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
Formation1961; 60 years ago (1961) (as Max Planck Institute of Immunobiology)
TypeScientific institution
PurposeResearch in immunobiology, developmental biology and epigenetics
HeadquartersFreiburg, Germany
Parent organization
Max Planck Society
Website(in English)
(in German)

The Max Planck Institute of Immunobiology and Epigenetics (German: Max-Planck-Institut für Immunbiologie und Epigenetik) in Freiburg, Germany is an interdisciplinary research institute that conducts basic research in modern immunobiology, developmental biology and epigenetics. It was founded in 1961 as the Max Planck Institute of Immunobiology and is one of 84 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 biologist Georges J. F. Köhler, a co-recipient of the 1984 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine, was director of the institute from 1984 until his death in 1995.


The institute was founded in 1961 and grew out of the research activities of the pharmaceutical company Wander AG in Freiburg. By the 1970s, MPIIE was engaged in studies focusing on interactions between infectious agents, particularly endotoxin, and the human immune system. The research scope was then expanded into cellular and molecular mechanisms of B and T cells in the next decade. From the 1990s, the institute focused increasingly on genetic imprinting and epigenetics. The research fields were later expanded to include molecular mechanisms of lymphoid cell differentiation and the regulation of genes via extracellular signals. In 2007, the Max Planck Institute of Immunobiology included epigenetics as a new research department and thus the institute was formally renamed the Max Planck Institute of Immunobiology and Epigenetics in 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 three 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 Thomas 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]


Headed by Thomas Jenuwein, the Department 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 new Director Erica Pearce could be won over for the institute, in replacement for Rolf Kemler. She is now heading the department of Immunometabolism. The Department focuses on understanding the cellular and molecular mechanisms that control immune responses, with a particular emphasis on how metabolism governs this process.


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:

  • Thomas Boehm

Scientific Members:

  • Asifa Akhtar
  • 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
  • 1992–2013 Rolf Kemler

Graduate program[edit]

The International Max Planck Research School for Immunobiology, Epigenetics, and Metabolism (IMPRS-IEM) is a PhD program covering practical experimental skills in molecular and cellular biology and theoretical knowledge and in-depth analysis of scientific literature. IMPRS-IEM is the successor program to International Max Planck Research School for Molecular and Cellular Biology (IMPRS-MCB), which established in 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 3 June 2019.
  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