Wednesday, 17. May 2023

Thomas Eiwegger, Allergist

How does tolerance occur?

Associate Professor Thomas Eiwegger is Head of the Clinical Division of Paediatrics at the University Hospital St Pölten, and is Adjunct Professor at both the Karl Landsteiner University for Health Sciences and the University of Toronto. He leads a research group at the Hospital for Sick Children (SickKids), Canada’s largest research institute for paediatric health. In addition, he is currently forming a research group with the same research focus at the Karl Landsteiner University for Health Sciences. His research centres on food allergies and asthma, and other allergic diseases in children. His chief research target is the immunological mechanisms by which allergies emerge, and new forms of diagnosis and therapy for allergic diseases.

Thomas Eiwegger studied Medicine at the Medical University of Vienna (MedUni Vienna). While still a student he took part in various research projects. He worked full-time in the laboratory for his dissertation and as a post-doc at the MedUni, and gained a solid grounding in immunological in vitro methods. Prof Eiwegger completed his training in paediatrics with the additional subject paediatric pulmonology and has been certified in paediatric allergology by the European Academy of Allergy and Clinical Immunology (EAACI). Since 2022, he has been entrusted with the newly introduced allergology specialisation. Eiwegger spent two years as a post-doc researcher at the Swiss Institute of Allergy and Asthma Research in Davos. After returning to the MedUni, he qualified as a university lecturer in 2012 and worked as Senior Physician until 2015 in the Department for Paediatric Pulmonology, Endocrinology and Metabolic Diseases at the University Clinic for Paediatric Health at the MedUni. He fulfilled the qualification agreement (tenure, associate  professor) in a fast track process at the MedUni.

In 2015, he was recruited by the Hospital for Sick Children (SickKids) in Canada, one of the most important and research-intensive paediatric clinics in the world, to take part in developing a clinical research programme on food allergies and anaphylaxis. Under his co-direction, the food allergy and anaphylaxis programme is fast becoming one of the largest of its kind in Canada. Since 2021, Prof Eiwegger has been Director of the Clinical Department for Paediatrics and Adolescent Medicine at the University Hospital St Pölten. He also leads a research group in the transnational medicine Program at SickKids, and is in the process of creating a working group at the Karl Landsteiner University.

Burning questions for Eiwegger are how allergies develop and how immunological tolerance can arise and be induced. At the moment, one clear priority is immunotherapy for children. In three investigator-initiated trials, Eiwegger’s laboratory is investigating the effect of several different approaches to oral immunotherapies in children, adolescents and young adults with multiple food allergies. Alongside the clinical studies, the laboratory is developing human immunological models for allergy research. For example, recently a new in vitro food allergy model of the human intestine has been established that includes the entirety of intestinal cells. It gives researchers deeper insights into allergy-specific and cell-specific reactions.

Prof Eiwegger contributes to the two top journals in the field of allergology, as associate editor of Allergy and as a member of the review board for the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology. His expertise in the field of biologics earned him the chair of the working group of the European Academy of Allergy and Clinical Immunology, where he is also represented on the Board of the Basic and Clinical Immunology Section. To date (May 2023), Prof Eiwegger has published more than 140 peer-reviewed articles. More than 80% of those articles were published in top journals.

Prof Eiwegger’s declared aim is to create a research priority for food allergies, allergic asthma and immunodysregulation, and to establish the University Hospital St Pölten as the leading centre for paediatric allergology and pulmonology. And thus, a centre for clinical studies will gradually emerge in St Pölten. Drug studies involving children are rare but important because children are not just small adults.

Prof Eiwegger has much to occupy him with the opportunity to create a new research focus at the Karl Landsteiner University, and he knows how much hard work will be involved: “The challenge is to create academic structures for clinical and translational research in Lower Austria. In order to achieve optimal treatment for patients, we urgently need to integrate clinical studies and research into daily clinical routines. Participating in clinical studies will give assistant doctors who are interested in research much greater interaction with new forms of therapy, leading to better and more comprehensive training,” says Prof Eiwegger.

Link to research information system KRIS

Prim. Assoc. Prof. Univ.-Doz. Dr. Thomas Eiwegger

Scientific Working Group Clinical Immunology, Division of Paediatrics (University Hospital St. Pölten)