Directors of the Max Planck Institute of Biochemistry


Prof. Dr. Wolfgang Baumeister
Director of the Department “Molecular Structural Biology”

Prof. Wolfgang Baumeister and his team have developed the method of cryo-electron tomography. The method enables molecular structures in their functional environment, the cell, to be visualized with high resolution. In isolated form, they have elucidated the structure of the 26S proteasome, the central molecular machine for controlled protein degradation, with almost atomic resolution. Prof. Baumeister has been a scientific member of the Max Planck Society and director at the Max Planck Institute of Biochemistry since 1988.


Prof. Elena Conti, Ph.D.
Director of the Department “Structural Cell Biology”

Prof. Elena Conti’s research department “Structural Cell Biology” wants to understand how complex protein machinery, consisting of several subunits, can recognize and destroy ribonucleic acids (RNA). To decipher the molecular mechanisms, Conti’s department uses a combination of biochemical, biophysical, and structural approaches. Thereby, the atomic structure of the RNA exosome has been decoded. Prof. Elena Conti began her scientific career as an X-ray structure analyst. Since 2006, she has been director at the Max Planck Institute of Biochemistry.



Prof. Dr. Franz-Ulrich Hartl
Director of the Department “Cellular Biochemistry”

By folding, proteins get their correct shape and can fulfill their tasks in the cell. Misfolding can lead to diseases such as Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s disease. Molecular chaperones ensure that proteins fold into their correct shape. The scientists of the ­research department “Cellular Biochemistry” aim to explain how chaperones are built up and how they work. The functionality of a chaperone subgroup has already been deciphered in detail. Prof. Dr. F.-Ulrich Hartl was recently awarded the Paul Ehrlich and Ludwig Darmstaedter Prize 2019 for his research.



Prof. Brenda Schulman, Ph.D.
Director of the Department „Molecular Machines and Signaling“

Prof. Brenda Schulman and her team are investigating the ubiquitin system, one of the most important regulatory mechanisms of human cells. Disorders in this complex interplay of different proteins can lead to cancer, for example. Prof. Brenda Schulman received her doctorate from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). Before coming to Germany in 2016, she did research at the renowned St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in Tennessee, USA. In 2019, the scientist received the Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz Prize in recognition of her work.



Prof. Dr. Matthias Mann
Director of the Department “Proteomics and Signal Transduction”

Prof. Dr. Matthias Mann and his research group are investigating which proteins are present in a cell at a certain point of time. Each cell type has its own specific set of proteins—the proteome. It changes every second and is influenced by the genes that are active at that time. Matthias Mann’s team discovered that these changes affect all areas of the cell’s life. With this know­ledge, diseases such as cancer are now being investigated. Matthias Mann is considered a pioneer in proteome research and was awarded with the renowned Leibniz Prize in 2012.



Prof. Dr. Petra Schwille
Director of the Department “Cellular and Molecular Biophysics”

How did the first cells develop billions of years ago? And what were their structures and properties? Prof. Petra Schwille starts from scratch with her research and is working on building a minimal biological system from individual building blocks that can replicate itself—a kind of primordial cell. Prof. Petra Schwile’s main focus is on biological membranes consisting of a large number of proteins and lipids. In addition to her directorship at the Max Planck Institute of Biochemistry, Petra Schwille is an honorary professor at the Faculty of Physics at the Ludwig-Maximilian-University in Munich.