The Vienna Science Chair of Bioinformatics was founded 2005 on winning a five-year WWTF startup grant together with its partners. It now is a permanent chair embedded in the Dept of Biotechnology and endowed by Boku University Vienna.
Besides funds for the foundation of the group, the startup grant supports group internal research into non-genetic sources of individuality in the model organism Drosophila melanogaster (fruit fly). It is well known that identical twins, which share the exact same genes, still exhibit differences in their looks, behavioural character, and other nature, even if they grow up in the same environment. The mechanisms that may be responsible for this are only beginning to be understood.
Recently it was shown that unicellular organisms respond to random fluctuations over time. For both prokaryotes and eukaryotes, this can be understood by noise affecting the gene expression machinery at the transcription level. Two reporter genes with the same promoter driving proteins with green or red fluorophores may randomly either receive the components of the transcription machinery, or not.
In more complex multi-cellular organisms, other mechanisms like epigenetic effects might play a larger role. Still, it has been observed that genetically identical mice in drug trials can respond differently to a drug candidate. We are interested in the effects of random fluctuations in multi-cellular organisms.