Max Planck Institute of Biochemistry

Max Planck Institute of Biochemistry

Proteins are the molecular building blocks and engines of the cell, and are involved in practically all life processes. Researchers at the Max Planck Institute of Biochemistry investigate the structure of these proteins and how they function – from individual molecules through to complex organisms. They make use of the latest biochemical, imaging and genetic engineering methods to discover the structure of proteins, their properties and the tasks they perform in the human body. Further important areas of research are signal processing and transmission, the regulation of protein breakdown and how cancer evolves. The researchers also want to find out what the actual protein composition of the cell looks like and how complete biological systems function.


Am Klopferspitz 18
82152 Martinsried
Phone: +49 89 8578-1
Fax: +49 89 8578-3777

PhD opportunities

This institute has an International Max Planck Research School (IMPRS):

IMPRS for Molecules of Life

In addition, there is the possibility of individual doctoral research. Please contact the directors or research group leaders at the Institute.

Department Machine Learning and Systems Biology


Department Cell and Virus Structure


Department Structural Cell Biology


Department Proteomics and Signal Transduction


Department Molecular Machines and Signaling


Department Cellular and Molecular Biophysics

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

Four Max Planck projects secure the ERC Consolidator Grants 2023

Illustration of a cell with its various components. The protein-protein interactions, in other words the social network of proteins, are represented by the red, orange and green lines. The corner points of the connections each symbolize an investigated protein in the cell.

A research team maps the entire protein network architecture of a cell


Researchers have developed a new approach to proteomics that enables the long-awaited single-cell resolution on intact tissue


New method could facilitate development of new "degrader" therapies that harness the power to destroy unwanted proteins


The protein may help to prevent neurodegenerative diseases

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Talking with friends, enjoying a concert, talking on the phone on noisy streets – people with hearing problems are often unable to hear things that others can. Tobias Moser aims to make sound accessible to those with hearing disabilities in a whole new way through a new generation of hearing protheses. Known as optical cochlear implants, these devices serve as an example of therapies developed on the basis of fundamental research.

Researcher or entrepreneur – thanks to Axel Ullrich, this is no longer a contradiction for the Max Planck Society: he‘s both. This is proven by countless publications and honors, two cutting-edge cancer drugs, six start-up companies and over 100 patents. Ullrich, a former Director of the Max Planck Institute of Biochemistry in Martinsried has been instrumental in promoting the combination of basic and applied research at the Max Planck Society.

In the Bible, the universe was created step by step: first light, then water and land, and finally the terrestrial animals and humankind. However, from a scientific viewpoint, it seems that the building blocks of life might not have come into being successively, but rather at the same time – at least, this is what Hannes Mutschler of the Max Planck Institute of Biochemistry believes. He and his colleagues in Martinsried, near Munich, are researching the role played by RNA molecules in the emergence of life.

Some time around four billion years ago, life started to become encapsulated. The first cells emerged – protected spaces that facilitated the bonding of complex molecules. Petra Schwille from the Max Planck Institute of Biochemistry in Martinsried and Rumiana Dimova from the Max Planck Institute of Colloids and Interfaces in Potsdam are exploring the boundaries of cellular life. The two researchers are investigating the dynamics of biomembranes.

Elena Conti used to entertain the notion of becoming an architect. The fact that she decided to study chemistry in the end detracted nothing from her passion for the subject. As Director at the Max Planck Institute of Biochemistry in Martinsried, she studies the architecture of molecular machines in the cell – and is fascinated by the sophisticated structures in miniature.

The discovery of a visual pigment in the cell membrane of an archaebacterium in the early 1970s is owed solely to a researcher’s curiosity: For three years, the scientific community wouldn’t believe Dieter Oesterhelt. Forty years after his pioneering work at the Max Planck Institute of Biochemistry in Martinsried, bacteriorhodopsin and channelrhodopsin, which stems from a single-celled green alga, are gaining ground as new tools in neurobiology.

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Spark of life

2023 Tachibana, Kikuë; Bäßler, Tamara

Cell Biology Developmental Biology Evolutionary Biology Genetics Immunobiology Infection Biology Medicine Structural Biology

The fertilization of an egg by sperm is the beginning of new life. In this process, the genetic information of both parents is united in the fertilized egg cell. Initially, the genetic information in the nucleus is inactive, and the first cell division is induced solely by maternal gene products. However, from the second cell division on, the newly combined genetic information must be accessed. Together with my team, I have investigated this particular process and discovered a „spark of life”, a genetic factor, that “awakens” the DNA.


Understanding cancer

2022 Mann, Matthias

Cell Biology Medicine

How does cancer arise? How does the cellular composition of a tumor change its malignant characteristics? These questions are difficult to answer, yet crucial to understand cancer and find a cure. Together with my two research groups, I succeeded in developing a completely new diagnostic approach to get one step closer to this goal. By combining four modern methods, we have developed a very powerful technology to better understand the mechanisms of health and disease.


Measuring the tRNA world by mim-tRNAseq

2021 Behrens, Andrew; Rodschinka, Geraldine; Nedialkova, Danny

Cell Biology Evolutionary Biology Genetics

Transfer RNAs (tRNAs) specifically deliver amino acids to ribosomes during the translation of messenger RNA (mRNA) into proteins. The abundance of tRNAs therefore has a profound impact on cells. However, determining the amount of each tRNA species in cells was limited because of technical challenges. We overcame these limitations thanks to mim-tRNAseq, a method that can be used to quantify tRNAs in any organism and will help improve our understanding of tRNA regulation in health and disease.


Genetically reproductive material from the test tube

2020 Libicher, Kai; Hornberger, Renate; Heymann, Michael; Mutschler, Hannes

Cell Biology Genetics Medicine

The field of synthetic biology aims to assemble life-like systems from inanimate building blocks. Our goal is not only to observe and describe processes of life, but also to mimic them. A key characteristic of life is its ability to replicate its own macromolecular components. We have generated a new in vitro system that can regenerate some of its own DNA and protein building blocks.


Intercellular contacts - the self-inhibitory mechanism of Talin

2019 Dedden, Dirk; Schumacher, Stephanie; Kelley, Charlotte F.; Zacharias, Martin; Biertümpfel, Christian; Fässler, Reinhard; Mizuno, Naoko

Cell Biology Structural Biology

Cells contact other cells via precise docking points. Cell migration and immune reactions require a finely tuned attachment and detachment process. Therefore, the contact sites consist of a whole machinery of proteins, in which talin plays a central role. Using cryo-electron microscopy, we were able to show how talin can assume an inactive spherical shape and is thus inaccessible to contact other proteins. These results help to understand the adhesion mechanism and also dysfunctions in disease processes.

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