Christian Huber
Image: © Luigi Caputo

The research focus of our team regards the development and application of analytical workflows to address biological questions in the fields of protein, proteome, metabolite, and metabolome (and eventually transcriptome) analysis. Samples comprising cultured cells, tissues, or biological fluids are processed and their constituents of interest (proteins or metabolites) isolated for further determination. The analytical methods are primarily based on instrumental, bioanalytical separation methods (liquid and gas chromatography, capillary electrophoresis) in combination with mass spectrometry (time-of-flight-, triple-quadrupole-, linear ion trap-, and Orbitrap mass analysis). Because of the enormous amount of generated raw data, we collaborate with bioinformaticians and statisticians in order to properly interpret the experimental data and put them into a biological context.

The major goal of our work is the collection of information about changes in protein or metabolite concentration that are caused by stimulation of cell models (cancer stem cells, dendritic cells, monocytes, hepatocytes, lung epithelial cells) upon treatment with drugs, nanomaterials, or by diseases such as allergy or cancer. These changes allow us drawing conclusions on the biochemical pathways and mechanisms involved in disease or toxic effects of drugs and nanoparticles. In such experimental setups, we use, e. g., dendritic cells isolated from human blood to study the effects of allergens on the immune system.

In a second focus area we collaborate with the pharmaceutical industry (Sandoz) and the laboratory supplier industry (Thermo Fisher Scientific) in the  Christian Doppler Laboratory for Biosimilar Characterization. Here, we use our expertise for the in-depth protein characterization (peptide mapping, sequencing, determination of impurities, glycosylation, oxidation, and deamidation) to aid the industry in establishing workflows that guarantee the safety and efficacy of their biopharmaceutical drug products. This research focus requires intensive collaboration with groups of the department having expertise in protein production, chemical protein modification, structural biology, and biochemical protein characterization.

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