Synthetic Physiology

Harald Janovjak

Harald Janovjak’s group works at the interface of synthetic biology and mammalian physiology in the new research field synthetic physiology. The past decades have seen the emergence of synthetic biology, and with its paradigm ‘build to understand’, synthetic biology has proven to tackle the most complex biological problems. The Janovjak group is now exploring synthetic principles for understanding and manipulating animal physiology. In past few years, their focus was on the ‘synthetic’ of synthetic physiology and the group established new methods to control the signaling and behavior of nerve cells, cancer cells and key cell populations involved in metabolism. Their methods offer spatial and temporal precision and included but were not limited to optogenetics. The group is currently transitioning to the ‘physiology’ of synthetic physiology with a focus on understanding/manipulating cell signaling and behavior in tissues affected by disease. The groups interdisciplinary research builds on the development of new molecular tools and their applications in animal models (mouse and Drosophila) of disease.

Harald Janovjak
Institute of Science and Technology Austria (IST Austria)
Am Campus 1
A – 3400 Klosterneuburg
Phone: +43 (0)2243 9000-4201

CV and publication list

Janovjak Group website

Alexandra Mally

Phone: +43 (0)2243 9000-1105


  • Alvaro Ingles Prieto, Postdoc
  • Kristian Kolev, Technician
  • Catherine McKenzie, PhD Student
  • Maurizio Morri, PhD Student
  • Bernhard Ransmayr, Intern
  • Eva Reichhart, PhD Student
  • Laura Rodriguez, Postdoc
  • Inmaculada Sanchez Romero, Postdoc
  • Miroslava Spanova, Technician

Selected Publications

  • McKenzie C., I. Sanchez-Romero & H. Janovjak. Flipping the photoswitch: Ion channels under light control. Advances in Experimental Biology and Medicine (to appear 2015).
  • Grusch M., K. Schelch, R. Riedler, E. Reichhart, C. Differ, W. Berger, A. Inglés-Prieto & H. Janovjak. Spatio‐temporally precise activation of engineered receptor tyrosine kinases by light. EMBO Journal (2014) 33: 1713-1726.
  • Szobota S., C. McKenzie & H. Janovjak. Optical control of ligand-gated ion channels. Ion Channels Methods and Protocols (2013) 998: 417-435.
  • Janovjak H., G. Sandoz & E.Y. Isacoff. A modern ionotropic glutamate receptor with a potassium-selectivity signature sequence. Nature Communications (2011) 2: 232-236.
  • Janovjak H., S. Szobota, C. Wyart, D. Trauner & E.Y. Isacoff. A light-gated, potassium-selective glutamate receptor for the optical inhibition of neuronal firing. Nature Neuroscience (2010) 18: 1027-1032.


Since 2011 Assistant Professor, IST Austria
2010–2011 Postdoctoral Fellow, University of Munich, Germany
2006–2010 Postdoctoral Fellow, University of California, Berkeley, USA
2005 PhD, University of Technology, Dresden, Germany

Selected Distinctions

2011 HFSP Young Investigator Grant
2011 EU FP7 Career Integration Grant
2007–2009 Long-term fellow of the European Molecular Biology Organization
2005 PhD with highest honors (summa cum laude)

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