Systems Immunology

To see the immune system with the eyes of mathematics – that is the guiding principle of the department Systems Immunology. Mathematical models help to faster and better understand diseases that are associated with immune functions. Read here how scientists use mathematics to investigate chronic inflammatory diseases, the regulation of adaptive immune responses, and the interaction between the nervous, the endocrine and the immune system.


Our Research

The Department of Systems Immunology is devoted to develop models for the dynamics of specific biological systems. The models are validated with pre-existing experimental results and then used to investigate particular biological problems. On the one hand, the models help to interpret experimental results on quantitative grounds. On the other hand, the models infer predictions to initiate further and conclusive experiments that may solve important scientific questions. If the predictions are confirmed the model has proven to be a justified simplification of the complex reality and may be further used. If the prediction is wrong, the model assumptions have to be reconsidered or extended. In this more interesting case, pre-existing knowledge is likely to be set in question and we learn about new and unknown relationships of the biological system.

This synergistic iterative communication between theory and experiment is well established in physics but still in its childhood in biology. We consider it as our mission to establish this methodology and to prove that research in biology can benefit from theoretical predictions.

Although we use differential equation approaches for biological systems with a large number of well intermixed constituents, a major emphasis of our research is set on the dynamics of the spatial organization of biological systems. The position of molecules within a cell or of cells within the tissue can be essential for functionality. We develop and use space-resolved and agent-based mathematical modelling techniques, in which every player is represented as a discrete and individual object, to discover unknown relationships between space-time and functionality.

Further information about each individual project can be found here.

Project leader

  • Dr David Christian Kerkmann

    Project Leader Epidemiological Modelling


    Write E-Mail


  • How is the HZI contributing to the management of the coronavirus pandemic?

    Since the beginning of the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic, the Helmholtz Centre for Infection Research (HZI) in Braunschweig has focused its research activities on the novel coronavirus. Representative for the diverse research projects at HZI, three scientists present their contributions to coping with the pandemic. Prof Michael Meyer-Hermann is developing mathematical models for the course of the pandemic. Prof Melanie Brinkmann has investigated transmission pathways in a large coronavirus outbreak and shown that the pathogen can be spread via aerosols. Prof Gérard Krause is leading an antibody study to monitor the development of the pandemic and is developing digital tools such as the SORMAS system to support the public health service in pandemic response.

Audio Podcast

  • BRICS – Rechnen für die InfektionsforschungDie Mischung macht es – im richtigen Leben ebenso wie in der Infektionsforschung. Systembiologen am HZI und an der Technischen Universität Braunschweig mischen Laborerkenntnisse mit Computermodellen. Begleiten Sie Michael Meyer-Hermann virtuell an das BRICS und hören Sie weshalb es so sinnvoll ist, Biologie mit System zu betreiben.
  • Rechnen für die Gesundheit – Systembiologie bringt System in die Arthritis-Therapie Infektionsforscher arbeiten mit Zellkulturen, Krankheitserregern, nehmen Proben, messen und werten die Messergebnisse aus. Allerdings reicht das in der modernen Wissenschaft häufig nicht mehr aus – gerade wenn es um so komplexe Systeme wie uns Menschen geht. Hier kommen Computer ins Spiel: die Systembiologie. Hören Sie Michael Meyer-Hermann zu, wie er am Rechner die Jahrzehnte alte Therapie gegen Rheumatoide Arthritis auf den Kopf stellt...
PrintSend per emailShare