Winfried Pickl, an immunologist at the Institute of Immunology at MedUni Vienna’s Center for Pathophysiology, Infectiology and Immunology, took up a professorship in the subject field Immunology with a focus on translational immunology (§99 (4)) at MedUni Vienna at the beginning of November.
The scientific interest of Winfried Pickl and the members of his research department "Cellular Immunology and Immunohematology" is the exchange of information between the innate and the acquired immune system, which takes place in the "immunological synapse" between antigen-presenting cells and T cells. Winfried Pickl strongly believes that the immunological synapse is one of the most important keys for influencing allergies, autoimmune diseases and cancer. It is also essential for the establishment and sustained maintenance of immune responses against infectious pathogens. For example, he and his colleagues were able to show for the first time in humanized T cell receptor/HLA transgenic models established specifically for this purpose that sensitization to allergens depends on the presence of distinct HLA molecules; regulatory T cells require activation before they can start their regulatory program; and the in vivo function of human CAR-T cells can be predicted by means of specific surface markers. Furthermore, Pickl and colleagues have investigated the influence of viral diseases, especially SARS-CoV-2, on the immune system (with special regard to virus-specific T cells). In the future, Pickl plans to explore the very early events in the sensitization of T and B cell responses at the molecular level, as well as to find ways to (antigen-)specifically alter already established lymphocyte responses in order to develop new treatment and prevention strategies for important diseases.
About the person
Winfried Pickl was born in Klagenfurt, studied medicine in Vienna, and received his doctorate with a thesis on the characterization of a new autoantibody at the Institute of Blood Group Serology (Gottfried F. Fischer and Paul Speiser) of the Medical Faculty of the University of Vienna in July 1991. In the same year, he joined the Institute of Immunology (Walter Knapp) as a research assistant, where he performed his residency from 1994 to 2002. He habilitated in Immunology in 1999 and was appointed associate professor in the same year. From 1998 to 2000, Winfried Pickl completed a postdoctoral research stay at the Department of Genetics at Harvard Medical School (Brian Seed), supported by the Austrian Science Fund (FWF; Schrödinger Fellowship) and the Austrian Academy of Sciences (ÖAW; APART Fellowship), where he deepened his knowledge in molecular biology and did research on fundamental aspects of virus budding. Since 2005, Winfried Pickl has led the diagnostic cell laboratory, and since 2020 the entire Immunodiagnostic Laboratory at the Institute of Immunology at MedUni Vienna. Winfried Pickl has established and is the Speaker of the PhD program Molecular, Cellular and Clinical Allergology, MCCA (www.phd-mcca.at, Danube ARC; https://www.kl.ac.at/en/research/working-groups/danube-arc) since 2013. He was Treasurer and President of the Austrian Society of Allergology and Immunology (2014-2016; www.oegai.org), Council Member of the International Union of Immunological Societies (IUIS; https://iuis.org) (2014-2019), and has been Treasurer of the European Federation of Immunological Societies (EFIS, www.efis.org) since 2016. Among the numerous congresses he (co-)organized, the 2015 European Congress of Immunology (ECI), for which he served as congress president, was a widely acclaimed and recognized milestone.
In addition, he serves as a member of the Board of Examiners for Clinical Immunology and the Specialization Committee for Allergology in the Austrian Medical Chamber, as well as the Clinical Immunology and Immunology Education Specialist Groups of the Austrian Society of Allergology and Immunology, ÖGAI. Winfried Pickl has also been teaching as a visiting professor at Karl Landsteiner University, Krems. In May 2023, he assumed a professorship in translational immunology under §99(1), which has now been converted to this professorship under §99(4).