile lay next to the other. Underneath this layer of roof tiles was a black layer of ash and charcoal, 80 cm thick. Thousands of coins and valuable bronze vessels were buried underneath. Usually, after fires or earthquakes, people return, clean up and continue living in their neighborhoods. Not in this case. We assume that the residents – i.e., those who knew what was buried here – were no longer there.

Sassanids as likely attackers

What could be the reason for this?

Ladstätter: It was probably an enemy attack because we also found spears and arrowheads. From historical sources we know that the Sassanids – an ancient Persian dynasty – invaded Asia Minor at that time. The hypothesis that they destroyed Ephesus has thus been confirmed. What’s more, Ephesus was not the only place. Colleagues from Aphrodisias report a similar situation at their excavation site. Our find is therefore not only of local importance, but will also have repercussions for the overall picture of the early Byzantine period.

The district that was discovered has been excellently preserved. How are archaeological excavations changing in times of the climate crisis?

Ladstätter: The extreme weather conditions are having an enormous impact on the excavated objects. One material that suffers massively is marble because the surface corrodes easily. Studies from Ephesus show how marble surfaces deteriorate due to storms and intense sunlight. This is becoming more of a problem, which is why we have to seal and reinforce the surfaces. Beyond Ephesus, sea level rise is a subject much debated in archaeology.


Sabine Ladstätter

Sabine Ladstätter has led the excavations in Ephesos since 2009 and thus an international team of around 200 members. She is a member of the OeAW and was Scientist of the Year in 2011. From 2021-2025 she is serving as Executive Director of the Austrian Archaeological Institute of the OeAW.

DID YOU KNOW? The Ephesus Quiz

Which of the seven wonders of the world was located in the ancient city of Ephesus?

a. the Tomb of Mausolus
b. the Hanging Gardens of Babylon
c. the Temple of Artemis

How long has the Austrian Archaeological Institute been involved in the excavations in Ephesus?

a. since 1895
b. since 1905
c. since 1959

Which ancient philosopher was born in Ephesus?

a. Socrates
b. Heraclitus
c. Theophrastus

Answers: c. the Temple of Artemis, a. since 1895, b. Heraclitus

Medical revolution: 3D cell cultures

Technological advances make it possible to recreate different tissue types with complex three-dimensional structures in the laboratory. Such 3D cultures can be used to explore new approaches to treating various diseases without resorting to animal experiments. IMBA – the Institute of Molecular Biotechnology of the OeAW – is leading further development of the technology.

The enormous complexity of the human body represents an obstacle for medical research that is not to be underestimated: among trillions of cells that communicate with each other via a complex signaling network, it is hardly possible to examine the functions of individual tissues and organs or possible starting points for therapies in detail, certainly not with methods that meet the strict requirements of human testing. For this reason, medical researchers often use animal models. However, this approach raises its own ethical problems and the results of experiments with mice and other model organisms only offer limited insights into human biology.

With tailor-made tissue models, completely new doors are open to research."
Nicolas Rivron

OeAW as a leader in organoid research

For several years there has been a solution to this problem, in whose development the IMBA of the OeAW in Vienna played a leading role. Specialized cell types arise from pluripotent stem cells and when these are kept suspended in a nutrient solution by mechanical shaking, they form small balls of tissue a few millimeters in diameter. If the appropriate signaling molecules are added, structures can be formed that are ideal as models for organs or embryos. “We can reduce complexity by exploiting genetic programming and the self-assembly propensity of cells and can build tailor-made tissue models. This has opened up completely new doors for research for several years, and we are now working to harness the enormous potential,” says OeAW molecular biologist Nicolas Rivron.

We can grow organoids specifically with certain diseases and thus test new therapies."
Nina Corsini

Organoids and blastoids

At IMBA, several research groups are working on developing different model tissues and using them for new therapeutic approaches. “In Jürgen Knoblich’s group we work with complex organoids from different nerve cells, which are suitable as models for human brains. This not only allows new insights into the little-understood functioning of our thinking apparatus, but also research into diseases with a neurological component. We can grow organoids specifically with certain diseases and thus determine exactly what genetic tumors or diseases such as epilepsy, schizophrenia or autism do to the nerve tissue, and we can test new therapies,” explains OeAW researcher Nina Corsini.

Other scientists at the OeAW institute in the third district of Vienna are pursuing a similar approach with intestinal cells, with which new therapies against mucoviscidosis (cystic fibrosis) could be developed in the future. Nicolas Rivron’s group, on the other hand, cultivates blastoids, which serve as a very simplified model for embryos. “The blastoids allow us to study the development of embryos and the interactions with uterine cells. This allows us to learn more about the causes of infertility, for example, and perhaps even develop drugs that counteract it. Female reproductive medicine is a field with a lot of catching up to do and potentially enormous societal and economic implications,” Rivron says.

The future has already begun

In many countries, the reproduction rate is already below the level that would be necessary to maintain the population. Drugs that treat infertility could help mitigate the social and economic impact of shrinking populations. Conversely, new contraceptives that have no side effects could make life easier for many couples. The OeAW researchers are convinced that their 3D cell cultures have the potential to change the world in the years to come. “With this technology, we can model and research a wide variety of human diseases much better. New genetic tools like CRISPR and single-cell analysis also allow us to precisely control our 3D cell cultures and see what happens at the single-cell level when we make changes to the system. The first new treatment approaches are already being tested and we will see many more new breakthroughs in the future,” Corsini is certain.

From research to creation

Research findings often give rise to innovations, and currently, entrepreneurial implementation is taking place in 12 spin-offs that have successfully emerged from OeAW institutes. The Academy aims to provide aspiring founders with even better support in planning their academic startups.

It was in the middle of the first corona lockdown when Magdalena Hauser and Wolfgang Lechner founded Parity Quantum Computing (ParityQC). The first employee of the company had to go into quarantine two weeks after the start, so the whole company was set up online. This did not detract from the success of the startup: ParityQC offers blueprints for quantum computers and is extremely successful in this field. The absolute highlight in the company’s history to date: In November 2022, ParityQC landed a major contract with the German Aerospace Center (DLR). DLR is investing a total of 208 million euros in the construction of ion trap quantum computers – this is one of the largest investments ever in this area. ParityQC is part of the consortium that won the contract.

ParityQC is just one example of a successful OeAW spin-off. The quantum physicists at IQOQI Innsbruck have achieved great success in realizing programmable quantum computers in recent years. ParityQC is now using these findings in an entrepreneurial way.

From basic research to business

Researchers as entrepreneurs: that sounds unusual to many at first. In principle, practical or economic benefits are not the main goal of a basic research institution such as the OeAW. Research is driven by curiosity and not geared towards its usability. This is exactly why innovations often arise from basic research – the research process cannot be precisely predicted. The OeAW not only makes this new knowledge available as an advisor to society or a science communicator but is also a successful partner for the transfer of know-how when founding spin-offs. OeAW President Heinz Faßmann says: “The OeAW Presiding Committee welcomes continued application of research results. We therefore help with patenting, and we support the establishment of spin-offs. Successful examples such as ParityQC in the field of quantum physics or Proxygen in the field of molecular biology also show that the boundary between basic research and applied research is an artificial one. The results of basic research lead to innovative products and technologies, even if this was not planned at the beginning of the research process.”

Twelve OeAW spin-offs on the market

There are currently 12 spin-offs on the market that emerged from the Academy, specifically from IQOQI Innsbruck, CeMM, and IMBA. They all create new jobs and contribute to solving the problems of our time with their entrepreneurial and inventive talent. Just like HeartBeat.bio is doing in the healthcare sector. The company is another example of a successful OeAW spin-off. It brings together human organoid technology with artificial intelligence and hardware engineering to advance the development of heart disease drugs. In October 2022, HeartBeat.bio set the next milestone: To study the use of heart organoids from human stem cells for the development of new heart treatments, the company announced a collaboration with Boehringer Ingelheim, the largest pharmaceutical company in Germany.

The success of a spin-off also depends to a large extent on the academic parent organization. The Academy wants to get even better here and expand the strategy for intellectual property to be able to use innovations and research findings even better for the benefit of society. “Our goal is to further increase the number of patent applications and OeAW spin-offs,” President Faßmann explains. We want to raise awareness of this among employees and give them even better support in planning spin-offs.”

The biotechnology company Proxygen, a spin-off of CeMM, recently demonstrated the potential for success. US pharmaceutical giant Merck intends to invest up to 2.5 billion euros in the company. Proxygen develops agents that use the body’s own recycling system in cells to specifically break down disease-relevant proteins. Merck expects this to open up new avenues in the search for therapeutic mechanisms and in drug development. “A good example of how we all benefit from scientific progress,” reinforces Faßmann.

OEAW RESEARCH - Nr. 1 in Nature’s innovation ranking

The OeAW is successful not only with spin-offs, but also with patent applications. In the “Nature” innovation ranking, the OeAW scored best of all Austrian institutions. Overall, the renowned journal ranked the OeAW 84th out of a total of 500. The OeAW institutes registered twelve new patents in 2022, nine of which were first-time applications. These include novel materials for coating tools, the further development of organoid models, and new approaches in cell, autoimmune, and cancer therapies.


Quantum Physics

  • ParityQC
  • Alpine Quantum Technologies

Life Sciences

  • HeartBeat.bio
  • Angios Biotech
  • Quantro Therapeutics
  • a:head bio
  • dawn-bio
  • Solgate
  • Proxygen
  • Myllia Biotechnolgy
  • HaplogenMyeloPro Diagnostics & Research

Cori: OeAW brings cutting-edge research on metabolism to Graz

The OeAW institute for metabolism research has been established in Graz. It is named after the Austrian-American Nobel laureates Gerty and Carl Cori. In a guest commentary, OeAW member Rudolf Zechner describes how the cooperation with universities works and what research goals the Cori Institute is pursuing.

On October 10, 2022, at a ceremony accompanied by Science Minister Martin Polaschek and the State Minister for Science and Research Barbara Eibinger-Miedl, the President and Vice President of the OeAW Heinz Faßmann and Ulrike Diebold as well as the rectors of three universities in Graz (Peter Riedler for the University of Graz, Hellmut Samonigg for the Medical University of Graz, and Harald Kainz for Graz University of Technology) signed a cooperation agreement to found the Cori Institute of Molecular and Computational Metabolism. The first new founding of an Academy institute in around 10 years, this was a milestone in the forward-looking development of metabolism research in Graz and Austria. This success is not least due to the commitment and input of the OeAW Presiding Committee under Anton Zeilinger and the then Science Minister Heinz Faßmann.

The Cori Institute of the OeAW, which honors the married couple Carl and Gerty Cori (Nobel Prize for Physiology and Medicine 1948), aims to break new ground in researching metabolic processes and their role in the pathogenesis of extremely common and often life-threatening diseases. The focus of interest is on the metabolic processes that lead to environmental and age-related metabolic diseases (e.g., diabetes and coronary heart disease), the elucidation of the role of the metabolism of pathogenic microorganisms and their host organisms in infectious diseases, and the role of metabolism in the development of cancer and cancer-associated cachexia.

“The findings will enable the development of new, more efficient therapeutics and treatment methods.

Rudolf Zechner

The rapid development of experimental procedures and technologies as well as the enormous advances in the fields of data management, modeling, and simulation allow a completely new approach to understanding biological processes and the development, diagnosis, and treatment of human diseases. The Cori Institute wants to take advantage of this opportunity by replacing traditional models of academic research in subject-specific research groups with new, interdisciplinary teams that are able to collect experimental and clinical data, to interconnect them, and to transform them into rational models. The knowledge gained in this way will lead to a deeper, quantitative understanding of biological and pathological processes and thus enable the development of new, more efficient therapeutics and treatment methods. The Cori Institute is thus conceived as an application-independent basic research institute whose findings are expected to have direct effects on the development of new treatment methods.

Graz can look back on a well-established, successful history of both metabolism research and applied mathematics. The creation of the Cori Institute of the OeAW opens up excellent opportunities for cooperation between the relevant university research groups and the new OeAW Institute. A significant boost for the abovementioned research areas can be expected at the entire location.

The close intertwining of experimental metabolism research with mathematical modeling and simulation at the Cori Institute represents a highly innovative concept and a unique selling point internationally. This link also requires researchers from the natural sciences, medicine, formal sciences (mathematics, computer science), and technical sciences to be brought together in a common center to maximize interdisciplinary interactions and collaborations, in line with the Cori concept. The institute building is to be made available to the OeAW by the universities. The conversion or new construction of a property in Leechgasse in Graz is currently being planned, with completion expected in 2025. To get things going as quickly as possible, the search for a director of the Cori Institute will begin as early as 2023 by a search committee set up by the OeAW Presiding Committee. This will give the new management a great deal of freedom in establishing four to eight working groups within the next five years. Until the completion of the institute premises, the participating universities will ensure appropriate temporary accommodation for the Cori working groups. In the long term, the groups can be further expanded.

In summary, the institute for metabolism research offers the great opportunity to enable cutting-edge research in the field of metabolism with high international appeal through broad interdisciplinary, inter-university, and inter-institutional cooperation.


Rudolf Zechner

Rudolf Zechner is Professor of Biochemistry at the University of Graz and Director of BioTechMed, the research cooperation between the University of Graz, TU Graz, and MedUni Graz. He is the initiator of the Cori Institute and a full member of the Academy.


The Coris

The new Cori Institute of the OeAW is named after Gerty and Carl Cori. The Coris, who came from old Austrian families, are regarded as icons of metabolism research. Both were born in Prague in 1896 and studied medicine there. From 1920 they worked both clinically and scientifically in Vienna and Graz. Due to increasing anti-Semitism, Carl and Gerty Cori left Austria for the USA in 1922 and were awarded the Nobel Prize for Medicine in 1947.

Iran: It is uncertain where the path will lead


“Woman, life, liberty” is one of the protest cries of a young generation in Iran. The protest is fueled by the lack of political and economic prospects but also by religious and regional tensions. Florian Schwarz, Director of the OeAW Institute of Iranian Studies discusses the many facets of the unrest in Iran.

On September 16, 2022, Jina (Mahsa) Amini died in Tehran as a result of injuries sustained after being detained by the “morality police”. A detention that many women in Iran have experienced and continue to experience. The death of Jina Amini sparked the largest protest movement in Iran since the Green Movement in 2009. Starting in Tehran and Kurdistan – Jina Amini’s home province – the protests quickly spread across the country. Scores of protesters were killed or injured by security forces. The call for civil liberties was at the heart of the protests. The slogans most frequently heard were “death to the dictator” and “woman, life, freedom”. The 2022 protests are sustained by a generation of young Iranians who have no memory of the revolution and the first two to three decades of the Islamic Republic of Iran. It is the generation that, as teenagers or young adults, grew up with the promises and expectations of the Rouhani presidency and with the Vienna nuclear agreement of 2015 and its abrupt end in 2018, and who see their prospects robbed by the massive economic crisis resulting from the tightened sanctions.

In none of the previous protest movements has the Iranian government appeared so hesitant and with its back against the wall.
Florian Schwarz

There is another dimension to the protests: ethno-sectarian tensions and regional inequalities. In Tehran and in the cities of the central provinces of Iran, the situation has been relatively calm since the turn of the year. Not so in two provinces that play a key role in the current developments: Kurdistan in the north-west and Sistan-Baluchestan in the south-east of the country. Just one day after Jina Amini’s death, Sunni clerics from these provinces published a message of solidarity. Its initiator was Maulavi Abdulhamid Ismailzahi, the imam of the Sunni Makki Mosque in Zahedan, the capital of Sistan-Baluchestan. Since the 16th century, the majority of Iran’s Muslim population has adhered to Shia, one of the two main branches of Islam. But not all of Iran’s Muslims are Shiites. A minority across the country, the approximately 20 percent Sunni form the vast majority of the population in some provinces of Iran, including Kurdistan and Sistan-Baluchestan, the largest and at the same time poorest of the 31 provinces. As early as the Pahlavi monarchy (1926–1979), Sunni religious networks in Sistan-Baluchestan played a major role in these regions. Iranian central governments promised them regional influence and religious rights in return for ensuring political order and social peace. This “deal” largely held up through the Pahlavi period and survived the revolution. Maulavi Abdulhamid comes from these Sunni networks in Baluchestan. Now this deal appears to be in jeopardy.

Under President Raisi, elected in 2021, there has been an increase in pressure on the religious autonomy of Sunni communities throughout Iran. Weeks and months before Jina Amini’s death, audible opposition was voiced by the Sunni religious communities. Kurdish and Baluchi Sunni mosque leaders jointly demand basic constitutional rights and oppose interference in the internal affairs of their religious institutions and communities. Since the protests began, Sunni imams have been declaring their solidarity with the protesters in Friday sermons and video messages, and have called for cultural and religious autonomy and respect between all religious communities. Zahedan’s main Sunni mosque has become a focus of protests. Its imam, Maulavi Abdulhamid, has gained popularity as a voice of protest far beyond Sunni networks, even in the Iranian diaspora.

Several developments have come together in the events since September 2022, making the situation more complex than in previous protest movements. They have led to some unexpected convergences of interest. In none of the previous protest movements, not even in the protests of 2009 that lasted for months, has the Iranian government appeared so hesitant and with its back against the wall. The generation of protesters from 2022 has lost hope for substantial and credible reforms of the kind that seemed possible in the Green Movement of 2009. Will an evolution of the system be possible as soon as the generation of Principlists, caught up in nostalgia for the revolution, is finally history? Amid multiple internal tensions, is Iran on the verge of a more fundamental upheaval? It is uncertain where the path will lead.


Florian Schwarz

Florian Schwarz is Director of the Institute of Iranian Studies of the OeAW in Vienna. Previously, he conducted research at the University of Tübingen and the Ruhr University Bochum, among others. Before his appointment to the OeAW, he was an assistant professor at the University of Washington, Seattle. He is a corresponding member of the OeAW.

“Polarization does not help society.”

In an interview, medical ethicist Alena Buyx talks about what the current crises are doing to social cohesion and how we as a society can remain resilient. In December 2022, she held the OeAW’s first Christmas Lecture in Vienna.

The crises of the present seem to be piling up. What keeps us together as a society and what drives us apart? Alena Buyx, Chair of the German Ethics Council, explored these questions at the first OeAW Christmas Lecture, organized jointly with krone.tv, on December 20, 2022, in the OeAW’s Festive Hall. In an interview, Buyx talks about the causes of increasing polarization and why it is important not to negate fears and insecurities. “As a society, we should do as much as possible to stay in dialogue,” she says. “Precisely because we are experiencing so many crises, we need more focus on what connects us as people. We need to promote more confidence and strive for a positive vision of how we want to live together as human beings.”

Dr. Buyx, are we living in a divided society?

Alena Buyx: Talking about a divided society presupposes a division. It sounds like something is broken in the middle, implying that certain groups are clearly separated. However, this break is not confirmed by scientific studies. What we have instead is a burdened, challenged society. Scientifically, stronger polarizations can be measured on certain hotly contested issues.

To understand and counter this polarization, it also helps to investigate the causes. Where do you see these?

Buyx: The answer is multifaceted. There are individual and structural reasons. At the individual level, people were affected in different ways during the pandemic, for example through job loss, economic damage, or illness and death in their own social circles. Structurally, we know that disinformation, fake news, and the intensification in our attention economies can polarize people. The logic of algorithms in social media is very well described scientifically: the more shocking and outraged a post, the more it is clicked on. But an algorithm is not a law of nature, it is a conscious decision in programming.

How deep have the rifts become since the pandemic?

Buyx: There are no clearly defined rifts. Different positions were discussed more intensely during the pandemic, such as questions about closed or open schools, the vaccine mandate, and the effectiveness of measures. There were numerous such controversies. Right now, we are seeing polarizations being adopted for new issues.

Polarization has little constructive potential, it does not help us socially.”
Alena Buyx

In what way?

Buyx: Studies show that climate change issues are now also being discussed in a more polarized manner than before the pandemic. There are similar questions here, such as: How many measures can people be expected to take to contain the climate crisis? How much can freedom be restricted? But polarization has little constructive potential, it does not help us socially. Quite the opposite. It makes solutions more difficult. That is why it is very important not to reinforce it, but to do as much as possible to stay in dialogue.

The various crises – the pandemic, the energy crisis, inflation, the climate crisis – all had or have the potential to drive us apart. How do we stay in dialogue?

Buyx: We have experienced major upheavals, starting with the biggest health crisis since World War II, which deeply impacted all of us. We did not have time as societies to recover from that. Instead, war ensued in Europe, and with it an energy crisis and inflation. And hovering over everything is the very real climate crisis. So, it is no wonder people are angry, upset, and scared. We should not negate and deny that. But precisely because we are experiencing so many crises, we need more focus on what connects us as people. We need to promote more confidence and strive for a positive vision of how we want to live together as human beings. The German Ethics Council has written many technical responses to questions of resilience in the crisis. In a 280-page report, we deal, among other things, with how resilience can be increased in certain sectors of society.

In many different contexts, people have reacted to the crises in a creative, pragmatic, resilient, and solution-oriented manner.”
Alena Buyx

The antithesis to talking about a divided society is a society that sticks together. In which areas is society actually coming together?

Buyx: There is a lot to do. Nonetheless, in these stressful situations, new, additional things have arisen that we may not have really noticed. We have experienced a major innovation push, for example in the connection between life and work, but also in terms of mutual support and pro-social initiatives. In many different contexts, people have reacted to the crises in a creative, pragmatic, resilient, and solution-oriented manner. We need to be more aware of this – also at an institutional, political, and media level. We need these strengthening and connecting stories as a counterbalance to all the difficult and challenging things we experience, read, and see every day.


Alena Buyx

Alena Buyx is a medical ethicist and university lecturer. Since 2018 she has been Director of the Institute of History and Ethics of Medicine and Professor of Ethics of Medicine and Health Technologies at the Faculty of Medicine of the Technical University of Munich. She has chaired the German Ethics Council since 2020.


Christmas Lectures

In 2022, the OeAW held a Christmas Lecture for the first time. Based on the Royal Institution Christmas Lectures in the UK, the annual series seeks to bring fascinating personalities from science to the stage to comment on pressing social or scientific issues in a way that a broad audience can understand. The Christmas Lectures are held in cooperation with krone.tv. After an opening speech, there is a conversation with the journalist Katia Wagner from krone.tv. The audience can subsequently ask questions. The lecture can be viewed on the OeAW’s YouTube channel.

Researching abroad


Three scientists tell how they had to flee the war in spring 2022 and were able to continue their research remotely with the help of the OeAW’s Ukraine Emergency Call. Currently, researchers from Ukraine can still submit applications for research stays to the OeAW.

On the morning of February 24, 2022, Russia invaded Ukraine. Anna Kosogor was woken in her Kiev apartment by sirens and explosions. At that time, she worked as a materials physicist at the National Academy of Sciences of Ukraine (NASU) and led a working group at the Institute of Magnetism in Kiev. She never thought it possible, she says, that such a war would break out in the 21st century.

Through colleagues she learned about the OeAW’s Ukraine Emergency Call – an aid program to enable scientists from Ukraine to continue their research work in Austria. She fled to Vienna with her five-year-old son and her mother-in-law. “I held my son in one hand and my laptop in the other,” the scientist recalls. After the initial shock, she thought the war would soon be over and hoped to return to Ukraine in the summer of 2022. But things turned out differently.

Cooperation between Vienna and Kyiv

Today she conducts research at the Faculty of Physics at the University of Vienna. Her focus: shape memory alloys. These are special metals that are used, for example, in medical technology for stents to widen constricted blood vessels. “The OeAW’s emergency call was very helpful for me, as was the support from the Erwin Schrödinger International Institute for Mathematics and Physics at the University of Vienna.” She was able to continue her work, give lectures, and submit papers. From Vienna, she works together with her laboratory at the Institute of Magnetism in Kiev as best she can. From May 2023, she will continue the joint research on magnetic cooling at Tohoku University in Japan as a visiting professor.

From the exclusion zone in Ukraine to the Austrian Alps

Radiation physicist Nataliia Zarubina also had to flee her homeland. Thanks to the support of the OeAW she was able to bring her research to Austria, she says. Zarubina worked at the Institute for Nuclear Research of NASU in the exclusion zone of the damaged Chernobyl nuclear power plant. For 33 years she collected data on the cesium content of mushrooms. Then came the war – and ruined her many years of research on the ground that had been undisturbed since the reactor accident in 1986.

In Vienna she then wrote her final report on the redistribution of cesium 137, one of the most dangerous and long-lived radionuclides, in forest ecosystems. Now her focus is on the coniferous forests of the Austrian Alps: “My many years of experience in enriching the biologically dangerous radioactive isotope cesium allows the methods developed to be quickly and effectively transferred to other areas,” she explains.

Teaching Ukrainian in Vienna

When the war in Ukraine broke out in February 2022, the sirens wailed in the western part of the country as well. Shortly thereafter, Russian bombs hit a military base near Lviv, close to the Polish border. Oksana Turkevych decided to flee with her six-year-old daughter. Before the war, the Slavicist and professor of applied linguistics carried out research at the Ivan Franko National University of Lviv and taught Ukrainian to foreign students.

Ukrainian in theory and didactics is also the subject of her work in exile. “In the first phase, the OeAW’s Ukraine Emergency Call helped me to explore the problems and challenges of teaching Ukrainian in Austria and, above all, to find a safe place to continue my research,” Turkevych recalls. For two months she researched at the University of Vienna on teaching Ukrainian as a native language. She then moved to the Humboldt University of Berlin, where she received a one-year post-doctoral fellowship. She would like to return to Vienna in autumn 2023 to support teachers and displaced Ukrainian children with the latest research on teaching Ukrainian as a native language.


Research support

Through the OeAW’s Ukraine Emergency Call, around 100 researchers who left Ukraine were able to continue their research projects in Austria in 2022.

Ukraine remains a target country in the OeAW’s long-standing mobility program “Joint Excellence in Science and Humanities”. The program is intended to promote the exchange of scientists from abroad with scientific institutions in Austria. The focus is on countries that can particularly benefit from knowledge transfer in research, such as Ukraine.

Ukrainian researchers can apply with their project to the OeAW for a research stay in Austria. After a positive evaluation by an expert jury, the applicant can carry out his/her project for up to six months at the OeAW, one of the Austrian universities, or other publicly funded research institutions.

The Ukraine Emergency Call was supported by the Vienna Science and Technology Fund (WWTF), the Austrian Center of Industrial Biotechnology (ACIB), the Ludwig Boltzmann Gesellschaft, and the City of Vienna.

OeAW elected 45 new members

The OeAW elects new members once a year. The researchers from Austria and abroad bring innovative ideas and new research perspectives.

In the elections in 2022, 14 female and 31 male researchers from a wide variety of disciplines in the humanities, social and cultural sciences as well as mathematics, natural and technical sciences were awarded membership of the OeAW for their outstanding scientific achievements.

The OeAW welcomed the historian Richard J. Evans as a new honorary member of the Division of Humanities and the Social Sciences. The native Briton, who has been President of Wolfson College at Cambridge University since 2010, contributed in particular to research into German history of the 19th and 20th centuries with groundbreaking work and insights.

The Division of Mathematics and the Natural Sciences also welcomed a new honorary member: the molecular biologist Erwin Wagner. Born in Carinthia, he gained important insights into cancer research at various scientific stops in Austria and abroad. He is currently working at the Medical University of Vienna. In addition, eight full members, 26 corresponding members and nine members of the Young Academy were elected to the OeAW.

New members are elected once a year. For admission it is important that the individuals meet the highest requirements in terms of personality, scientific work, and reputation in the professional world and that they come from a variety of disciplines.



Division of Humanities and the Social Sciences:

Richard J. Evans (Wolfson College, Cambridge University, UK), modern history, contemporary history

Division of Mathematics and the Natural Sciences:

Erwin Wagner (Medical University of Vienna), molecular biology


Division of Humanities and the Social Sciences:

Andrea Fischer (OeAW), glacier and mountain research

Division of Mathematics and the Natural Sciences:

Rainer Abart (University of Vienna), mineralogy and petrology

Markus Aspelmeyer (OeAW, University of Vienna), experimental physics

Thomas Eiter (Vienna University of Technology), computer science

Leticia González (University of Vienna), theoretical chemistry

Bernhard Jakoby (Johannes Kepler University Linz), sensor technology

Sylvia Knapp (Medical University of Vienna), infection biology

Elly Tanaka (Research Institute of Molecular Pathology), biology


Division of Humanities and the Social Sciences:

Robert Nedoma (University of Vienna), Scandinavian and German studies

Barbara Prainsack (University of Vienna), political science

Philipp Scheibelreiter (University of Vienna), antique legal history and Roman law

Division of Mathematics and the Natural Sciences:

Kaan Boztug (Medical University of Vienna, St. Anna Children's Cancer Research Institute), pediatrics

Adrian Constantin (University of Vienna), partial differential equations, applied mathematics

Ivo L. Hofacker (University of Vienna), theoretical chemistry

Alwin Koehler (Max Perutz Labs, University of Vienna, and Medical University of Vienna), mechanistic cell and developmental biology

Paul Mayrhofer (Vienna University of Technology), materials science

Keywan Riahi (International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis), energy systems analysis

Gerhard Schütz (Vienna University of Technology), biophysics


Division of Humanities and the Social Sciences:

Auksė Balčytienė (Vytautas Magnus University, Kaunas, Lithuania), media and communication studies

Jasmina Grković-Major (University of Novi Sad, Serbia), linguistics, Slavic studies, philology

Jaroslav Hrycak (Ukrainian Catholic University, Ukraine), history

Marianne Johanna Lehmkuhl (University of Bern, Switzerland), criminal law and criminal procedural law

Francesco Sferra (University of Naples "L'Orientale", Italy), Indology, Buddhist studies

Rahim Shayegan (University of California Los Angeles, USA), ancient history, Iranian studies

Marko Trogrlić (University of Split, Croatia), modern history

Alessandro Zuccari (Sapienza University of Rome, Rome, Italy), art history

Division of Mathematics and the Natural Sciences:

Hai Cheng (Xi'an Jiaotong University, China), paleoclimate research, geochemistry

Maria Esteban (Paris Dauphine University, France), applied mathematics, mathematical physics

Benjamin List (Max-Planck-Institut für Kohlenforschung, Mülheim, Germany), organic chemistry, catalysis

Nicola Spaldin (ETH Zürich, Switzerland), computational physics

Florian Steger (University of Ulm, Germany), history of medicine, ethics

Franz-Josef Ulm (Massachusetts Institute of Technology, USA), mechanics

Stephen Young (University of California Los Angeles, USA), biochemistry

Michael Zgurovsky (National Technical University of Ukraine, Ukraine), cybernetics


Timon Erik Adolph (Medical University of Innsbruck), gastroenterology

Anaïs Angelo (University of Vienna), African studies, history

Andrea Bachmaier (OeAW), materials physics

Alejandro Raul Burga Ramos (OeAW), biology: evolutionary genomics

Bruno De Nicola (OeAW), history: manuscript studies

Claude-Edouard Hannezo (ISTA), theoretical biophysics

Lisa Isola (University of Vienna), law

Sandra Müller (Vienna University of Technology), logic (set theory)

Georg E. Winter (OeAW), chemical biology

Dialogue and diversity: Commissions of the OeAW

New findings: Institutes of the OeAW

Fresh ideas: OeAW scholarship programs

New horizons: OeAW funding programs