Max Planck Institute of Immunobiology and Epigenetics

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Max Planck Institute of Immunobiology and Epigenetics
MPI ImmunBiologie jm4384.jpg
Main building of the institute at Freiburg
Abbreviation MPI-IE
Formation 1961; 56 years ago (1961) (as Max Planck Institute of Immunobiology)
Type Scientific institute
Purpose Research in immunobiology, developmental biology and epigenetics
Headquarters Freiburg, Germany
Parent organization
Max Planck Society
Website (in English)
(in German)

The Max Planck Institute of Immunobiology and Epigenetics (German: Max-Planck-Institut für Immunobiologie und Epigenetik) in Freiburg, Germany is an interdisciplinary research institute that conducts basic research in modern immunobiology and developmental biology. It was founded in 1961 as the Max Planck Institute of Immunobiology and is one of 80 institutions of the Max Planck Society. Originally named the Max Planck Institute of Immunobiology, it was renamed to its current name in 2010 as it widened its research thrusts to the study of epigenetics.

The researchers of the institute study the development of the immune system and analyse the genes and molecules which are important for its function. They also seek to establish which factors control the maturation of immune cells and how chemical changes of the DNA influence the immune defense. The 1984 Nobel Prize-winning biologist Georges J. F. Köhler was director of the institute from 1984 until his death in 1995.


Beginning in the early 1960s, the institute was founded within the former research facilities of German pharmaceutical company Wander AG located in Freiburg. By the 1970s, MPIIE was engaged in studies focusing on interactions between infectious agents, particularly endotoxin, and the human immune system. Research scope was then expanded into cellular and molecular mechanisms of B and T cells in the next decade. By the 1990s, the institute saw beginning research on genetic imprinting and epigenetics. Molecular mechanisms of lymphoid cell differentiation and the regulation of genes via extracellular signals were later added as research areas in later years. In 2007, the Max Planck Institute of Immunobiology included epigenetics as a new research department and thus the institute was formally renamed to the Max Planck Institute of Immunobiology and Epigenetics by 2010.[1]


The Max Planck Institute of Immunobiology and Epigenetics is organised into four departments.[2] In addition to the four departments, the institute includes an adjunct University Department on Molecular Immunology headed by Michael Reth, and the Spemann Laboratory, which has the aim of promoting the early independence of junior scientists.

Cellular and Molecular Immunology[edit]

Headed by Rudolf Grosschedl, the Department of Cellular and Molecular Immunology focuses on cellular differentiation and commitment in response to extracellular signals and intrinsic regulatory networks. The department consists of four independent research groups.[3]

Chromatin Regulation[edit]

The Department of Chromatin Regulation, under Asifa Akhtar, aims to study chromatin and epigenetic mechanisms within gene regulation. the department further looks into whether chromosome organization and nuclear architecture plays a role in transcription activity and how this influences X chromosomal regulation. These are done through a holistic application of dosage compensations through biochemical, genetic, genomic and bioinformatic methodologies [4]

Developmental Immunobiology[edit]

Under the leadership of Thoman Boehm, the Department of Developmental Immunology strives to understand the biology and evolution of lymphoid organs and the adaptive immune system, intestinal immune system, and adaptive and innate immunity. The department consists of two independent research groups.[5]


The most recent department, headed by Thomas Jenuwein, focuses on basic epigenetic mechanisms in normal development and complex diseases such as diabetes and obesity. The department consists of three independent research groups.[6]


The Management Board of the MPI comprises elected scientific members of the Max Planck Society. These serve a dual function as co-directors of the institute and as department heads. The managing directorship rotates every three years among these co-directors. Currently, the Management Board (Kollegium) comprises the following members:[7]

Managing Director:

  • Asifa Akhtar

Scientific Members:

  • Thomas Boehm
  • Rudolf Grosschedl
  • Thomas Jenuwein
  • Erika Pearce

Adjunct Scientific Member:

  • Michael Reth


The following were the directors of the institute:[8]

  • 1961–1982 Otto Westphal
  • 1964–1981 Herbert Fischer
  • 1965–1988 Otto Lüderitz
  • 1981–2004 Klaus Eichmann
  • 1984–1995 Georges J. F. Köhler
  • 1991–2006 Davor Solter
  • 2006–2013 Rolf Kemler

Graduate program[edit]

The International Max Planck Research School for Molecular and Cellular Biology (IMPRS-MCB) is a PhD program covering practical experimental skills in molecular and cellular biology and theoretical knowledge and in-depth analysis of scientific literature. IMPRS-MCB was started in the year 2006 on the initiative of scientists of the Albert Ludwigs University of Freiburg and the Max Planck Institute of Immunobiology and is run in cooperation with the University of Freiburg.


  1. ^ "History of the institute". Retrieved 15 April 2015. 
  2. ^ "Research". Retrieved 15 April 2015. 
  3. ^ "Department of Cellular and Molecular Immunology". Retrieved 16 April 2015. 
  4. ^ "Department of Chromatin Regulation". Retrieved 16 April 2015. 
  5. ^ "Department of Developmental Immunobiology". Retrieved 16 April 2015. 
  6. ^ "Department of Epigenetics". Retrieved 16 April 2015. 
  7. ^ "Organization". Retrieved 15 April 2015. 
  8. ^ "Previous directors of the institute". Retrieved 15 April 2015. 

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 48°1′30″N 7°51′6″E / 48.02500°N 7.85167°E / 48.02500; 7.85167