Welcome to the homepage of the Institute for Developmental Immunology (IDI) at the Biocenter of the Medical University of Innsbruck. The IDI is currently headed by Prof. Andreas Villunger, PhD, who was appointed as a head of this unit in 2007 as junior professor and is now full professor for Developmental Immunology at MUI.


The Institute is organized in four research groups, run by head Andreas Villunger and assistant/associate professors Jan Wiegers, Joel Riley, Verena Labi and Sebastian Herzog. Please click the logo to learn more about the respective groups!

With their coworkers, IDI investigators explore basic mechanisms of immune cell development and differentiation with a focus on microRNAs and steroid hormones. In addition, we are interested in studying general principles of cellular transformation, focusing on the role of BCL2-regulated cell death and the p53 signalling network as barrier against malignant disease.

All group leaders are involved in training undergraduate as well as graduate students of different life-science disciplines, including biochemistry, biology as well as molecular and human medicine. If you are interested in research training opportunities at different levels (summer students, BSc, MSc, or MD/PhD), or have any teaching related questions, please contact the respective group leader.

Recent News


The Villunger team has joined the TRR353 initiative as an external member, working on the cause and consequences of cell death occurring in response to errors in mitosis. In this consortium, 19 research teams aim to advance our knowledge on how the sensitivity of an individual cell to a cell death-inducing stimulus is regulated, how to qualitatively or quantitatively predict this response from measurable parameters, and how to steer a cell in its death-survival decision and the chosen cell death modality. The work of this consortium will contribute to establishing fundamental principles of cell death decisions in basic biology and human pathology.

Irmina Garcia has successfully finalized her postdoctoral work in the Villunger team, publishing her exciting findings on a new role of the PIDDosome in cells failing cytokinesis. With the help of our team members, she could show that extra centrosomes, arising during unscheduled polyploidization or aberrant centriole biogenesis, induce activation of NF-κB signaling and sterile inflammation. This signaling requires the NEMO-PIDDosome, a multi-protein complex composed of PIDD1, RIPK1, and NEMO/IKKγ. Remarkably, the presence of supernumerary centrosomes suffices to induce a paracrine chemokine and cytokine profile enhancing NK cell chemotaxis. Furthermore, extra centrosomes increase the immunogenicity of cancer cells and render them more susceptible to NK-cell attack. See also the News & Views article by Lisa Boucher-Hayes in the same issue of EMBO J!

Together with the Finotello group from our partner University in Innsbruck, the Labi, Riley and Villunger groups will receive 1,5 Mio. Euros from the Austrian Science Fund (FWF) for their BEAT IT consortium.

Induction of apoptosis is at the core of current cancer therapies. Despite the wealth of knowledge on apoptosis, we do lack understanding of how transforming cells escape extinction. BEAT IT seeks to understand the cell death dynamics that unfolds upon selective introduction of genomic perturbations in immune cells. Further, BEAT IT will provide proof of concept that this knowledge can be used to fight blood cancer and promote healthy ageing.

In our newly funded FWF Project, we aim to understand the relevance of the caspase-2-PIDDosome and its key-substrate, MDM2, in natural polyploidization, we will exploit cell biology, RNA-sequencing and mouse genetics to study centrosome-dependence of PIDDosome activation, transcriptional programs initiated by the caspase-2-PIDDosome and the consequences of impaired PIDDosome function for natural polyploidization, terminal differentiation and cellular behavior.

Congratulations to Ilaria Dorigatti and Nadine Kinz for receiving the “Stipendium der Allgemeinen Hochschulstipendienstiftung für Studierende der Universität Innsbruck und der Medizinischen Universität Innsbruck“! Each year, three young researchers with an excellent academic performance are selected by the “Hochschulstipendienstiftung” and honored for their scientific achievements. The award is intended to support the young scientists in their early career. Keep up the great work!

Congrats! Sarah Spöck received the 1st SZABO SCANDIC Immunis Sponsorship for young scientists. Focusing on B cells, Sarah’s project will elucidate how the epigenetic TET proteins prevent autoimmunity or immunodeficiency while promoting protective antibody-mediated immunity. We are looking forward to hearing more about this exciting project!