"Night Sciences - Science of Innovation by Serendipity" Lecture in Washington, D.C. on January 18, 2005

Professor Josef Penninger, head of the Institute of Molecular Biotechnology (IMBA) at the Austrian Academy of Science in Vienna, was elected "Scientist of the Year 2003" by the Austrian Association of Science Journalists. On the 18th of January, in recognition of this honor, Professor Penninger was invited to deliver a lecture, "Night Sciences - Science of Innovation by Serendipity," presenting his work and emphasizing the role of chance in scientific research.

{access view=guest}Access to the full article is free, but requires you to register. Registration is simple and quick - all we need is your name and a valid e-mail address. We appreciate your interest in bridges.{/access} {access view=!guest} The "Austrian Science Series," organized by the Office of Science & Technology at the Austrian Embassy in Washington, was also the kick-off for the presentation of "Innovative Austria," organized by the Austrian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Austrian Federal Ministry of Education, Science and Culture. This joint project presents numerous scientific ideas, concepts, and achievements of Austrian scientists from the founding of the 2nd Austrian Republic in 1945 to the present.

Opening the festivities, Austrian Ambassador Eva Nowotny recalled the many Austrians who have contributed considerably to progress not only in music, literature, and art but also in the medical or physical sciences. Host of the evening, Scientific Attaché Philipp Steger, highlighted the importance of extensive communication with the public and the impact of science on everyday life of all mankind.

 Speaking to an interested audience of 200 people, Professor Penninger explained in a highly comprehensible way two different approaches to scientific research. "Day Science" is his name for research in familiar areas leading to predictable outcomes. The opposite approach, and main focus of his work, is research in areas where the path and even the possible existence of results is unknown to the scientist and makes a crucial difference in science. [picture: Josef Penninger]

His work and that of his team is to identify genes, their function, and influence on proteins with the help of "knock-out mice." Their conclusions offer increased understanding of the molecular origin of diseases and therefore new approaches to therapies for cancer, cardiovascular diseases, and research on autoimmune diseases.
 Professor Penninger, a renowned specialist (although only 40 years old), explained his fascinating work in the fields of mouse genetics and immunology, and offered two examples. First, the gene OPGL which controls the transfer of calcium in bones is necessary for the musculoskeletal system and the production of milk after a pregnancy. This link between the gene and its effect provides an explanation for significant diseases of women including osteoporosis. Although logical, this connection had been ignored for a long time. [picture: Philipp Steger during the laudation of Prof. Josef Penninger]

A second example is the development of new strategies against infectious lung diseases such as SARS. In 2002 Professor Penninger discovered gene ACE2 and its effect on blood pressure and heart diseases. Another effect is the connection between this gene and SARS, a discovery that may lead to the development of new medicines and therapies.

Finally Professor Penninger made some remarks on the necessary conditions for successful science: the existence of free and creative general conditions which make it possible to develop science without constraint, therefore leading to outstanding results. This is what the IMBA wants to offer its leading scientists, resulting in understanding, knowledge, and the development of new therapies for humankind.

Please visit the OST download page for more photos of the event, voice streams, and materials on Josef Penninger, the IMBA and other background information.

Links to go with the article:

IMBA - www.imba.oeaw.ac.at

Austria Innovative - http://www.oesterreich2005.at