Max Planck Institute for Medical Research

Max Planck Institute for Medical Research

At the Max Planck Institute for Medical Research, physicists, chemists and biologists create knowledge of long-term relevance to basic medical science. The institute has a unifying theme: observing and controlling the vastly complex macromolecular interactions in the context of cells - both in health and disease. The presently four departments contribute to this goal through their complementary expertise. They work on optical microscopy with nanometer resolution, on the design of chemical reporter molecules, on macromolecular structure determination and on cellular, materials and biophysical sciences. The institute has a distinguished history of fundamental breakthroughs, evidenced by six Nobel Prizes awarded to its researchers since its foundation.


Jahnstraße 29
69120 Heidelberg
Phone: +49 6221 486-0
Fax: +49 6221 486-351

PhD opportunities

This institute has no International Max Planck Research School (IMPRS).

There is always the possibility to do a PhD. Please contact the directors or research group leaders at the Institute.

The Stifterverband recognizes the start-up for its technology that enhances the power and cost-effectiveness of batteries

vfl. Amelie Heuer-Jungemann, Benjamin Vernot,, Tristan Wagner and Matthias Fischer

Four Max Planck projects secure the ERC Consolidator Grants 2023


Pushing the MINFLUX technique to higher spatial and temporal precision allows protein dynamics to be observed under physiological conditions


Scientists assemble matter in 3D using sound waves for 3D printing

Human epithelial cells (green with blue nuclei) are incubated with synthetic SARS-CoV-2 virions (magenta) to study the initial of infection and immune evasion.

Researchers create minimalistic Sars-CoV-2 virions and discover the spike protein switching mechanism

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What is life? How did it emerge? And could it possibly look completely different? At Kerstin Göpfrich’s lab at the Max Planck Institute for Medical Research in Heidelberg, scientists are working on answers to the really big questions. Her research group’s plan is no less ambitious: to create artificial cells and, by so doing, to discover what is essential for life.

STED microscopes can produce extremely detailed images of everything from the transport of individual proteins or tiny membrane vesicles in living cells to the synapses of neurons or the skeletons of tumor cells. The technique was invented by Stefan Hell, Director at the Max Planck Institutes for Biophysical Chemistry in Goettingen and Medical Research in Heidelberg. Now, the spin-off company Abberior Instruments sells the highest-resolution fluorescence microscope on the market – and researchers at both the Institutes and the company continue to push the resolution to its ultimate limit: the single nanometer size scale of a molecule.

Viruses are usually incredibly small, but some deviate from the norm and reach sizes greater than that of a bacterial cell. Matthias Fischer from the Max Planck Institute for Medical Research in Heidelberg is one of a small number of scientists working on giant viruses of this kind.

Life is motion and interaction with the environment. This is equally true of cells within an organism, but for cells to get from one place to another, they not only have to be able to move, they also have to interact with their environment. Joachim Spatz and his team at the Max Planck Institute for Medical Research in Heidelberg are studying how cells manage this. In his search for answers, the winner of the 2017 Leibniz Prize puts cells through their paces on catwalks and obstacle courses to test their adhesive properties.

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Ultrasound images for cells, antibubbles and medical research

2023 Fischer, Peer

Cell Biology Material Sciences Structural Biology

Light can be used to project images. An invention by our research group makes it possible to now also project “pressure images”. A hologram therein shapes an ultrasound wave and its spatial intensity distribution. Since a wave also transmits forces, the hologram allows cells to be arranged in the form of sonic images, gently and "in one shot". The sound patterns can also be used for spatially defined drug release at low intensities, which we have demonstrated with antibubbles. High-precision spatial ultrasound fields thus open up new perspectives in biomedical research.


Novel fluorescent molecules for optical nanoscopy with molecular resolution

2022 Lincoln, Richard; Hell, Stefan W.

Cell Biology Chemistry

Super-resolution fluorescence microscopy (nanoscopy), which can now even accomplish molecular resolutions, requires novel fluorescent molecules that meet the specific requirements of these techniques. The design of smaller photoactivatable fluorescent molecules improves the labelling of proteins in living cells and enables straightforward imaging even with the latest nanoscopy concepts. We have developed a new family of versatile photoactivatable fluorescent dyes for high resolution imaging.


Targeted chemical control of protein interactions

2021 Wombacher, Richard

Cell Biology Structural Biology

The spatial proximity of proteins plays an central role in biological processes in cells. Protein modifications such as methylation bring biomolecules into proximity to one another, which regulates cellular processes. For the study of such mechanisms, chemical inducers of proximity (CIPs) have been developed. These chemical compounds allow targeted manipulation of the spatial organization of proteins in biological systems. At the MPI for Medical Research, a new CIP was developed using mandipropamid, which is characterized by its high efficiency and is ideally suited for in vivo use.


Fluorescent probes for biology

2020 Johnsson, Kai; Wang, Lu

Cell Biology Structural Biology

Live-cell fluorescence microscopy is a powerful tool to study cellular biology on a molecular scale, yet its use is held back by the paucity of suitable fluorescent probes. We established a general strategy to transform regular fluorophores of different colors into fluorogenic probes with excellent cell permeability and low unspecific background signal. The resulting probes are suitable for different types of superresolution fluorescence microscopy and allow new insights into biological processes. 


The puzzle of life: Building a synthetic cell

2019 Göpfrich, Kerstin

Cell Biology Structural Biology

The emergence of life on earth proves that living matter can emerge from inanimate building blocks. But is it possible to replicate this process in the lab? Can individual molecules be assembled into a synthetic cell? With DNA origami, the nanoscale art of folding DNA, we design cellular components. We subsequently assemble these and other molecular building blocks inside cell-like compartments. Piece by piece, a synthetic cell could become a reality, which in the future could also take on important tasks inside the living organism.

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