Project Team Verena Niederberger-Leppin / Julia Eckl-Dorna / Sabine Flicker


niederbergerAssociate Professor, Dept. of Otorhinolaryngology, Medical University of Vienna

M.D.: Medical University of Vienna
Postdoctoral Training in basic allergology and immunology (Medical University of Vienna)
Clinical Training in Otorhinolaryngology (Dept. of Otorhinolaryngology, Medical University of Vienna and Guy´s Hospital, London, UK)

Research Interests:
• Translational Research in Allergy – innovative clinical trials for allergy treatment
• Clinical Allergy and Immunotherapy
• Respiratory airways
• IgE production and IgE receptors

Verena Niederberger is an associate Professor of Otorhinolaryngology at the Medical University of Vienna. After obtaining her M.D. degree at the Medical University of Vienna, she first trained in a basic research laboratory before starting her clinical education in Vienna and London, UK, to become an otorhinolaryngologist (ENT-doctor). She continued with basic research alongside her clinical work and has been the PI of an allergy research group, supervising both PhD and MD students, since 1999. She has authored several publications on the characterization and diagnostic use of allergen components, the nasal mucosa as a site of allergen encounter and defense against allergens, the induction and control of allergen-specific IgE production and on mechanisms of allergen immunotherapy. She played a central role in the first allergen immunotherapy study with genetically modified recombinant allergens. Being qualified as a certified clinical study investigator, part of her current scientific work is performing clinical research in allergic patients. She thus focuses on bridging basic research topics with clinical research and bringing laboratory results to clinical application.

Selected publications:

  1. Eckl-Dorna, J., I. Pree, J. Reisinger, K. Marth, K.W. Chen, S. Vrtala, S. Spitzauer, R. Valenta, V. Niederberger. 2012. The majority of allergen-specific IgE in the blood of allergic patients does not originate from blood-derived B cells or plasma cells. Clin Exp Allergy 42:1347-1355. PMID: 22925321
  2. Gangl, K., R. Reininger, D. Bernhard, R. Campana, I. Pree, J. Reisinger, M. Kneidinger, M. Kundi, H. Dolznig, D. Thurnher, P. Valent, K.W. Chen, S. Vrtala, S. Spitzauer, R. Valenta, V. Niederberger. 2009. Cigarette smoke facilitates allergen penetration across respiratory epithelium. Allergy 64:398-405. PMID:19120070
  3. Reisinger, J., A. Triendl, E. Küchler, B. Bohle, M.T. Krauth, I. Rauter, P. Valent, F. Koenig, R. Valenta, V. Niederberger. 2005.  IFN-gamma-enhanced allergen penetration across respiratory epithelium augments allergic inflammation. J Allergy Clin Immunol 115:973-981. PMID:15867854
  4. Niederberger, V., F. Horak, S. Vrtala, S. Spitzauer, M.T. Krauth, P. Valent, J. Reisinger, M. Pelzmann, B. Hayek, M. Kronqvist, G. Gafvelin, H. Grönlund, A. Purohit, R. Suck, H. Fiebig, O. Cromwell, G. Pauli, M. van Hage-Hamsten, R. Valenta. 2004. Vaccination with genetically engineered allergens prevents progression of allergic disease.Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A 101:14677-14682. PMID: 15310844
  5. Niederberger, V., B. Hayek, S. Vrtala, S. Laffer, A. Twardosz, L. Vangelista, W. R. Sperr, P. Valent, H. Rumpold, D. Kraft, K. Ehrenberger, R. Valenta, S. Spitzauer. 1999. Calcium-dependent immunoglobulin E recognition of the apo- and calcium-bound form of a cross-reactive two EF-hand timothy grass pollen allergen, Phl p 7. FASEB J. 13:843-856. PMID: 10224228

Other Publications extlink


Eckl-DornaHead of Allergy Research Laboratories, Dept. of Otorhinolaryngolgoy, Medical University of Vienna, Austria.

M.D. Degree: University of Vienna, Vienna, Austria
PhD training: London Research Institute of Cancer Research UK (LRI-CRUK) and University College London, London, United Kingdom
Postdoctoral training: University of Vienna, Vienna, Austria

Research Interests:
• Sites and pathomechanism of human IgE production
• Antigen presentation via low affinity IgE receptor CD23
• Epithelial barrier function in allergy and chronic rhinosinusitis
• Translational allergy research – investigation of novel treatments

Julia has been the head of the Allergy Research Laboratories at the Department of Otorhinolaryngology since 2017. After obtaining her M.D. degree at the Medical University of Vienna, she continued her PhD training in basic B cell immunology at the laboratory of Facundo Batista in London. Her postdoctoral training in the group of Verena Niederberger-Leppin enabled her to combine her interests’ in clinical and basic immunology which has since resulted in several high impact publications. Together with Verena she has co-supervised several MD and PhD students who have investigated various aspects of the role of the low affinity receptor for IgE (CD23) in allergen presentation as well as the nasal epithelial barrier function. Furthermore, Julia has played an important role in clinical studies investigating the newly developed grass pollen vaccine BM32, where her main focus has been on investigating the B and T cell responses to the vaccine. Her current research interest is focussed on investigating sites and mechanisms of human IgE production.
Julia has developed close connections with many clinical departments at the university hospital which has allowed her to combine her basic science expertise with the clinical setting. This puts her in a fantastic position to collaborate with other groups of the Danube ARC research cluster to “translate” basic research into novel therapeutic approaches.

Selected publications: 

  1. Villazala-Merino, S., A. Rodriguez-Dominguez, V. Stanek, N.J. Campion, P. Gattinger, G. Hofer, R. Froeschl, C Lupinek, S. Vrtala, H. Breiteneder, W. Keller, T. Perkmann, R. Nakamura, W.F. Pickl, R. Valenta, J. Eckl-Dorna*, and V. Niederberger. 2020. Allergen-specific IgE levels and ability of IgE-allergen complexes to cross-link determine extent of CD23-mediated T cell activation. J. Allergy Clin. Immunol.145(3):958-967. PMID: 31775017
  2. Eckl-Dorna, J., M. Weber, V. Stanek, B. Linhart, R. Ristl, E.E. Waltl, S. Villazala-Merino, A. Hummel, M. Focke-Tejkl, R. Froeschl, A. Neubauer, R. Henning, T. Perkmann, R. Valenta* and V. Niederberger. 2019. Two years of treatment with the recombinant grass pollen allergy vaccine BM32 induces a continuously increasing allergen-specific IgG4 response. EBioMedicine. 50:421-432. PMID: 31786130
  3. Eckl-Dorna, J., S. Villazala-Merino, N.J. Campion, M. Byazrova, A. Filatov, D. Kudlay, M. Khaitov, A. Karaulov, V. Niederberger-Leppin, and R. Valenta*. 2019. Tracing IgE-producing cells in allergic patients. Cells. 28: pii: E994. PMID: 31466324
  4. Eckl-Dorna, J., R. Fröschl, C. Lupinek, R. Kiss, P. Gattinger, K. Marth, R. Campana, I. Mittermann, K. Blatt, P. Valent, R. Selb, A. Mayer, K. Gangl, I. Steiner, J. Gamper, T. Perkmann, P. Zieglmayer, P. Gevaert, R. Valenta*, and V. Niederberger. 2018. Intranasal administration of allergen increases specific IgE whereas intranasal omalizumab does not increase serum IgE levels – A pilot study. Allergy 73:1003-1012. PMID: 29083477
  5. Eckl-Dorna, J., R. Campana, R. Valenta, and V. Niederberger*. 2015. Poor association of allergen-specific antibody and T and B cell responses revealed with recombinant allergens and a CFSE dilution-based assay. Allergy 70:1222-9. PMID: 26043182

Proposed PhD research projects:
Allergen-specific approaches targeting the nasal mucosa for treatment and prevention of allergy


Sabine Flicker 2020Associate Professor, Dept. of Pathophysiology and Allergy Research, Medical University of Vienna, Austria.

MSc Degree: University of Vienna, Vienna, Austria
PhD Degree: University of Vienna, Vienna, Austria

Research Interests:
• Molecular and immunological characterization of allergen-specific monoclonal antibodies and nanobodies
• Interaction allergen/antibody
• Evaluation of allergen-specific antibodies for diagnosis and treatment of allergy
• Development of bi-specific antibody derivatives for topical treatment of allergy

Sabine Flicker has been working in the field of allergy research with focus on understanding the contribution of allergen-specific IgE and IgG antibodies in grass and tree pollen allergy for more than 20 years. Soon after obtaining her PhD degree at the University of Vienna, she was awarded with a Hertha Firnberg Scholarship (FWF) to pursue financially independent her research ideas. After her habilitation (Venia docendi) in 2009 she founded her research group “Antibody Research” residing at the Department of Pathophysiology and Allergy Research. She has supervised several master and PhD students who generated various human ScFv libraries to characterize and evaluate isolated grass and birch pollen allergen-specific ScFvs useful to study basic research questions (allergen/antibody interaction) and applicable for monitoring and preventing allergy. The goal for her current research is the development and evaluation of antibody-based concepts to treat allergy. Her close collaboration with Julia Eckl-Dorna /Verena Niederberger-Leppin and her team (also part of the Danube ARC) enables her to translate the basic knowledge gained from the bench into first clinical trials.

Proposed PhD research projects:
Development and evaluation of recombinant bi-specific antibody derivatives for preventive topical allergy treatment

Selected publications:

  1. Gadermaier, E., K. Marth, C. Lupinek, R. Campana, G. Hofer, K. Blatt, D. Smillkovic, U. Roder, M. Focke-Tejkl , S Vrtala, W. Keller, P. Valent, R. Valenta, and S. Flicker. 2018. Isolation of a high affinity binding Bet v 1-specific IgG-derived ScFv with germline configuration from a patient treated with hypoallergenic Bet v 1 fragments. Allergy 73:1425-1435. PMID: 29315611
  2. Goebel, C., M. Focke-Tejkl, N. Najafi, E. Schrank, T. Madl, S. Kosol, , C. Madritsch, S. Flicker, J. Thalhamer, R. Valenta, K. Zangger, and N. Tjandra. 2017. The three-dimensional structure of the Phl p 5 grass pollen allergen reveals flexible IgE epitope-containing domains as novel mechanism for high allergenic activity. J. Allergy Clin. Immunol. 140:1187-1191. PMID: 28532654
  3. Madritsch, C., J. Eckl-Dorna, I. Ellinger, K. Blatt, P. Valent, V. Niederberger, R. Valenta, and S. Flicker. 2015. Antibody conjugates bi-specific for ICAM1 and allergen prevent migration of allergens through respiratory epithelial cell layers. J. Allergy Clin. Immunol. 136:490-3.e11. PMID: 25769914
  4. Gadermaier, E., S. Flicker, P. Steinberger, and R. Valenta. 2013. Determination of allergen-specificity by heavy chains in grass pollen allergen-specific IgE antibodies. J. Allergy Clin. Immunol. 131:1185-1193e6. PMID: 23206656
  5. Flicker, S., B. Linhart, C. Wild, U. Wiedermann, and R. Valenta. 2013. Passive immunization with allergen-specific IgG antibodies for treatment and prevention of allergy. Immunobiol. 218:884-891. PMID: 23182706