October 12, 2018

Johannes Reiter from IST Austria honored with Wissen schaf[f]t Zukunft Preis 2018

Province of Lower Austria honors IST Austria Alumnus Johannes Reiter for his dissertation in the field of cancer research

(c) by Raffaela Pröll, 2018

Since 2013, the Wissen schaf[f]t Zukunft Prize has been awarded once a year by the NÖ Forschungs- und Bildungsges.m.b.H. (NFB) for scientific theses (master's/diploma theses and dissertations). This year's winner is Johannes Reiter from the Institute of Science and Technology Austria (IST Austria) in Klosterneuburg. In his award-winning work, he succeeded in quantifying the effects of mutations in "driver genes" on the course of cancer using mathematical and computational models.

Cancer is the result of the uncontrolled growth of abnormal cells. So-called "driver genes" are genes that, when mutated, accelerate cell growth.  Johannes Reiter used mathematical models and computational models to quantify the effects of such mutations in driver genes on disease progression and therapy success.

Targeted therapy can lead to dramatic regression. In solid tumors, however, the clinical response is often short-lived as resistant cancer cells evolve. However, these resistant cells are likely to be present already before the start of therapy. Reiter's calculations show that in most patients, a simultaneous treatment with two drugs achieves long-term control of the cancer.

Reiter developed a method to reconstruct the evolutionary history of a patient's cancer using next-generation sequencing of spatially-distinct DNA samples. This method can be used directly to discover rules for the development of solid tumors and thus transform cancer into a more predictable disease.

Johannes Reiter is pleased about the recognition: "Of course I am very happy when almost five years of study and research at IST Austria are awarded with a prize. It is therefore all the more wonderful to be able to receive this award in such a festive setting in my home country. True to the motto of the "Wissen schaf[f]t Zukunft" award, scientists naturally want to contribute to the further development of a country. I hope that I have succeeded at least to a small extent with this work."

Johannes Reiter, who comes from Asperhofen in Lower Austria, studied Software Engineering at the TU Vienna, where he completed his Bachelor's degree with distinction in 2009. He then came to IST Austria, where he worked on his now award-winning dissertation under the supervision of Prof. Krishnendu Chatterjee. After completing his PhD in Biology and Computer Science, he moved to Harvard, where he spent two years in Martin Nowak's group. Since 2017, Reiter has been an Instructor at the Canary Center for Cancer Early Detection at Stanford University. His field of research continues to be the development of cancer. 

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