Mission Statement

The Division of Pharmacognosy carries out research in pharmaceutical sciences focused on natural products from medicinal plants and microorganisms. Major tasks are the discovery of new biologically active compounds from natural sources and the characterization of their molecular mode of action contributing to a better understanding of the interaction of natural products and complex cellular systems. Our aim is pharmaceutical lead and target identification, the quality improvement of herbal medicinal products as well as the sustainable production of natural products by biotechnological approaches.

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On September 17th Katrin Fischhuber successfully defended her thesis “The role of AMPK for the Nrf2-mediated cellular stress response”. Despite the Corona-caused online mode, numerous colleagues, friends or family members accompanied Katrin on the very last step of her thesis and finally could call her DOCTOR Fischhuber. Well done and congratulations Katrin! We wish you all the best for your future career.


Scientists from the Department of Pharmacognosy, section for Pharmaceutical Biotechnology, discovered new lipopeptides produced by a bacterium isolated from the rhizosphere of Edelweiß. These natural products were named viennamycins, after the beautiful city of Vienna. Genes for the biosynthesis of viennamycins were identified and analysed in order to shed light on how these lipopeptides are synthesized. The study was published in the Journal of Natural Products: doi.org/10.1021/acs.jnatprod.0c00152


The FWF project "AMP(K)lifizierung des Nrf2 -Transkriptoms" has been granted to Elke H. Heiss, member of the Molecular Targets group. This project will dissect how the energy sensor kinase AMPK mediates its previously uncovered distinct influence (i.e. boost, dampening or no effect) on the expression of specific Nrf2 target genes. It shall provide novel insights into the finetuned regulation of “stress“ genes as well as fuel a deeper understanding and potential prevention of a declining cellular stess resilience during chronic metabolic diseases or with increasing age.


The FWF project "Natural products against acute respiratory infections " has been granted to Judith M. Rollinger, head of the Phytochemistry & Biodiscovery group. The objective of this project is to decipher the chemical space of selected extracts from untapped natural sources and traditional remedies using big data analyses (chemoinformatics, biochemometry and molecular networks) for the discovery of novel agents against influenza viruses, SARS-CoV-2, and pneumococci.


Verena M. Dirsch (Department of Pharmacognosy) and Ina Bergheim (Department of Nutritional Sciences) have been granted an interdisciplinary research project within the Faculty of Life Sciences, entitled "Neolignans: new therapeutics in the prevention of diet-induced intestinal barrier dysfunction?" The main aim of the project is to determine if neolignans improve intestinal barrier function in settings of NAFLD and insulin resistance as well as to determine underlying molecular mechanisms.


On May 28, 2020, Verena Hiebl sucessfully defended her thesis entitled "The influence of selected natural products on nuclear receptors controlling cholesterol homeostasis in intestinal cells and macrophages" online. We are looking forward to celebrating her success in real life as soon as the Corona-regulations will allow it! Congratulations Verena!

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