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Molecular Diagnostics Lab

The lab of the Competence Unit Molecular Diagnostics consists of two specialized units. The molecular biology lab is equipped for the detection and validation of biomarkers and assay development. All steps from cell culture to isolation, processing, detection, and quantification of various biomolecules (nucleic acids and proteins) from a wide variety of biological samples (tissue, blood and saliva) are feasible in this lab. Whereas the sensor lab is designed to establish biosensors and integrate them into highly sensitive point-of-care diagnostic systems. The focus here is on developing electrochemical, magnetic, and optical detection methods and on creating prototypes printed with “bio-inks”.

  • Molecular Biology Laboratories
    • Modern Molecular Biology Laboratories
    • S2 Laboratory
    • PCR Laboratory
    • Cell culture Lab
    • Microarray Printing
    • High Throughput Systems (e.g. NGS, BIOMARK, FLEXMAP 3D)
  • Chemistry Laboratory
  • Physics Laboratory
  • Clean Room and CTFT (Center of Thin Film Technology)
    • Magnetron Sputtering
    • Materials Inkjet Printer
    • Optical Lithography
    • Atomic Force Microscopy

Quality: ISO:9001, GMP & GLP like standards

We discover and validate new biomarkers (primary focus on minimal invasive and saliva based nucleic acid, DNA-methylation and auto-antibody patterns) in relevant indication areas of ageing societies (age-dependent chronic diseases e.g. cancer, cardiovascular disease, osteoporosis, diabetes, auto-immune diseases, neurodegenerative diseases etc.)

  • For secondary validation steps and primary assay development we typically partner with (small) diagnostic companies where we set up RUO and LDT kits and thereby generate data supporting the value and robustness of the newly identified biomarkers
  • Value is created by either licensing out in an early validation phase to (big) diagnostic companies (typically only the case if it perfectly fits to their core indication area) or after the assay development / RUO / LDT kit phase to either a (small) industry partner or a (big) diagnostic company
  • Assay development is key to successfully progress along the value creation chain before out-licensing. Within assay development the discovered biomarkers will be brought to a robust test, capable of being transferred to partners or integrated into platforms and sensing systems.
  • We can provide first patent-filed/granted biomarker sets, a strong technical expertise as well as a strong, already existing and established clinical network
  • In the short term we create value by contract R&D services where we offer our core technical competence to industry
  •  The infrastructure outlined below is necessary to perform state-of-the art research in the areas mentioned above. It enables us to play a significant role as a technical partner in cooperation projects as well as a professional technical solution provider for industry

Based on our research focuses “biomarker discovery” and “assay development” our facility comprises various devices and supporting systems for high-throughput nucleic acid- as well as protein-based biomarker analysis (screening and validation platforms) and assay design. To fulfill excellent research, especially for PCR-based assays and analyses, our laboratory is organized in separate areas for sample preparation and pretreatment (Pre-PCR area) as well as PCR amplification and post-PCR analysis (Post-PCR area). Furthermore, a distinct cell culture laboratory as well as a special laboratory fulfilling L2 biosafety requirements are available.

Major Facilities of the infrastructure cluster 

  • The screening division comprises two major analysis units, the microarray unit and the sequencing unit. Core of the microarray unit are laboratories for microorganism growth, recombinant protein expression and FPLC-based purification, with relevant incubators, pipetting robots and two microarray spotters (contact- and contact-free microarray printer). These are routinely used for production of high density protein and DNA arrays. For special applications we also have the opportunity to design and print customized microarrays of various lower density formats using our microarray printers. For data acquisition two microarray scanner, enabling simultaneous two-color high-speed scanning at high resolution up to 2 micron as well as a variety of equipment necessary for microarray preparation - and processing (hybridization) is available. 
  • Validation / Assay development division: Devices used for biomarker validation include different PCR and real time qPCR instruments suitable for small-, medium- (Light Cycler 480 II) and high throughput (Biomark HX) nucleic-acid based applications, as well as the BioPlex 3D (Luminex) Multiplex System, for high throughput sample analysis of up to 500 parameters for both protein- and nucleic acid-based approaches are combined in the validation division. Additionally, also equipment enabling performance of various biochemical as well as biological assays (e.g. ELISA) is available (e.g. EnSpire Reader).
  • Support division    All applications performed in the Screening and Validation/Assay development division are supported by a comprehensive equipment for sample preparation (e.g. FastPrep), biomolecule quality control (e.g. Agilent Bioanalyzer, Fragment Analyzer, Biospectrum 310 Imaging System) and quantification (e.g. Epoch Microplate Spectrophotometer, Nanodrop 2000C (UV-Vis) und Nanodrop 3300 (Fluorescence), Qubit Fluorometric Quantitation device) as well as liquid handling systems like an epMotion, and a Zephyr automated pipetting system equipped with a plate handler (Twister II) for transfer of microplates between the pipetting station and the reader as well as the washing station (Biotek 405) allowing for completely automated and high-throughput working procedures.
  • The cell culture division focuses on in vitro cell culture experiments equipped for the cultivation of mammalian primary, tumour, immortalized and stem cells with a focus on biological barrier research. The cell culture laboratory comprises two sterile laminar flow/workbenches with four CO2 incubators (ThermoFisher, Panasonic) and a BioSpherix hypoxia chamber. In addition to the devices from the above-mentioned divisions, a CryoStar Nx70 cryostat, a CytoFLEX flow analyser including a plate loader (Beckman Coulter) and an IX83 fluorescence microscope with a motor table applicable for live-cell imaging and Z-stack deconvolution analysis (Olympus) is used for cell model analyses. For drug analysis a 600bar HPLC system including fractionation, UV and fluorescence detectors (ThermoFisher) is applied, the full equipment for gel electrophoresis and western blotting including imaging system (Biorad) belongs to the infrastructure. The ZetaView Quatt 4-laser system (Particle Metrix) is available for nanoparticle tracking analysis (size distribution, concentration, fluorescence, zeta potential). 
  • IT infrastructure: The lab is supported by a high-performance computational infrastructure, represented by six analysis servers (e.g., SUPERMICRO, Dell PowerEdge R840), two backup server, and two tool hosting servers. In total, the calculation power includes more than 3 Terabytes of RAM, 384 cores, and 108 TB storage. The backup servers (e.g., Dell PowerEdge R740xd) are in different buildings within the AIT, and are daily, weekly, monthly mirrored. This enables the analysis of large and complex data sets.


The Laboratory for Biomarker & Assay Development comprises about 1.318 m² and is located in Vienna’s “Futurbase”. The floor space is divided in office space and lab space including the technical infrastructure of the cluster.


“Molecular Diagnostics, Biosensors & System integration”

  • Decentralization of medical diagnostics will increase due to demographic change, which necessitates point-of-care diagnostic solutions.
  • We are focusing on diagnostic sensors and system development for point-of-care testing with a focus on non- or minimally invasive sample types based on our broad technical sensor expertise.
  • Direct access to our established thin film technology laboratories with respective state-of-the art instrumentation as well as our leading physical scientific expertise built up during the past years are important enablers to address this topic successfully.
  • Apart from our biosensor component level expertise we have strong systems integration know-how that enables us to integrate the whole workflow from sampling to biomarker detection.
  • We create value within this business case by combining our expertise on sensing and systems integration with expertise of diagnostic companies on content and assay design in different application fields. We market our detection platforms and combine them with biomarker content of partners as well as with our own content.
  • We create value by creating POC demonstrators together with partners and earn licensing fees after marketing of such POC diagnostic systems.
  • We offer direct contract research to companies.
  • Our non- and minimally invasive diagnostic testing-focus enables us to access many diagnostic submarkets (cancer, therapy home-monitoring, chronic disease monitoring, auto-immune home-monitoring, dentists), and – as upside potential – also markets that are not as strongly regulated (veterinary markets, wellbeing & life style-markets, sport-markets). In all of these markets we can take advantage of our position as system provider and of our systemic platform approach.
  • The infrastructure outlined below is necessary to perform state-of-the art research in the areas mentioned above. It enables us to play a significant role as a technical partner in cooperation projects as well as a professional technical solution provider for industry.

Brief Description

The machine cluster Biosensor & System Integration is dedicated to the development of novel electrochemical, magnetic and optical biosensors and their integration in new detection systems. It comprises three laboratory units and a wide range of equipment for fabrication and testing as well as a computation cluster for the simulation and design of photonic biosensors. The Thin Film Technology Laboratories provide a variety of micro- and nanotechnology tools for the fabrication of biosensors and microfluidic systems, as well as analytical tools for the characterization of the devices in the manufacturing process. During sensor development and optimization, basic sensor properties are characterized in an electronics and optics laboratory. Finally, biological testing on sensor and system level is performed in a chemistry laboratory.

Major facilities of the infrastructure cluster


  • Thin Film Technology Laboratories    The fabrication tools in the Thin Film Technology Laboratories comprise high vacuum systems for thin film deposition (thermal and electron beam evaporation), photoresist patterning (optical and electron beam lithography in cleanroom environment) and etching (argon ion etching, wet chemical etching under a laboratory hood). A materials inkjet printer allows the fabrication of low-cost electrochemical sensors on disposable substrates. Two XYZ dispensing systems are available for the contactless modification and functionalization of sensor surfaces. A contact angle measuring instrument is used to characterize inks. A micromachining system and a laser cutter enable rapid prototyping of microfluidic chips. Scanning electron microscopy with nanometer resolution, atomic force microscopy and film thickness measurement systems allow testing of sensor structure integrity as well as the characterization of fabrication processes. Oxygen plasma surface activation and ultrasonic wire bonding are auxiliary technologies for system assembly and sensor packaging.
  • Electronics and optics laboratory     Electrical, magnetic and optical sensor properties are characterized and optimized prior to biological testing using several measuring stations. Electronic sensor testing is performed on a probe station connected to a semiconductor parameter analyzer and an LCR-meter. Biosensors based on integrated waveguides are tested with fiber optic measurement stations including a near infrared microscope, a high precision infrared camera, piezo-actuated alignment stages, fixed wavelength laser sources (450nm, 488nm, 633nm, 650nm, 850nm, 1310nm, 1550nm) and tunable laser sources in different wavelengths regions (750-900nm, 780-800nm, 1280-1360nm, 1440-1640nm), a polarimeter (600-1080nm), and a 350-1000nm CCD spectrometer.
  • Chemistry laboratory    Besides standard equipment such as laboratory hood, workbenches and microscopes, the chemistry lab comprises experimental stations for microfluidic testing, several potentiostats for electrochemical sensor readout, a Fourier-transform infrared spectrometer, and a range of customized measurement equipment for magnetic and optical sensor signal readout.


The laboratories are located at AIT’s “FutureBase”, 1210 Vienna. The total area of 648 m² is used for office space and lab space.

Further informations