Eva König wins Heribert-Konzett-Prize!

(Vienna, 26.09.2022) A great success! Dr. Eva König, principal investigator at St. Anna CCRI, is honored with the Heribert-Konzett-Prize of the Austrian Pharmacological Society (APHAR) for her scientific work on the interaction between immune and cancer cells. The prize is awarded to recognize the achievements of young scientists already conducting independent research in the field of experimental and clinical pharmacology and to encourage their further development.

König and her team are seeking new mechanisms to increase the effectiveness of natural killer (NK) cells in the fight against leukemia and other tumor entities.

“NK cells are in the most demanding front line in the fight against tumor cells and are very effective in recognizing and killing degenerate cells. NK cells possess a large amount of cytotoxic granules, which are secreted toward tumor cells, triggering programmed cell death in the diseased cells. When the supply of granules is exhausted, the activity of NK cells decreases. Increasing the efficiency of NK cells is therefore a promising approach in the fight against malignant tumors such as childhood leukemia,” König explains.

2nd picture: Prof. Dr. Thomas Griesbacher (chairman of the Austrian Pharmacological Society, APHAR), Dr. Michael Pohl (Market Access Director at AstraZeneca), and the awardees Dr. Eva König (St. Anna Children’s Cancer Research Institute (CCR)) and Ass.-Prof. Dr. Thomas Steinkellner (Medical University of Vienna). 

One way to increase the activity of NK cells is to interfere with the intracellular JAK-STAT signaling pathway, which regulates cell growth and development. The awardee adds, “Our results so far show that if we inhibit a specific STAT1 phosphorylation by affecting the right interaction partner, we can make NK cells better killers. Among other projects, we are working on this right now.”

Since there was no award ceremony due to the pandemic in 2021, APHAR awarded the Heribert-Konzett-Prize, sponsored by Astra Zeneca, twice this year. The second prize went to Ass.-Prof. Dr. Thomas Steinkellner from the Medical University of Vienna.

The official award ceremony took place on Saturday, September 24, during the 25th anniversary of the Austrian Pharmacological Society in Graz, where Eva König presented the cornerstones of her extensive research on the interaction between immune and tumor cells in a keynote lecture.

About Eva König:

Eva König graduated from the University of Vienna with a degree in Chemistry in 2007 before starting a PhD with a focus in tumor immunology in the laboratory of Veronika Sexl at Medical University Vienna and University of Veterinary Medicine Vienna. She proceeded as a postdoctoral fellow at the QIMR Berghofer Institute of Medical Research in Brisbane (Australia) and the Austrian Max Perutz Laboratories in Vienna. In 2019, Eva König established the Tumor Immunoediting group at the St. Anna Children’s Cancer Research Institute GmbH (CCRI). The focus of their research is to study the role of innate lymphocytes called natural killer (NK) cells in tumor surveillance. They implement an unbiased screening approach to study the mechanisms of tumor evasion from NK cells. Complementing this, they are interested in specific molecular pathways activated in NK cells upon the recognition of tumor cells. Together with her team of PhD and Master students and technical assistants, she aims to find novel targets to increase the susceptibility of tumor cells towards NK cell-mediated surveillance and/or to enhance NK cell functionality per se.

About the research group:

About the Austrian Pharmacological Societyhttp://www.aphar.at/