Max Planck Society


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At the MPI for Medical Research, physicists, chemists and biologists create knowledge of long-term relevance to basic medical science. With the arrival of three new directors in 2015/16, the institute has a new unifying theme: observing and controlling the vastly complex macromolecular interactions in the context of cells - both in health and disease. The presently four departments contribute to this goal through their complementary expertise: optical microscopy with nanometer resolution (Stefan Hell), the design of chemical reporter molecules (Kai Johnsson), macromolecular structure determination (Ilme Schlichting), cellular, materials and biophysical sciences  (Joachim Spatz). The institute has a distinguished history of fundamental breakthroughs, evidenced by six Nobel Prizes awarded to its researchers since its foundation.


Dept. of Biomolecular Mechanisms (Director: Ilme Schlichting)

This department has been at the institute since 2002.  The main theme of research concerns the complex chemical reactions in living cells, which are catalyzed by enzymes. The atomic structures of important enzyme molecules are determined, above all through the use of free-electron lasers.

Dept. of Optical Nanoscopy (Director: Stefan Hell)

Stefan Hell is a director at both the MPImF and at the MPI for Biophysical Chemistry in Göttingen.

Dept. of Chemical Biology (Director: Kai Johnsson)

Kai Johnsson moved to the MPImF during 2017 from his current location in Lausanne (Switzerland). His directorship was initially adjunct, until his appointment at Lausanne ended in 2017.

Dept. of Cellular Biophysics (Director Joachim Spatz)

The department of Joachim Spatz was at the MPI for Intelligent Systems in Stuttgart, with an outstation at Heidelberg University. These were united to form his new department at the MPImF, fundamentally investigating and understanding the mechanobiology of cells, cell cohorts and organoids as well as developments of technological breakthroughs that enables the construction of life-like synthetic compartments.


Throughout 2017 the three new departments have moved into the main building of the institute. The moves will be completed as soon as the necessary building work is finished.

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