How do bacteria, viruses, parasites and fungi make us sick? And how does our immune system defend our body? These are the questions we address at the Helmholtz Centre for Infection Research (HZI). Our goal: To set up the basis for new diagnostic tools, new active agents and new therapies against infectious diseases.
Together with 100 guest scientists from all over the world, our researchers take on this urging task. With sophisticated laboratory techniques they observe pathogens and immune cells during the moment of infection. They analyse the molecular structure of the “weapons” that pathogens utilise to invade a host cell – and develop methods to defuse them. They seek for substances from nature or lab that neutralise pathogens, prevent infections or are even able to cure them. They use high tech analytical devices and study the processes of infections in cell culture, in complex elaborating computer simulations, and in mice – for a healthier future.
By that, the Helmholtz Centre for Infection Research follows the aims of the Helmholtz Association of German Research Centres and contributes to the successful implementation of the German Government’s research strategy. The scientific activity of the Helmholtz Association is organized in six research fields with different research programmes. Every five years the 18 institutes of the Helmholtz Association have to apply for funding – the institutes’ research programmes compete with each other.
The HZI focuses on the programme “Infection Research”. This programme aims to solve the growing challenges in the field of infection research: Increasingly appearing resistances to antibiotics, easier transfer paths for pathogens due to our high mobility and the climate change as well as the growing number of elder people benefit the spread of infectious diseases. In addition to that, so far unknown diseases like SARS, bird or swine flu break out. Known pathogens suddenly increase their aggressiveness, as for example EHEC during the 2011 epidemic in Northern Germany.
The single research projects of the HZI are subordinated to three topics within the research programme:
An intensive contact and exchange between the different topics secures the programme’s success.