The director's vision

HUMAN MICROSTAR

OPEN CALL: Junior Group Leaders

Each human being forms an individual ecosystem that is exposed to a variety of different influences throughout its life, affecting current and future health as well as susceptibility to pathogens. Exposure to microbes and pathogens creates a kind of "archive" that determines the development of individual immunity, metabolic and psychological responses, and long-term consequences.

To advance our understanding of human health, infectious diseases, and infection-associated non-communicable diseases, unraveling this complex human-microbe alliance is essential. Based on this knowledge, innovative strategies can then be developed to protect, restore and preserve human health. 

This is why we are establishing the project HUMAN MICROSTAR:  the combination of the two programs “HUMAN” and “MICROSTAR” provides a holistic and comprehensive approach with the potential to provide groundbreaking insights and new solutions for human health in the context of its microbial environment. 

Our goal is to create an environment where aspiring scientists can unleash their full potential and contribute to groundbreaking discoveries in their respective fields.
Portrait Josef Penninger

Prof. Josef Penninger
Scientific Director of the HZI

Exploring the human ecosystem

Human Microbe Alliance for Universal Health (HUMAN)

Depending on various factors such as age, lifestyle, genetic, epigenetic and social factors, individual immune system, medication taken, etc., each person reacts differently when interacting with microbes.

Exploring this "human ecosystem" is the main objective of the HUMAN (Human Microbe Alliance for Universal Health) project. HUMAN aims to improve our understanding of human health, particularly in relation to infectious diseases, and to use this knowledge for the development of innovative strategies to protect or restore it. The project with a volume of around 70 million euros is funded by the VolkswagenFoundation and the Ministry of Science and Culture of Lower Saxony.

Open Call: Junior Group Leaders

For the newly established HUMAN program, we seek exceptional professionals to join us on our journey to understand the complex interplay of humans and microbes in the fight against infectious diseases. 

We are recruiting early-career researchers to develop independent research programs committed to research excellence, translation, and EDI (equity, diversity, inclusion). The program offers positions for Foundational Researchers with a wide range of expertise and Clinician-Scientists in the following areas: 

Magnifying glass pictogram with bacteria

Foundational research

Pioneering foundational infection research to set new paradigms in the understanding of human health and infection resilience affected by immunity, microbial colonization, cell biology across scales, age, socio-environmental determinants, behavioral factors, medication, vaccinations, or genetic and epigenetic factors.

Pictogram gear wheel

Transformative Technology

Technology-oriented research to develop and deploy transformative technologies enabling measurements and/or perturbations of physiological and disease processes of human tissues and microbial entities. To use microbial effector and resilience mechanisms shaped by millions of years of microbial evolution as blueprint for engineering human and planetary health.

Blue cross in circle

Clinician-Scientists

Clinical research with a focus on infection biology to tackle patient-oriented questions and pioneer solutions for human infection resilience and health of tomorrow.

Research into resilience mechanisms of microbes and humans

Microbial Stargazing (MICROSTAR)

Over the course of almost four billion years of evolution, all organisms, from viruses and single-celled microorganisms to humans, have developed protective mechanisms against potentially harmful internal and external influences at the molecular, genomic, cellular and ecosystem levels. These resilience mechanisms enable them to react effectively to changes, survive in existing habitats and colonise new ones.

With the MICROSTAR project ("Microbial Stargazing") the HZI aims to learn from the microbial world and decipher the principles of their resilience and adaptability in order to utilise these principles for the benefit of humans and nature.

MICROSTAR is funded by the Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) with around 30 million euros and includes the establishment of several junior research groups as well as extensive measures to promote young scientists. The MICROSTAR project was launched in October 2023.

Highlights

The Director’s Project: Innovative Organoid Research

The department of Innovative Organoid Research , led by Josef Penninger, focuses on the development and use of organoids to study infections. Organoids are three-dimensional tissue models in cell culture that are cultivated from human stem cells and have the characteristics of organs such as the intestine, brain, heart, kidney or lung. Disease processes and pathogen-host interactions can be reproduced in a controlled but physiological environment. Using CRISPR technology, specific genetic traits can be modified in these organoids to study specific infection mechanisms. This allows us to analyse infection processes in detail and test potential therapeutic approaches.  Supported by state-of-the-art robotic systems, cell culture processes are optimised to ensure efficient and standardised high-throughput production of organoids.

To the research group Innovative Organoid Research

Involved Junior Research Groups:

Dr Milan Gerovac
Dr Milan Gerovac
Research Group Leader
HZI Campus
Dr Lina Herhaus
Dr Lina Herhaus
Research Group Leader
HZI Campus
Dr Martin Jahn
Dr Martin Jahn
Research Group Leader
HZI Campus
Dr Natalia Torow
Dr Natalia Torow
Research Group Leader
HZI Campus