A special feature of the IMP is the amount of support its research groups enjoy: world-class facilities run by professional staff scientists and administrative support so that scientists can focus on their research, all combined with lean structures and sufficient funding to ensure that research groups have access to services whenever needed.
Services available to IMP research groups cover a broad range of methods, facilities and expertise. The required facilities are often maintained in cooperation with our neighbouring institutes IMBA and GMI, while others are run through the “Vienna Biocenter Core Facilities”.
What matters to the research groups is the immediate and unconstrained access to services that all IMP scientists enjoy: state-of-the-art facilities, run by highly qualified scientists whose expertise can be streamlined with the specific questions of any research group. Below, you can find further information on the services and facilities available to IMP Research Groups.
Services available to IMP scientists
The Bioinformatics Core Facility is embedded in the research activities of the IMP/IMBA institutes and is assisting scientists with their computational data analysis needs. It provides services in major areas of bioinformatics such as analysis of high-throughput data (RNA-seq, ChIP-seq, miRNA-seq, microarray, proteomics), sequence analysis (phylogenetic analysis, remote homology detection, motif discovery, comparative genomics), protein structure analysis (fold recognition, homology modelling), variant discovery (NGS, microarray), multi-omics data integration, and functional set analysis. It also aims to help researchers analyse data on their own and offer hands-on training and access to standard NGS workflows. The Bioinformatics Department is shared by IMP and IMBA.
The services offered by the BioOptics Facility cover analytical flow cytometry and cell sorting, as well as a large variety of microscopy techniques, image processing and analysis. Looking at the fine detail of cells and cellular structures can provide valuable insights into their function and interaction with other cells and molecules. With state-of-the-art equipment and skilled experts, the BioOptics Facility supports research groups by helping them analyse and visualise cells. The lab has ten flow cytometers and more than 25 microscope systems that are specialised in imaging a variety of subjects. The BioOptics Facility is shared by IMP, IMBA and GMI.
Many biological experiments are carried out in vitro, for example, imaging cells grown in a petri dish. To truly understand complex biological systems, they often need to be studied in context, which means studying them in live animals. The Comparative Medicine Facility maintains cultures of model organisms for researchers who need to study biology in context. All research is carried out in accordance with the strict Austrian laboratory animal act. The Comparative Medicine Facility is shared by IMP and IMBA.
The Graphics Department provides figures, illustrations, presentations, animations and layouts for scientists. Its services range from advising on design issues to full implementation of scientific illustration and print projects, such as posters, images for papers or presentations, and all print production. Given its comprehensive array of print equipment, many items can be produced in-house including brochures, announcements, invitations, name badges and other products in support of some of the IMP’s scientific events, publications and communications. The Graphics Department is shared by IMP and IMBA.
The Max Perutz Library is a specialised reference library located at the IMP. It maintains and develops literature collections and information services in support of present and future research and teaching needs. Furthermore, it provides a quiet and well-equipped study environment with a modern and secluded reading room. The Max Perutz Library is shared by IMP, IMBA and GMI.
The Molecular Biology Service offers a wide variety of services and materials. The most important ones include Sanger Sequencing, a “Speed Congenics" service, preparation of competent cells of various E. coli strains, production of recombinant proteins and enzymes, monoclonal antibodies, a routine mycoplasma testing service for tissue culture cells, and plasmid prep in 96 well format. In addition, the Molecular Biology Service provides instrumentation and expertise for lab automation and high-throughput methods. Over the last few years, the protein production service has grown substantially. As a routine service, it now produces more than 80 growth factors and enzymes to support research groups with high quality proteins. The Molecular Biology Service uses Gene Expression Microarrays and CGH Microarrays from Agilent. As an extra service, it also provides clones from its RIKEN clone repository where researchers have the possibility to search a database and order a specific clone. The Molecular Biology Service is shared by IMP, IMBA and GMI.
The Peptide Synthesis Service offers its expertise for the generation and purification of peptides up to 50 amino acids in size. In addition to standard synthesis, smaller scale tip synthesis, and SPOT synthesis (in which small droplets of pre-activated amino acid derivatives are dispensed onto a predefined array of positions on a porous membrane) are available. In addition, the service offers the synthesis of peptides carrying modifications or amino acids with heavy isotopes through a range of standard and individualised techniques. Different purifications of antibodies, small molecules and fluorophore-labeled samples are other parts of the service's routine amenities.
The Protein Chemistry Facility offers protein analyses. Their services include protein identification, characterization of posttranslational modifications, protein quantitation and the respective data interpretation. Additionally, the Protein Chemistry facility provides peptide synthesis and affinity purification of antibodies. It operates several chromatography systems for both protein and peptide separations and a number of state-of-the-art mass spectrometers. To keep its technology platforms competitive, the facility constantly establishes and develops new protocols. Currently, it focuses on methods for improving the sensitivity of protein identification, on protein quantification and cross-linking technology. It also develops bioinformatics tools for data interpretation. The Protein Chemistry Facility is shared by IMP, IMBA and GMI.
Transgenic technology plays an important role in biomedical research. The need to generate transgenic animals with defined genetic alterations is steadily increasing. The Transgenic Service Department offers a variety of services in the production and archiving of genetically engineered mouse strains for animal model research. The Transgenic Service Department is shared by IMP and IMBA.
The workshop assists scientists in any hardware challenge: designing and building prototypes, robotics or any custom-made experimental setup that requires expert skills and professional tools to translate ideas into custom-made products in the service of discovery.
There are many other services and facilities available to IMP scientists, some of which go beyond the needs of science: the grants management team assists scientists to identify appropriate funding opportunities, file grant applications and submit reports; the purchasing department and store ensure the timely delivery of any product or external service required by a research group; accounting and controlling ensure sound and efficient financial management; human resources supports recruiting and staff development. The cafeteria provides home-made food throughout the week, and facility management ensures that the building and its appliances run smoothly.
At Vienna BioCenter Core Facilities
With an expanding inventory of the latest optical imaging technologies and techniques, the Advanced Microscopy Facility (advMICRO) can visualize a wide range of objects from single molecules to whole embryos. Cutting-edge technologies are frequently added to the existing portfolio of more than 15 microscopy and spectroscopy techniques including 3D Structured Illumination Microscopy, Total Internal Reflection Microscopy and Brillouin Light Scattering Microscopy. As well as providing access to these techniques, the facility offers support in using the instruments and analysing the data. The dedicated team of physicists and biologists also develops custom and novel solutions when commercial technology is unsuitable.
From preparing samples to producing images, the Electron Microscopy Facility (EM) helps researchers look closely at molecules, cells and tissues. Using scanning (SEM) and transmission electron microscopes (TEM), and a variety of techniques, such as negative staining, chemical fixation and cutting-edge cryo-EM, the EM facility can visualize the ultrastructure of a range of biological samples. They can examine the complex architecture of macromolecules, cells and tissues at nanometre resolution. Researchers can request training in the techniques themselves or for the facility team to carry out the work directly.
Combining expertise in histological techniques with scientific input from certified veterinary pathologists, the Histology Facility provides researchers with high quality tissue analysis. Services include: isolating embryos that can later be fixed and stained; mouse perfusion and necropsy; trimming, processing and embedding tissue for sectioning; paraffin, cryo- and vibratome sectioning; and the most common types of staining – including manual and automated basic staining and immunostaining. The histology team offers consultation before and during the experiment, and interprets and reports results following tissue analysis.
Metabolomics Facility (Metabol) provides quantitative data on the building blocks of life through the comprehensive analysis of small biomolecules, such as sugars, lipids and nucleic acids, in biological samples. The Metabolomics Facility aims to deliver state-of-the-art quantitative and qualitative analysis of small organic compounds to researchers. Opened in March 2016, the facility uses diverse methodologies based on liquid chromatography coupled to tandem mass spectrometry (LC-MS/MS). Services include targeted analysis of compounds defined by the researchers and metabolite profiling to assess changes in various biochemical pathways in exploratory studies. Metabolomics is a service of the VBC Core Facilities.
Genome-wide studies have given researchers unprecedented insights into biological processes, thereby accelerating discovery. The goal of the Next Generation Sequencing Facility (NGS) is to provide researchers with cutting-edge NGS technology which has become a key analysis method for biological research. With a team that has years of experience with sequencing systems and sequencing data analysis, the NGS Facility provides advice and guidance on sequencing projects and supports research from library preparation through quality control and sequencing to data analysis. The team offers all common sequencing applications and encourages the development of novel methods and protocols.
Research in plants has led to many ground-breaking discoveries about the molecular mechanisms of life. With 22 high-quality, state-of-the-art and highly specialized plant growth chambers, the Plant Sciences Facility (PlantS) can precisely control environmental conditions, reproducing plant stress conditions such as frost, drought and various light and gas conditions. The facility can help plant researchers answer complex questions by providing services such as automated phenotyping for the objective, reproducible and high-throughput assessment of plant phenotypic traits and environmental simulation. The team also offers basic plant growth and digital phenotyping and image analysis.
Analysing genetically manipulated mice is complex, and phenotyping is becoming increasingly important for linking molecular mechanisms to whole-body effects. The Preclinical Phenotyping Facility (pcPHENO) provides state-of-the-art equipment and services to test various aspects of the mouse phenotype. Services include behavioural tests and physiological assays, related to metabolic activity, motor coordination and balance, anxiety and depression-related behaviour, learning and memory, pain, social interactions and (neuro) physiology. Researchers are trained under expert supervision, so they can choose whether to plan and perform experiments and analyse and interpret the results alone or with support from pcPHENO.
Two major experimental bottlenecks in molecular and cell biology, protein biochemistry and structural biology are protein production and purification; in response, the Protein Technologies Facility (ProTech) aims to help researchers overcome these. With expertise in most protein-related technologies, the team offers services including molecular cloning, protein production and purification, and the biophysical characterization of proteins. They also offer services related to CRISPR/Cas9, providing knowledge and materials. Researchers use the proteins produced by ProTech in antibody generation, biochemical and cell biological assays, structural analysis, the study of biomolecular interactions and CRISPR/Cas9 experiments.
The fruit fly Drosophila melanogaster is a very common model organism. The Vienna Drosophila Resource Center (VDRC) aims to promote scientific discoveries in Drosophila by maintaining transgenic Drosophila melanogaster stocks and DNA resources for the use of researchers. VDRC maintains and distributes the largest collection of Drosophila RNAi lines worldwide, with more than 38,000 independent transgenic fly lines, nearly all in duplicate. VDRC offers a private stock-keeping service and also runs the Fly Food Kitchen for fly media.