Max Planck Institute of Immunobiology and Epigenetics
National and local collaborations
The MPI of Immunobiology and Epigenetics is involved in numerous national and regional collaborations, including projects funded by the German Research Foundation (DFG) and the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF).
A particular strength of these collaborations is the transdisciplinary networking of basic and translational researchers between Max Planck researchers and its local partners from the University of Freiburg and the Freiburg Medical Center. In addition, these cooperation constitute a fertile ground for the advancement of young researchers, as exemplified by the Max Planck Research School or the Spemann Graduate School.
These multiple synergies provide an important stimulus to the scientific activities at the institute and help to achieve long-term sustainability of the research environment not only within MPI-IE, but also within the wider Freiburg scientific community.
CRC are long-term university-based research institutions that enable researchers to pursue innovative research projects, crossing traditional subjects and disciplines’ boundaries. Within several CRCs based in Freiburg, scientists of the MPI-IE are in leading positions or working in close cooperation with their colleagues from the University of Freiburg and the Freiburg Medical Center. In a variation of the program, the “CRC/Transregio”, up to three universities and non-university research institutes cooperate in pursuing a joint research aim.
Find a selection of DFG-funded projects that have been or are currently being implemented at the institute:
The CRC 1479 “Oncogene-driven immune escape” (OncoEscape) is focusing on the link between oncogenic signaling and immune escape mechanisms, which have significant therapeutic implications for cancer treatment. The aim is to move beyond palliative therapy and potentially find cure options for various cancer types. Oncogenic signaling, often caused by gene mutations, leads to uncontrolled cell growth and the creation of neoantigens that could trigger anti-cancer immune responses. Tumors, however, develop immune escape mechanisms to evade detection by the immune system. The CRC will delve into how oncogenic signaling affects immune escape mechanisms and aims to develop combination treatment strategies to imprive cancer treatment. DFG GEPRIS
The CRC 1425 »The Heterocellular Nature of Cardiac Lesions: Identities, Interactions, Implications« investigates non-myocytes in the heart, such as connective tissue and immune cells or neurons that are critical determinants of cardiac structural and functional integration in homeostasis and disease. The focus lies in exploring the roles of non-myocytes, the mechanisms and relevance of their interactions, and the use of this knowledge to steer repair processes with the view of identifying potential NM-targets for therapeutic intervention. The CRC 1425 investigates these areas to develop new methods for diagnosis and therapy of heart disease. In doing so, the CRC does not primarily target scar prevention or retransformation into functional muscle tissue but instead pursuing a new and complementary approach, working with nature’s own repair processes ‘to make better scars’. DFG GEPRIS database
The CRC 1381 »Dynamic Organization of Cellular Protein Machineries: From Biogenesis and Modular Assembly to Function« (Image-Video) investigates how different proteins are dynamically assembled into complex multimers, the so-called protein machineries, which play a central role e.g. in the energy metabolism of the cell, the replication, repair, and transcription of DNA, the folding and degradation of proteins, as well as the intra- and intercellular communication and transport processes. The focus lies on the organization of these protein machineries in modular units, the regulation of their assembly and disassembly, and the impact of these processes on cellular functions. The aim of the SFB 1381 is to define and understand the dynamic processes of the assembly and organization of cellular protein machineries, and to gain insight into the fundamental processes in a living cell. DFG GEPRIS database
The CRC 1160 »Immune-mediated pathology as a consequence of impaired immune reactions (IMPATH)« is a research initiative of clinical and basic immunologists that sets out to challenge the traditional idea that an “overreaction” or “deviation” of normal immune responses is pivotal to immune mediated pathology and that, consequently, immunosuppression is the appropriate therapeutic strategy for such disorders. Instead, the conceptual basis of the CRC is the idea that impaired immune reactions constitute a major prerequisite for immunopathology. DFG GEPRIS database
The CRC 1140 »Kidney Disease – From Genes to Mechanisms (KIDGEM)« proposes to analyze genes associated with kidney disease and translate gene function into an understanding of molecular renal physiology. To achieve a systematic integrated approach to hereditary kidney disease, KIDGEM has assembled a consortium of physicians and scientists providing a broad spectrum of techniques, animal models as well as access to patient populations. The elucidation of pathologic molecular mechanisms aims to facilitate the diagnosis, treatment and prevention of hereditary kidney diseases. DFG GEPRIS database | 🔴 Project time: 2015 to 2019
The CRC 992 »Medical Epigenetics (MEDEP) – From basic mechanisms to clinical applications« provides a translational program for epigenetic research ranging from the identification of basic epigenetic principles, validation of epigenetic pathways in relevant animal models of human disease to the translation of epigenetic principles to clinical applications. Core infrastructures provide deep-sequencing/bioinformatics capacity for the generation and analysis of epigenetic profiles and a platform for rational drug design of small molecule inhibitors of epigenetic targets. A major asset of MEDEP is the complementary and interdisciplinary approach to bridge between basic and clinical research. DFG GEPRIS database
The working program of CRC 850 »Control of Cell Motility in Morphogenesis, Cancer Invasion and Metastasis« is based on the emerging concept that most signalling pathways controlling normal embryonic development are aberrantly activated in human tumours. Therefore, the analysis of the function and regulation of these pathways during development will help to understand the mechanisms underlying pathological motility in cancer and vice versa. DFG GEPRIS database | 🔴 Project time: 2010 to 2021
Central goal of the CRC 746 »Functional Specificity by Coupling and Modification of Proteins« is the understanding of operations by multi-protein complexes and protein networks and how these operations endow any particular cell with its enormously precise and highly specific function. Research teams of the CRC 746 analyze the molecular mechanisms behind the specificity of protein complexes and networks and their significance for cellular functions. DFG GEPRIS database | 🔴 Project time: 2007 to 2018
The CRC 620 »Immunodeficiency: Clinical and Animal Models« studie immunodeficiency in humans and animal models. The aim was to understand better immunobiological and molecular genetic correlations in the development of defects of the immune system. The researchers focused on T-cells and B-cells including the creation of animal models for improved clinical diagnostics and new therapeutic approaches. Other projects worked at the interface of animal models and clinical observation, i.e., animal experimental findings suggested using animal models in patients. Moreover, clinical questions led to cell biological and genetic investigations with human cell material. DFG GEPRIS database | 🔴 Project time: 2002 to 2013
The CRC 592 »Signaling Mechanisms in Embryogenesis & Organogenesis« investigated basic mechanisms involved in embryonic pattern formation as well as differentiation and morphogenesis during organogenesis. Both animal and plant systems were analyzed in parallel, as basic aspects of signaling mechanisms, like the formation of signal sources, the control of the range of signaling, or the signal transduction mechanisms are common to many systems. DFG GEPRIS database | 🔴 Project time: 2001 to 2012
The TRR 130 »B Cells: Immunity and Autoimmunity« examine how B cells are activated, how they differentiate and how plasma cells manage to produce high affinity antibodies for long periods of time. More precisely the research consortium elucidates in detail how B cell responses are triggered, how self-reactive B cells are eliminated and how B cells learn to remember pathogens with which they have been challenged before. DFG GEPRIS database
The goal of the TRR 167 »Development, function and potential of myeloid cells in the central nervous system (NeuroMac)« is to obtain insights into the diverse functions of myeloid cells in the CNS during development, health and disease. A particular focus will be on parenchymal macrophages, circulating monocytes and bone marrow myeloid cells. Combining studies of brain myeloid cell development and homeostasis, neurobiology, cell migration and neuropathology in one research initiative will enable a fruitful and productive interaction between the groups involved. DFG GEPRIS database
Another major focus of the collaborations between the MPI-IE and the University of Freiburg is the education of young scientists. Most group leaders including directors, who are usually affiliated with the faculties of biology or medicine, are involved in active teaching. MPI-IE research groups participate in the Max Planck Research School for Immunobiology, Epigenetics, and Metabolism (IMPRS-IEM). This joint international Ph.D. program of the MPI-IE and the University of Freiburg provides an outstanding scientific education in Molecular and Cellular Biology, Immunobiology, Immunometabolism and Epigenetics.
Max Planck Research School for Immunobiology, Epigenetics, and Metabolism (IMPRS-IEM)
IMPRS-IEM is the International Max Planck Research School hosted at the MPI of Immunobiology and Epigenetics in collaboration with the University of Freiburg. The Ph.D. program offers talented students excellent training opportunities in the fields of Immunobiology, Epigenetics, Metabolism, Cell biology, Biochemistry, Proteomics, Bioinformatics and Functional genomics. Benefits for doctoral researcher include pioneering scientific research, cutting edge technologies in MPI-IE core facilities and a demanding curriculum for independent minds who want to become future leaders in science.
Research Training Groups (Graduiertenkollegs) are established by the universities to promote young researchers. They are funded by the DFG for up to nine years. Their key emphasis is on doctoral researchers' qualifications within the framework of a focused research program and a structured training strategy. Researchers of the MPI-IE are involved in the faculties of two Freiburg-based Research Training Groups.
Spemann Graduate School of Biology and Medicine (SGBM)
The Spemann Graduate School of Biology and Medicine was founded in the DFG Excellence Initiative in 2006 and offers a interdisciplinary training Ph.D. program from various disciplines as well as combine basic with translational research, biotechnology and drug development. The Spemann school has been established in close collaboration with several Research Training Groups and IMPRS-IEM. Members of the MPI-IE have been active faculty members of Spemann Graduate School.
MeInBio - BioInMe: Exploration of spatio-temporal dynamics of gene regulation using high-throughput and high-resolution methods is a structured Ph.D. program (research training group) at the University of Freiburg and the MPI of Immunobiology and Epigenetics. In MeInBio Life Sciences meet Bioinformatics to understand gene regulation. Ph.D. students from all over the world work in different research groups – both wet-laboratory and bioinformatics & statistics groups – to advance the understanding of transcriptional control at high spatial and temporal resolution. Work at the research project is complemented by a specific qualification program.
The DFG supports the establishment of core facilities and joint use of technologies with their funding line “Gerätezentren - Core facilities”. The Imaging Facility of the MPI-IE is member of the “Microscopy and Image Analysis Platform (MIAP) Freiburg” that was founded in 2016 to form a highly competitive joint network for scientific infrastructure of imaging based life science sites in Freiburg, Basel and Strasbourg. MIAP supports life scientists to identify resources and to pipeline experiment workflows alongside the biological objectives. Furthermore, guidelines for user instruction, training, project planning and monitoring as well as regular series of workshops and seminars on different levels in microscopy, image analysis and related fields are elaborated.
Freiburg Metabolism Communiity
Metabolism research studies the integration of metabolism and its central organelle, the mitochondrion, with specific cellular functions and signal propagation processes. The University of Freiburg has identified Metabolism Research as one of its Emerging Fields of research. In clinical and fundamental research, Freiburg scientists are investigating how metabolism contributes to both normal cell and body function and the pathogenesis of diverse diseases and developing innovative strategies for the targeted therapeutic manipulation of metabolism. The Metabolomics Core Facility (headed by Jörg Büscher) and the lab of Nina Cabezas-Wallscheid are partner of the Freiburg Metabolomics Community.
Human Cell Atlas
The “Human Cell Atlas” is a major scientific project intends to decipher the totality of all human cells launched by leading international researchers in October 2016. The atlas will provide a precise overview of which genes, proteins, and other molecules are active in which cell type, and where precisely the cells are located. With these efforts, the research consortium wants to gain knowledge on how the cells interact with each other in the healthy body and what changes occur in cells when the organism becomes ill. The Human Cell Atlas includes not only the mapping of human cells but also the development of experimental technologies and computer-aided analytical methods to gain a deeper understanding of human biology. The project of Dominic Grün and his laboratory is part of this initiative.
German Epigenome Program
Strong interactions exist also within the “DEEP - German Epigenome Program” (2012-2017) funded by the BMBF. DEEP is a collaboration of 14 research institutions and industry partners all over Germany and contributes to IHEC, the ‘International Human Epigenome Consortium’ by generating and interpreting up to 80 reference epigenomes of selected human cells and tissues. It focuses on the analysis of cells connected to complex diseases with high socio-economic impact: metabolic diseases such as steatosis and adipositas as well as inflammatory diseases of the joints and the intestine.
In particular, the research groups of Thomas Jenuwein (project on Genome-wide histone modification maps) and Andrew Pospisilik (project on circadian epigenetic variation concerning heterochromatin, stochastic obesity and metabolism) of the MPI-IE are part of DEEP. Likewise, the research units for bioinformatics and deep sequencing of the institute made an important contribution to the entire DEEP project by participating as one of six analysis centers in Germany. They generated high-quality reference epigenomes starting from different and challenging tissue samples provided by the project partners. To ensure accurate, comprehensive and reproducible epigenomic studies the teams at the MPI-IE not only established new experimental protocols (NEXSON) but also developed powerful software programs (deeptools). With these tools they provided a comprehensible and easy-to-use framework for researchers seeking to generate, visualize and interprete epigenomic data.
In collaboration with the Max Planck Institute for the Study of Crime, Security and Law (MPI-CSL) in Freiburg, the MPI-IE organizes internal and external events.