The Helmholtz Centre for Infection Research (HZI) is organised in the form of a GmbH (equals “Ltd.”). Shareholders are the Federal Republic of Germany (90 percent) and the federal states Lower-Saxony (eight percent), Saarland (one percent) and Free State of Bavaria (one percent).

The shareholders' meeting, as the supreme management body of the HZI, meets at least once a year, takes the most important directional decisions, appoints the two managing directors and decides on their discharge. Representatives of the shareholders - together with experts from universities, clinics, industry, other research centres and the HZI itself - form the supervisory board. The HZI Supervisory Board meets twice a year, supervises the legality, expediency and economic efficiency of the management and decides on important research policy and financial matters of the company. The Scientific Committee provides the Supervisory Board with expert advice. The Centre's middle management consists of the heads of the scientific departments, the administrative units and the staff units.

Scientific Director

Josef Penninger was born on 5 September 1964 in Gurten, Oberösterreich. After attending medical school in Innsbruck, he started his scientific career at the University of Toronto, Canada. In 2002, he was the founding director of the Institute for Molecular Biotechnology IMBA – a research institute of the Austrian Academy of Sciences in Vienna. In 2018, he returned to Canada as a Canada 150 Chair and took over the Life Sciences Institute at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver. Starting from 1 July 2023, he has been appointed as Scientific Director of the HZI in Braunschweig.

Since 1995 Josef Penninger has been receiving multiple competitive research grants in the EU and North America, among those a C150 Canada Research Chair in Functional Genetics, an Innovator Award from the US, an EU Excellence Grant, as well as an ERC Advanced Grant.

Josef Penninger has earned a long list of awards and honorary awards. Among those are the Ernst-Jung-Price for Medicine, the Descartes-Price (highest European award) and the Wittgenstein-Price, also referred to as the “Austrian Nobel Price”. In 2015 he placed 11th in the ranking of the most influential thought leaders in German-speaking countries. Additionally, he was among the Top 10 of the most cited scientists worldwide twice, has been given an Honorary Professor title of the Chinese University of Qingdao and is a recipient of the Austrian Cross of Merit.

Administrative Director

Born in Hoya in Lower Saxony, Christian Scherf studied law in Freiburg /Brsg. and international and European law in Dijon, France. He completed both his state examinations and his legal traineeship in Frankfurt am Main. Christian Scherf's interest in international contacts began at a very early age. After graduating from high school, he worked for a year as a volunteer for the UN High Commissioner for Refugees in Costa Rica, helping refugees.

After later positions as a young lawyer at the EU Commission in Brussels, as a government councillor of the Free and Hanseatic City of Hamburg and various management positions in supra-regional education, science and research funding, he took over the commercial management of the GKSS Forschungszentrum Geesthacht GmbH (now HEREON) in 2000. In 2002, he moved to the German Electron Synchrotron DESY as Commercial Director. From 2015-2020, Christian Scherf served as Administrative Director of the European Molecular Biology Laboratory in Heidelberg. In 2020, he took on a new challenge as Founding Chancellor and later Chancellor of the Berufliche Hochschule Hamburg. Since the beginning of January 2023, Christian Scherf has led the HZI as Administrative Director. 

He is also Chairman of the University Council of the European University in Flensburg and a member of the Board of Trustees of the American Field Service (AFS).

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