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Elly Tanaka New Institute Director at OEAW


US biochemist becomes new director of IMBA - Institute of Molecular Biotechnology in Vienna

Elly Tanaka became famous for her axolotl research. Now the biochemist has reached the peak of her scientific career: Tanaka will head the IMBA - Institute of Molecular Biotechnology of the Austrian Academy of Sciences (OeAW) from April 1, 2024. The Academy is thus following the recommendation of an independent search committee for outstanding researchers. 

Tanaka's field of research is the regeneration of complex body structures, such as the nervous system and limbs, as well as their molecular and cellular basis. The most important model of her research is the regenerative salamander Ambystoma mexicanum, the axolotl. In her projects, Tanaka is currently focusing on the question of why regenerative capacity differs between species and in different phases of the life cycle, also using organoids. 

Tanaka's Research gives hope

OeAW President Heinz Faßmann warmly welcomes the US biochemist to IMBA: "I am delighted that Elly Tanaka will be working at the Austrian Academy of Sciences in the future. She is an outstanding scientist and her research gives hope to many people. OeAW continues to be uncompromising when it comes to excellence. I am very grateful to Jürgen Knoblich for his outstanding work as Institute Director. I am convinced that the Academy's important role in the life sciences in Austria will be further strengthened with the appointment of Elly Tanaka." 

Tanaka says: "I am excited to start my work at IMBA. My scientific vision is closely aligned with the research themes being pursued at IMBA. They range from genome dynamics to stem cell research, which allows us to investigate important topics such as fertility and neurodegeneration. In the future, these research topics will evolve hand in hand at IMBA, with insights from the cellular and genomic perspectives informing each other to gain a deeper understanding of the molecular basis of life - in all its facets. I look forward to leading this institute with its excellent research groups and under the aegis of the Austrian Academy of Sciences. Both personally and as a scientist, I find the close interaction between natural sciences, social sciences and cultural studies at the Academy enriching. I would also like to thank Josef Penninger for his vision for IMBA and his drive to make IMBA a leading institute in the life sciences, as well as Jürgen Knoblich, who has led the institute on a successful path in recent years." 

From Harvard via Max Planck and IMP to IMBA

Elly Tanaka has been a group leader at the Institute of Molecular Pathology (IMP), and also at Vienna BioCenter since 2016. Among others she studied at Harvard University and the University of California, San Francisco. Tanaka started her research on regeneration during her postdoctoral studies at University College London (UK). Tanaka founded her own laboratory at the Max Planck Institute of Molecular Cell Biology and Genetics (MPI-CBG) in Dresden in 1999. In 2008, she became a professor at the Center for Regenerative Therapies Dresden (CRTD), of which she later became director. Since 2016, Tanaka has been Senior Group Leader at the IMP. 

Tanaka is a full member of the Austrian Academy of Sciences and was inducted into the prestigious US National Academy of Sciences in 2023. She has received the Schrödinger Prize of the Austrian Academy of Sciences and the German Ernst Schering Prize, among others. 

IMBA has been in existence for more than 20 years and is the largest institute of the Austrian Academy of Sciences with more than 200 employees. The internationally renowned institute of excellence conducts basic research in molecular biology with a focus on stem cell research, in particular organoid research, as well as research into genome organisation and RNA biology.  Due to its location at the Vienna BioCenter, there is extensive cooperation with the IMP and other research institutes in the field of life sciences. The opportunities to carry research results further are increasingly reflected in spin-offs. 

The Austrian Academy of Sciences presented Elly Tanaka and her research to media representatives as part of a "Science Update" at IMBA.


Debora Knob
Pressesprecherin des Präsidiums
Österreichische Akademie der Wissenschaften
T +43 1 51581-1209

Sven Hartwig
Leiter Öffentlichkeit & Kommunikation
Österreichische Akademie der Wissenschaften
T +43 1 51581-1331