University of Szeged

The University of Szeged is one of the largest universities in Hungary, and the efforts of its nearly 30,000 students, 700 PhD students, and close to 7,000 employees at the 12 university faculties help make the institution the regional centre of knowledge in the Southern Great Plain. The University of Szeged was acknowledged as a research university in 2010. Thus it became a member of the very few elite universities of the country. As one of the most excellent institutions, it devotedly supports the advancement of scientific research.
In the past 5 years, scholars of our institution published nearly 50.000 studies and articles in Hungarian and international journals and in conference publications. Researches conducted for industrial R&D commissions are of great significance: they generated approximately 16.3 million USD income in the past 5 years. The patent portfolio of the University consists of more than 40 patents, many of which have already been commercialized through license agreements and spin-off enterprises established especially for this purpose.

Research of Neurodegenerative Diseases
Prof. Dr. Botond Penke’s research team at the Department of Medical Chemistry focuses on the research of neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and ALS (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis). They conduct researches in interdisciplinary manner, which involve many fields from computer aided molecular design to the closure of preclinical examinations. Their research involves examining the role of aging in inducing Alzheimer’s, the changes taking place at the level of proteins at the beginning of the disease, and also the significance of steroid-hormones and gene-expression during the process.

One of the significant results of the research team is the development of a novel, cost effective animal model for testing the potential drug candidate compounds for Alzheimer’s disease, and they have also elaborated a new principle for the treatment of Alzheimer’s, which is about the neutralization of intracellular toxic protein aggregates by the means of novel drug candidate compounds.

Research of Neuroprotective Mechanisms
Prof. Dr. József Toldi’s research team at the Department of Physiology, Anatomy and Neuroscience deals with the mechanisms of the neurodegenerative and neuroprotective processes in the central nervous system, with special regard to interventions and substances of neuroprotective effect. The aim of their research is to find ways to reduce secondary cytolysis connected to neurodegenerative diseases, ischemic state and traumatic brain injury. They can achieve this by reducing the level of glutamate itself, or its excitotoxic effect in the brain. The reduction of excitotoxic effect can be reached by using an endogenous  substance, kynurenic acid, or its pre-substance, kynurenine, or different types of derivatives of kynurenic acid.

During the past years, while testing the numerous newly developed kynurenic acid derivatives (in collaboration with Professors Vécsei and Fülöp) the research team discovered a new molecule, which proved to be an effective neuroprotective substance with minimal side effects. The molecule itself and the method both are protected by patents.   

Dermatological Research
Prof. Dr. Lajos Kemény’s Immunology Research Team focuses on the research of the skin as an organ of the immune system. They were the first to prove that epidermal cells (keratinocytes) possess receptors that are capable of recognizing microbial pathogens. They developed new phototherapeutical devices for the treatment of skin diseases (excimer laser, UVB-LED therapy). The team also examines the modern diagnostic possibilities and the development mechanism of autoimmune bullous (blistering) skin diseases. The research team was the first to develop a phototherapy-based method with which patients of allergic rhinitis can be successfully treated. The intranasal Rhinolight phototherapy is suitable for the treatment of patients with allergic rhinitis independently from the inducing allergens. The therapy can be a successful treatment for patients whose allergic symptoms cannot be properly reduced by the combination of oral antihistamines and intranasal medication.

Biogas Production from Organic Waste
Prof Dr. Kornél L. Kovács’s research team at the Department of Biotechnology focuses on hydrogen production by biological systems. The team is engaged in the generation of efficient and long lasting versions of the microbes that are of key importance in such processes. They are examining the extension possibilities of the technology’s life span, and the methods to increase the working stability of the hydrogenase enzymes, one of the key molecular players in these systems. A range of related basic and applied development projects are studied as well.

One of their outstanding achievements is the internationally registered patent for a method that increases biogas production by 30 -50% by adding specially selected hydrogen producing mesophilic or thermophilic bacteria. In cooperation with the BayGen Applied Research Institute, the team started to apply up-to-date metagenomic methods to examine the extremely complex and continuously changing biogas producing microbial communities. Methods are being developed which provide the opportunity to engineer microbial communities that are able to utilise optimally the available raw materials, and are also exploitable in the daily operations of biogas facilities. This way, the efficiency and the security of biogas producing power plants can be significantly improved due to the results of an exciting new basic research project on the understanding of the relationships within microbe communities.

Researches of Environmental Microbiology and Biocontrol
At the Department of Microbiology at the Faculty of Science and Informatics research of microbiological plant protection has been conducted for decades. The researchers at the department have significant achievements in the development of bacterial and microscopic fungal biocontrol methods, which can be utilized in industrialized fungus cultivation and also for the protection of various vegetable cultures (hydroponically and outdoor grown).

In the field of environmental microbiology the associates conduct researches concerning the pesticides accumulated in the environment, and they work on developing the microbial background of bioaugmentation methods for neutralizing their hazardous decomposition product intermediers.  The Department’s researchers contributed to creating a number of inventions based on biocontrol methods. They developed molecular diagnostic methods that facilitate the investigation of the spread of certain vegetal pathogenic microorganisms. Other methods were developed for the effective production of bacterial depsipeptides with high practical importance. They identified strains applicable in bioaugmentation, which effectively degrade certain pesticides (e.g. carbendazim, mankozeb, diuron).

Examination of Nanodispersions, Self-organizing Films and Biocomposite Materials
The Colloids and Nanostructured Materials Research Group led by Prof. Dr. Imre Dékány, mainly deals with colloid dispersions, self-organizing systems examined in materials science and in nanotechnological applications and the aggregation of biocolloids such as proteins.

Under a commission of Fraunhofer Gesellschaft, the research team produces reactive self-organizing surfaces and also deals with photocatalysis which makes it possible to produce photocatalytic self-cleaning thin films. They developed functionalized (plasmonic) photocatalysts that are capable of degrading pollutants as a reaction to natural light thus they can be used for both environmental protection and civil defence purposes. According to one of their most recent results, functionalized reactive surfaces reacting under solar light are also possible to apply in microbiological researches, namely, the possible methods for swiftly destroying various antibiotic-resistant bacteria have also been developed. Their results can be utilized in healthcare and in every field that deals with bacteria and viruses that threaten human health.

Enikő PITÓ,
Director of Research, Development and Innovation,
Directorate for Research, Development and Innovation, University of Szeged
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University of Szeged
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