Pioneering milestone: St. Anna Children's Cancer Research Institute announces new Christian Doppler laboratory with research focus on next generation CAR-T cells in the fight against childhood cancer.

Traxlmayr, Lehner
Bild1_Christian Doppler Labor unter der Leitung von Manfred Lehner von der St. Anna Kinderkrebsforschung in Zusammenarbeit mit Michael Traxlmayr, Boku

Cutting-edge research in Vienna, with the potential to give valuable impulses in international childhood cancer research: The new Christian Doppler Laboratory of the St. Anna Children's Cancer Research Institute (CCRI), headed by Manfred Lehner in cooperation with Michael Traxlmayr, head of the external module at the University of Natural Resources and Applied Life Sciences, and the industry partner Miltenyi Biotec. The focus is on the development of new therapeutic options for high-risk childhood tumors using more effective and safer next-generation CAR-T cells (CARs = chimeric antigen receptors). With the establishment of a Christian Doppler Laboratory, St. Anna Children's Cancer Research Institute is thus taking the next step in the research on new treatment approaches for young patients.


The Austrian Federal Ministry for Digital and Economic Affairs promotes application-oriented basic research

The Christian Doppler Research Society promotes cooperation between science and industry. In close cooperation with corporate partners, innovative answers to current research questions are sought. Thus, the Christian Doppler Research Society is internationally regarded as a best practice example, which is jointly financed by the public sector and participating companies. The most important public funding body is the Austrian Federal Ministry for Digital and Economic Affairs (BMDW).

"Research saves lives. The corona crisis shows that we can build on numerous research results from basic research. Strong application-oriented scientific research is needed also in other research areas. Every child who dies of childhood cancer is one too many. The new CD Laboratory is examining promising therapeutic approaches. The chances of a cure increase by such projects," says Margarete Schramböck, Federal Minister for Digital and Economic Affairs.

Excellent and application-oriented: St. Anna Children's Cancer Research Institute fulfils funding requirements

The establishment of Christian Doppler Laboratories (CD Laboratories) is basically linked to two conditions: on the one hand, a company has a concrete need for knowledge and know-how from application-oriented basic research, on the other hand, the scientific partner must be willing to be open for this corporate need in the long term. These conditions are met in the case of the new CD Laboratory at the CCRI in cooperation with the University of Natural Resources and Applied Life Sciences (BOKU) and the industrial partner company Miltenyi Biotec. The CD Laboratory "Next Generation CAR-T Cells" will be funded with approximately 3 million euros over the next seven years of research, including approximately 1.5 million euros from public funds.

With 20,000 new diagnoses and 6,000 deaths per year across Europe, childhood cancer is still the most deadly disease in children aged one year and older. Every year about 300 children and adolescents throughout Austria are diagnosed with cancer.

Promotion of basic research on childhood cancer
The goal of CCRI is clear: to further exploit the potential of modern research in order to adapt therapy to the specifics of the individual disease and thus further increase the cure rate. The new CD Laboratory is embedded in an excellent scientific environment and combines with Manfred Lehner from CCRI in cooperation with Michael Traxlmayr from BOKU outstanding expertise in the field of further development of cancer immunotherapy using CAR-T cells. These are ideal conditions for application-oriented research, which promise innovative findings for clinical application for the benefit of young cancer patients. Scientific research in general is of considerable importance for Austria as a business location. The funding programs of the Christian Doppler Research Society are among the most important instruments for the Federal Ministry of Digital and Economic Affairs to promote research as a pioneer for successful cooperation between science and business.

CD Laboratory for CAR T-cell research: Insights into research for promising therapeutic approaches
It is known that the body's own immune cells, especially T-cells, have a strong ability to kill cancer cells. However, recurrent tumors have learned to present themselves in such a way that our immune cells can no longer recognize them as dangerous and kill them. In CAR-T cell therapy, cancer cells can be made visible again to the immune system by isolating T cells from the blood of patients and equipping them with artificially built-in receptors, so-called chimeric antigen receptors (CARs). The cells modified in this way are then administered to the patient where they are supposed to multiply and fight the cancer.

Indeed, CAR T cells show impressive success in clinical application, especially in the treatment of B-cell leukemia and B-cell lymphoma. Therefore, CAR-T cell therapy is one of the most promising new therapeutic approaches in oncology. For solid tumors, however, despite intensive worldwide research, there are no comparable successes to date. In solid tumors, an effective immune response is often prevented by several mechanisms. Therefore, strategies are needed to significantly increase the effectiveness of CAR-T cells in the hostile environment of a tumor. Such an increase in efficacy would, however, at the same time lead to an increased negative effect on healthy cells, since the currently existing CAR-T cell therapies can only differentiate between cancer cells and healthy cells to a limited extent.

"The research goal is to generate molecular tools that can be used to better control CAR T cells in order to use them as targeted missiles against solid tumors," states Michael Traxlmayr, biochemist at BOKU and head of the external CD Laboratory module. This explains the importance and scope of research into this therapeutic approach of this CD Laboratory, also on the international level. "To illustrate the problem, I like to make a comparison with a car: Just like in a car, we need an accelerator and a brake to control the activity of the therapy, otherwise dangerous overreactions can occur. At the same time, we have to improve the controllability of the therapy considerably," explains Manfred Lehner, head of the CD Laboratory at CCRI.

The scientific elaboration of solutions for exactly this problem is the focus of the CD Laboratory for Next Generation CAR-T Cells. By closely combining the immunological expertise of CCRI and the biochemical expertise of BOKU, the new CD Laboratory will further advance the safety and tumor-specificity of this therapy, so that more effective CAR-T cell therapies can be brought into broad clinical application and new decisive impulses for cancer therapy can be provided worldwide.

Further information about the laboratory:


For more information see attached Press Release:

Pressemitteilung: Eröffnung Christian Doppler Labor
Press Release: Opening Christian Doppler Labor


Copyright picture: Gilbert Novy


About Manfred Lehner, head of the Christian Doppler Laboratory at St. Anna Children's Cancer Research Institute

Manfred Lehner received his doctorate in 2001 at CCRI on the topic of "Immune response of dendritic cells after infection and interaction with T cells". In 2012 he habilitated at the Friedrich Alexander University Erlangen-Nuremberg on cellular therapies. In 2013, back at CCRI, he focused on a new concept for the promising CAR-T cell therapy. After a stay abroad at the National Cancer Institute in Bethesda (USA) in 2014, he further developed this concept and started to realize it in 2016 in cooperation with Michael Traxlmayr from the University of Natural Resources and Applied Life Sciences, BOKU. This cooperation eventually led to the international application for three patents. Based on these results and the cooperation with the BOKU, the new CD laboratory at CCRI has now been established together with the industrial partner Miltenyi Biotec.

About Michael Traxlmayr, head of the external module of the Christian Doppler Laboratory at BOKU
Michael Traxlmayr received his PhD in 2012 at the University of Natural Resources and Applied Life Sciences Vienna in the field of antibody engineering. He then went to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT, Cambridge, USA) as a post-doctoral fellow, where he worked in the laboratory of Prof. Wittrup, who is considered one of the pioneers in the field of protein and antibody engineering. After about three years, Michael Traxlmayr returned to BOKU and started the cooperation with Manfred Lehner from St. Anna Children's Cancer Research Institute, from which this Christian Doppler Laboratory finally emerged.

About Miltenyi Biotec
Miltenyi Biotec is a global provider of products and services that advance biomedical research and cell therapy. The innovative instruments support research at every level - from basic research to translational research and clinical application. The technologies are used by scientists and clinicians around the world and include techniques for sample preparation, cell isolation, cell sorting, flow cytometry and cell culture. The company's 30 years of experience extends to research areas such as immunology, stem cell biology, neuroscience and cancer. Today, Miltenyi Biotec employs over 3,000 people in 28 countries - all with the goal of helping researchers and clinicians make a greater impact on science and health.

About the Christian Doppler Laboratories of the Christian Doppler Research Society
In Christian Doppler Laboratories application-oriented basic research is carried out on a high level. Outstanding scientists cooperate with innovative companies. The Christian Doppler Research Society is internationally regarded as an example of best practice for the promotion of this cooperation. Christian Doppler Laboratories are jointly