Our institute is organized into four research departments, each headed by a director. The broad research spectrum encompasses cell biology, structural biology and organic chemistry. Each department is specialized in a scientific field in terms of orientation and methodology, but also shares numerous scientific interfaces with the other departments. Thus, the research departments collaborate to develop targeted substances or elucidate protein structures in order to better understand essential biological processes.
The miracle of growth is made possible through the repetition of a process that must perform perfectly each time: cell division, in which from one cell two identical daughter cells develop. In our department, we study the different molecular mechanisms that ensure that the genetic material is distributed correctly to the two daughter cells. For this purpose, we investigate the structure and function of a multitude of proteins that are involved in cell division.
All processes which take place in the body are self-organized, and much evidence suggests that the great complexity of living nature is actually based on the combination of a few simple rules. These include the random fluctuation of molecules, their local interactions, the principle of negative feedback and autocatalytic loops. In our department we study these mechanisms and networks in precise detail. We want to find out how they function, which dynamics underlie them and how they can be influenced by targeted interventions into the circuits.
Cells are in constant exchange with their surroundings. Proteins that are embedded in the membrane play a significant role in this. In our research we seek to understand how such membrane proteins function. To achieve this, it is essential to first elucidate their structure. One technique we use for this is electron crystallography of two-dimensional crystals. Furthermore, we investigate larger complexes of proteins, molecular machines that perform vital functions. However, since larger protein complexes are difficult to crystallize, we use cryo-electron microscopy for structural analysis.
The development of active substances to specifically influence biological processes is like looking for a needle in a haystack. Only just a few of the millions of synthesised compounds have any effect. We are therefore pursuing a different approach based on models found in nature. Evolution has yielded a wide variety of biologically active substances. The main focus of our research is to develop new methods and strategies for the chemical production of NP-inspired compound collections. Another focus is to test these substances for their effect and to identify their targets in the cell.