Birgit Linhart

Medical University of Vienna, Wien, Vienna, Austria

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Publications (39)215.82 Total impact

  • Annals of allergy, asthma & immunology: official publication of the American College of Allergy, Asthma, & Immunology 08/2014; · 3.45 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Vaccines consisting of allergen-derived peptides lacking IgE reactivity and allergen-specific T cell epitopes bound to allergen-unrelated carrier molecules have been suggested as candidates for allergen-specific immunotherapy. To study whether prophylactic and therapeutic vaccination with carrier-bound peptides from the major birch pollen allergen Bet v 1 lacking allergen-specific T cell epitopes has influence on Bet v 1-specific T cell responses. Three Bet v 1-derived peptides, devoid of Bet v 1-specific T cell epitopes, were coupled to KLH and adsorbed to aluminium hydroxide to obtain a Bet v 1-specific allergy vaccine. Groups of BALB/c mice were immunized with the peptide vaccine before or after sensitization to Bet v 1. Bet v 1- and peptide-specific antibody responses were analysed by ELISA. T cell and cytokine responses to Bet v 1, KLH, and the peptides were studied in proliferation assays. The effects of peptide-specific and allergen-specific antibodies on T cell responses and allergic lung inflammation were studied using specific antibodies. Prophylactic and therapeutic vaccination with carrier-bound Bet v 1 peptides induced a Bet v 1-specific IgG antibody response without priming/boosting of Bet v 1-specific T cells. Prophylactic and therapeutic vaccination of mice with the peptide vaccine induced Bet v 1-specific antibodies which suppressed Bet v 1-specific T cell responses and allergic lung inflammation. Vaccination with carrier-bound allergen-derived peptides lacking allergen-specific T cell epitopes induces allergen-specific IgG antibodies which suppress allergen-specific T cell responses and allergic lung inflammation.
    Clinical & Experimental Allergy 02/2014; 44(2):278-87. · 4.79 Impact Factor
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    Clinical and Translational Allergy. 07/2013; 3(3).
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    Clinical and Translational Allergy. 07/2013; 3(3).
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    ABSTRACT: IgE antibody-mediated allergies affect more than 25% of the population worldwide. To investigate therapeutic and preventive effects of passive immunization with allergen-specific IgG antibodies on allergy in mouse models we used clinically relevant pollen allergens. In a treatment model, mice were sensitized to the major birch pollen allergen Bet v 1 and to the major grass pollen allergens, Phl p 1 and Phl p 5 and then received passive immunization with rabbit IgG antibodies specific for the sensitizing or an unrelated allergen. In a prevention model, mice obtained passive immunization with allergen-specific rabbit IgG before sensitization. Kinetics of the levels of administered IgG antibodies, effects of administered allergen-specific IgG on allergen-specific IgE reactivity, the development of IgE and IgG responses and on immediate allergic reactions were studied by ELISA, rat basophil leukaemia degranulation assays and skin testing, respectively. Treated mice showed an approximately 80% reduction of allergen-specific IgE binding and basophil degranulation which was associated with the levels of administered allergen-specific IgG antibodies. Preventive administration of allergen-specific IgG antibodies suppressed the development of allergen-specific IgE and IgG(1) antibody responses as well as allergen-induced basophil degranulation and skin reactivity. Our results show that passive immunization with allergen-specific IgG antibodies is effective for treatment and prevention of allergy to clinically important pollen allergens in a mouse model and thus may pave the road for the clinical application of allergen-specific antibodies in humans.
    Immunobiology 10/2012; · 2.81 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Development of antigen-specific preventive strategies is a challenging goal in IgE-mediated allergy. We have recently shown in proof-of-concept experiments that allergy can be successfully prevented by induction of durable tolerance via molecular chimerism. Transplantation of syngeneic hematopoietic stem cells genetically modified to express the clinically relevant grass pollen allergen Phl p 5 into myeloablated recipients led to high levels of chimerism (i.e. macrochimerism) and completely abrogated Phl p 5-specific immunity despite repeated immunizations with Phl p 5. It was unclear, however, whether microchimerism (drastically lower levels of chimerism) would be sufficient as well which would allow development of minimally toxic tolerance protocols. Bone marrow cells were transduced with recombinant viruses integrating Phl p 5 to be expressed in a membrane-anchored fashion. The syngeneic modified cells were transplanted into non-myeloablated recipients that were subsequently immunized repeatedly with Phl p 5 and Bet v 1 (control). Molecular chimerism was monitored using flow cytometry and PCR. T cell, B-cell and effector-cell tolerance were assessed by allergen-specific proliferation assays, isotype levels in sera and RBL assays. Here we demonstrate that transplantation of Phl p 5-expressing bone marrow cells into recipients having received non-myeloablative irradiation resulted in chimerism persisting for the length of follow-up. Chimerism levels, however, declined from transient macrochimerism levels to persistent levels of microchimerism (followed for 11 months). Notably, these chimerism levels were sufficient to induce B-cell tolerance as no Phl p 5-specific IgE and other high affinity isotypes were detectable in sera of chimeric mice. Furthermore, T-cell and effector-cell tolerance were achieved. Low levels of persistent molecular chimerism are sufficient to induce long-term tolerance in IgE-mediated allergy. These results suggest that it will be possible to develop minimally toxic conditioning regimens sufficient for low level engraftment of genetically modified bone marrow.
    Clinical & Experimental Allergy 08/2012; 42(8):1282-92. · 4.79 Impact Factor
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    Birgit Linhart, Rudolf Valenta
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    ABSTRACT: Vaccines aim to establish or strengthen immune responses but are also effective for the treatment of allergy. The latter is surprising because allergy represents a hyper-immune response based on immunoglobulin E production against harmless environmental antigens, i.e., allergens. Nevertheless, vaccination with allergens, termed allergen-specific immunotherapy is the only disease-modifying therapy of allergy with long-lasting effects. New forms of allergy diagnosis and allergy vaccines based on recombinant allergen-derivatives, peptides and allergen genes have emerged through molecular allergen characterization. The molecular allergy vaccines allow sophisticated targeting of the immune system and may eliminate side effects which so far have limited the use of traditional allergen extract-based vaccines. Successful clinical trials performed with the new vaccines indicate that broad allergy vaccination is on the horizon and may help to control the allergy pandemic.
    Current opinion in immunology 04/2012; 24(3):354-60. · 10.88 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: The FAST project (Food Allergy Specific Immunotherapy) aims at the development of safe and effective treatment of food allergies, targeting prevalent, persistent and severe allergy to fish and peach. Classical allergen-specific immunotherapy (SIT), using subcutaneous injections with aqueous food extracts may be effective but has proven to be accompanied by too many anaphylactic side-effects. FAST aims to develop a safe alternative by replacing food extracts with hypoallergenic recombinant major allergens as the active ingredients of SIT. Both severe fish and peach allergy are caused by a single major allergen, parvalbumin (Cyp c 1) and lipid transfer protein (Pru p 3), respectively. Two approaches are being evaluated for achieving hypoallergenicity, i.e. site-directed mutagenesis and chemical modification. The most promising hypoallergens will be produced under GMP conditions. After pre-clinical testing (toxicology testing and efficacy in mouse models), SCIT with alum-absorbed hypoallergens will be evaluated in phase I/IIa and IIb randomized double-blind placebo-controlled (DBPC) clinical trials, with the DBPC food challenge as primary read-out. To understand the underlying immune mechanisms in depth serological and cellular immune analyses will be performed, allowing identification of novel biomarkers for monitoring treatment efficacy. FAST aims at improving the quality of life of food allergic patients by providing a safe and effective treatment that will significantly lower their threshold for fish or peach intake, thereby decreasing their anxiety and dependence on rescue medication.
    Clinical and translational allergy. 03/2012; 2(1):5.
  • Birgit Linhart, Rudolf Valenta
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    ABSTRACT: Hundred years ago therapeutic vaccination with allergen-containing extracts has been introduced as a clinically effective, disease-modifying, allergen-specific and long-lasting form of therapy for allergy, a hypersensitivity disease affecting more than 25% of the population. Today, the structures of most of the disease-causing allergens have been elucidated and recombinant hypoallergenic allergen derivatives with reduced allergenic activity have been engineered to reduce side effects during allergen-specific immunotherapy (SIT). These recombinant hypoallergens have been characterized in vitro, in experimental animal models and in clinical trials in allergic patients. This review provides a summary of the molecular, immunological and preclinical evaluation criteria applied for this new generation of allergy vaccines. Furthermore, we summarize the mechanisms underlying SIT with recombinant hypoallergens which are thought to be responsible for their therapeutic effect.
    Vaccine 11/2011; 30(29):4328-35. · 3.77 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Tropomyosins represent clinically relevant seafood allergens but the role of mite tropomyosin, Der p 10, in house dust mite (HDM) allergy has not been studied in detail. To express and purify a recombinant Der p 10 with equivalent IgE reactivity as natural Der p 10 and to evaluate its IgE reactivity and allergenic activity in HDM-allergic patients. rDer p 10 was expressed in Escherichia coli, purified and characterized by mass spectrometry and circular dichroism. It was tested for IgE reactivity in 1322 HDM-allergic patients. Detailed IgE-reactivity profiles to six HDM allergens (Der p 1, 2, 5, 7, 10, 21) were established for subgroups of Der p 10-positive and -negative patients. The allergenic activity of rDer p 10 was evaluated in basophil degranulation experiments. rDer p 10 is an α-helical protein sharing IgE epitopes with nDer p 10. It is recognized by 15.2% of HDM-allergic patients. Der p 10-negative patients were primarily sensitized to Der p 1 and/or Der p 2, whereas Der p 10-positive patients reacted to several other HDM allergens besides the major allergens (Der p 1, Der p 2) or showed a rather selective Der p 10 reactivity. The allergenic activity of Der p 10 was generally low but patients could be identified who suffered from clinically relevant HDM allergy due to Der p 10 sensitization. Der p 10 may be a diagnostic marker for HDM-allergic patients with additional sensitization to allergens other than Der p 1 and Der p 2. Such patients may require attention when allergen-specific immunotherapy is considered.
    Clinical & Experimental Allergy 06/2011; 41(10):1468-77. · 4.79 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: IgE-mediated allergies affect more than 25% of the population. Allergen-specific immunotherapy (SIT) is an antigen-specific and disease-modifying form of treatment. It is based on the therapeutic administration of the disease-causing allergens to allergic patients. However, the fact that only allergen extracts of insufficient quality are currently available and the possible occurrence of side effects during treatment limit the broad use of SIT and prophylactic vaccination is has not yet been performed. In the last 20 years the DNA sequences of the most common allergens have been isolated and the corresponding allergens have been produced as recombinant allergens. Based on the progress made in the field of allergen characterization it is possible to improve the quality and safety of allergy vaccines and to develop new, more effective strategies for a broad application of SIT and even for prophylactic treatment. Here we discuss the development of combination vaccines for allergy and infectious diseases. This approach is based on the selection of allergen-derived peptides with reduced IgE- and T cell reactivity in order to minimize IgE- and T cell-mediated side effects as well as the potential of the vaccine to induce allergic sensitization. These peptides are fused by recombinant technology onto a viral carrier protein to obtain a combination vaccine which induces protective immunity against allergy and viral infections. The application of such combination vaccines for therapy and prophylaxis of allergy and infectious diseases is discussed.
    Current topics in microbiology and immunology 05/2011; 352:121-40. · 4.86 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Staphylococcus aureus superinfections occur in more than 90% of patients with atopic dermatitis (AD) and aggravate skin inflammation. S aureus toxins lead to tissue damage and augment T-cell-mediated skin inflammation by a superantigen effect. To characterize IgE-reactive proteins from S aureus. A genomic S aureus library was screened with IgE from patients with AD for DNA clones coding for IgE-reactive antigens. One was identified as fibronectin-binding protein (FBP). Recombinant FBP was expressed in Escherichia coli, purified, and tested for specific IgE reactivity in patients with AD. Its allergenic activity was studied in basophil activation experiments and T-cell cultures. The in vivo allergenic activity was investigated by sensitizing mice. Using IgE from patients with AD for screening of a genomic S aureus library, an IgE-reactive DNA clone was isolated that coded for FBP. Recombinant FBP was expressed in E coli and purified. It reacted specifically with IgE from patients with AD and exhibited allergenic activity in basophil degranulation assays. FBP showed specific T-cell reactivity requiring antigen presentation and induced the secretion of proinflammatory cytokines from PBMCs. Mice sensitized with FBP mounted FBP-specific IgE responses, showed FBP-specific basophil degranulation as well as FBP-specific T-cell proliferation, and mixed T(h)2/T(h)1 cytokine secretion. Evidence is provided that specific humoral and cellular immune responses to S aureus antigens dependent on antigen presentation represent a novel mechanism for S aureus-induced skin inflammation in AD. Furthermore, FBP may be used for the development of novel diagnostic and therapeutic strategies for S aureus infections.
    The Journal of allergy and clinical immunology 04/2011; 128(1):82-91.e8. · 12.05 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: HIV-1 virus infectivity factor (Vif) is one of the four accessory proteins that are characteristic of primate lentiviruses and critically required for the infection of host cells. Vif plays a key role in replication and transmission of the virus in non-permissive cells, such as primary T cells and macrophages. Using co-precipitation and co-fractionation techniques, evidence has been provided that Vif interacts with a variety of host proteins, such as the cytidine deaminases APOBEC3G and 3F, the Cullin5/EloBC ubiquitin-ligase complex, Fyn and Hck tyrosine kinases, as well as with viral components, such as the immature Gag precursor and viral RNA. We report on the expression, purification and molecular characterization of a folded recombinant subtype C Vif. Vif was expressed in E. coli with a C-terminal hexahistidine tag and purified by nickel affinity chromatography. We obtained approximately 5 mg protein per liter of bacterial culture, with a purity >95%. The expected molecular mass of 23.7 kDa was confirmed by mass spectrometry. Although dynamic light scattering and small angle X-ray scattering measurements revealed the presence of high molecular weight aggregates in the protein preparation, circular dichroism analysis showed that the protein contains mainly folded β-sheet elements and exhibits remarkable thermal stability (T (m) > 95°C). Recombinant Vif may be used as a tool to study its biological functions and tertiary structure, as well as for the development of diagnostic, therapeutic and preventive strategies for HIV-1 infections.
    Amino Acids 03/2011; 40(3):981-9. · 3.91 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Allergen-specific immunotherapy is clinically effective for the treatment of cat allergy but shows a high rate of side effects. We sought to engineer recombinant fusion proteins for cat immunotherapy that allow reducing both IgE-mediated and T cell-mediated side effects. Fusion proteins consisting of the hepatitis B virus-derived PreS domain and 2 nonallergenic Fel d 1-derived peptides were expressed in Escherichia coli and purified. IgE reactivity and allergenic activity of Fel d 1 and the fusion proteins were compared by using IgE-binding assays and basophil activation tests in patients with cat allergy. Mice and rabbits were immunized subcutaneously with Fel d 1 and the fusion proteins to investigate the allergenicity of the vaccines and the development of Fel d 1-specific IgG antibodies. The recombinant fusion proteins showed no relevant IgE reactivity and exhibited more than 1000-fold reduced allergenic activity in basophil activation tests. On immunization of mice and rabbits, the fusion proteins induced Fel d 1-specific IgG antibodies that inhibited the binding of allergic patients' IgE to the allergen without allergic sensitization to Fel d 1. The described recombinant fusion proteins exhibit strongly reduced IgE-mediated allergenic activity, contain less than 40% of the Fel d 1 sequence, and thus lack many of the specific T-cell epitopes. Therefore they should represent safe vaccines for the treatment of cat allergy.
    The Journal of allergy and clinical immunology 03/2011; 127(6):1562-70.e6. · 12.05 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Allergic inflammation is based on the cross-linking of mast cell and basophil-bound IgE Abs and requires at least two binding sites for IgE on allergens, which are difficult to characterize because they are often conformational in nature. We studied the IgE recognition of birch pollen allergen Bet v 1, a major allergen for >100 million allergic patients. Monoclonal and polyclonal Abs raised against Bet v 1-derived peptides were used to compete with allergic patients' IgE binding to Bet v 1 to search for sequences involved in IgE recognition. Strong inhibitions of patients' IgE binding to Bet v 1 (52-75%) were obtained with mAbs specific for two peptides comprising aa 29-58 (P2) and aa 73-103 (P6) of Bet v 1. As determined by surface plasmon resonance, mAb2 specific for P2 and mAb12 specific for P6 showed high affinity, but only polyclonal rabbit anti-P2 and anti-P6 Abs or a combination of mAbs inhibited allergen-induced basophil degranulation. Thus, P2 and P6 define a surface patch on the Bet v 1 allergen, which allows simultaneous binding of several different IgE Abs required for efficient basophil and mast cell activation. This finding explains the high allergenic activity of the Bet v 1 allergen. The approach of using peptide-specific Abs for the mapping of conformational IgE epitopes on allergens may be generally applicable. It may allow discriminating highly allergenic from less allergenic allergen molecules and facilitate the rational design of active and passive allergen-specific immunotherapy strategies.
    The Journal of Immunology 03/2011; 186(9):5333-44. · 5.52 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: The broad applicability of allergen-specific immunotherapy for the treatment and eventually prevention of IgE-mediated allergy is limited by the poor quality and allergenic activity of natural allergen extracts that are used for the production of current allergy vaccines. Today, the genetic code of the most important allergens has been deciphered; recombinant allergens equalling their natural counterparts have been produced for diagnosis and immunotherapy, and a large panel of genetically modified allergens with reduced allergenic activity has been characterized to improve safety of immunotherapy and explore allergen-specific prevention strategies. Successful immunotherapy studies have been performed with recombinant allergens and hypoallergenic allergen derivatives and will lead to the registration of the first recombinant allergen-based vaccines in the near future. There is no doubt that recombinant allergen-based vaccination strategies will be generally applicable to most allergen sources, including respiratory, food and venom allergens and allow to produce safe allergy vaccines for the treatment of the most common forms of IgE-mediated allergies.
    Allergy 02/2011; 66(6):775-83. · 5.88 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: IgE-mediated allergy is a hypersensitivity disease affecting more than 25% of the population. The structures of the most common allergens have been revealed through molecular cloning technology in the past two decades. On the basis of this knowledge of the sequences and three-dimensional structures of culprit allergens, investigators can now analyze the immune recognition of allergens and the mechanisms of allergic inflammation in allergic patients. Allergy vaccines have been constructed that are able to selectively target the aberrant immune responses in allergic patients via different pathways of the immune system. Here we review various types of allergy vaccines that have been developed based on allergen structures, results from their clinical application in allergic patients, and future strategies for allergen-specific immunotherapy and allergy prophylaxis.
    Annual Review of Immunology 12/2009; 28:211-41. · 36.56 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Allergens and rhinovirus infections are among the most common elicitors of respiratory diseases. We report the construction of a recombinant combination vaccine for allergy and rhinovirus infections based on rhinovirus-derived VP1, the surface protein which is critically involved in infection of respiratory cells, and a nonallergenic peptide of the major grass pollen allergen Phl p 1. Recombinant hybrid molecules consisting of VP1 and a Phl p 1-derived peptide of 31 aa were expressed in Escherichia coli. The hybrid molecules did not react with IgE Abs from grass pollen allergic patients and lacked allergenic activity when exposed to basophils from allergic patients. Upon immunization of mice and rabbits, the hybrids did not sensitize against Phl p 1 but induced protective IgG Abs that cross-reacted with group 1 allergens from different grass species and blocked allergic patients' IgE reactivity to Phl p 1 as well as Phl p 1-induced basophil degranulation. Moreover, hybrid-induced IgG Abs inhibited rhinovirus infection of cultured human epithelial cells. The principle of fusing nonallergenic allergen-derived peptides onto viral carrier proteins may be used for the engineering of safe allergy vaccines which also protect against viral infections.
    The Journal of Immunology 06/2009; 182(10):6298-306. · 5.52 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: The major timothy grass pollen allergen, Phl p 1, resembles the allergenic epitopes of natural group I grass pollen allergens and is recognized by more than 95% of grass-pollen-allergic patients. Our objective was the construction, purification and immunologic characterization of a genetically modified derivative of the major timothy grass pollen allergen, Phl p 1 for immunotherapy of grass pollen allergy. A mosaic protein was generated by PCR-based re-assembly and expression of four cDNAs coding for Phl p 1 fragments and compared to the Phl p 1 wild-type by circular dichroism analysis, immunoglobulin E (IgE)-binding capacity, basophil activation assays and enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay competition assays. Immune responses to the derivative were studied in BALB/c mice. Grass-pollen-allergic patients exhibited greater than an 85% reduction in IgE reactivity to the mosaic as compared with the Phl p 1 allergen and basophil activation experiments confirmed the reduced allergenic activity of the mosaic. It also induced less Phl p 1-specific IgE antibodies than Phl p 1 upon immunization of mice. However, immunization of mice and rabbits with the mosaic induced IgG antibodies that inhibited patients' IgE-binding to the wild-type allergen and Phl p 1-induced degranulation of basophils. We have developed a strategy based on rational molecular reassembly to convert one of the clinically most relevant allergens into a hypoallergenic derivative for allergy vaccination.
    Allergy 03/2009; 64(4):569-80. · 5.88 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: The recognition of conformational epitopes on respiratory allergens by IgE Abs is a key event in allergic inflammation. We report a molecular strategy for the conversion of allergens into vaccines with reduced allergenic activity, which is based on the reassembly of non-IgE-reactive fragments in the form of mosaic proteins. This evolution process is exemplified for timothy grass pollen-derived Phl p 2, a major allergen for more than 200 million allergic patients. In a first step, the allergen was disrupted into peptide fragments lacking IgE reactivity. cDNAs coding for these peptides were reassembled in altered order and expressed as a recombinant mosaic molecule. The mosaic molecule had lost the three-dimensional structure, the IgE reactivity, and allergenic activity of the wild-type allergen, but it induced high levels of allergen-specific IgG Abs upon immunization. These IgG Abs crossreacted with group 2 allergens from other grass species and inhibited allergic patients' IgE binding to the wild-type allergen. The mosaic strategy is a general strategy for the reduction of allergenic activity of protein allergens and can be used to convert harmful allergens into safe vaccines.
    The Journal of Immunology 11/2008; 181(7):4864-73. · 5.52 Impact Factor

Publication Stats

782 Citations
215.82 Total Impact Points

Institutions

  • 2002–2014
    • Medical University of Vienna
      • • Department of Pathophysiology and Allergy Research
      • • Zentrum für Pathophysiologie, Infektiologie und Immunologie
      Wien, Vienna, Austria
    • Karl-Franzens-Universität Graz
      • Institute of Chemistry
      Gratz, Styria, Austria
  • 2002–2009
    • University of Vienna
      • Universitätsklinik für Innere Medizin I
      Wien, Vienna, Austria
  • 2004–2008
    • Vienna General Hospital
      Wien, Vienna, Austria