Helmholtz Centre for Infection Research (HZI)

Helmholtz Centre for Infection Research (HZI)

Research Infrastructure affiliation: EU-OPENSCREEN

Location: Brunswick, Germany

Website address: https://www.helmholtz-hzi.de/en/

Local Access Officer: Prof. Dr. Mark Brönstrup (Mark.Broenstrup@helmholtz-hzi.de), dr. Andrea Wolff (Andrea.Wolff@helmholtz-hzi.de)



At the HZI headquarters in Brunswick research focuses on the three main topics “Bacterial and viral pathogens”, “Immune response and immune intervention”, and “Anti-infectives”. How do bacteria and viruses make us sick? How does the immune system fight these pathogens? And which chemical substances can protect us from infections in the future? These are the key questions that the scientists address at the Helmholtz Centre for Infection Research.


How do bacteria, viruses, parasites and fungi make us sick? And how does our immune system defend our body? These are the questions we address at the Helmholtz Centre for Infection Research (HZI). Our goal: To set up the basis for new diagnostic tools, new active agents and new therapies against infectious diseases.

Together with 100 guest scientists from all over the world, our researchers take on this urging task. With sophisticated laboratory techniques they observe pathogens and immune cells during the moment of infection. They analyse the molecular structure of the “weapons” that pathogens utilise to invade a host cell – and develop methods to defuse them. They seek for substances from nature or lab that neutralise pathogens, prevent infections or are even able to cure them. They use high tech analytical devices and study the processes of infections in cell culture, in complex elaborating computer simulations, and in mice – for a healthier future.

The single research projects of the HZI are subordinated to three topics within the research programme: 1) Bacterial and Viral Pathogens, 2) Immune Response and Immune Intervention, and 3) Anti-infectives. An intensive contact and exchange between the different topics secures the programme’s success.


At the HZI’s disposal are cutting-edge screening facilities and diverse compound collections whereof the HZI natural product collection represents a unique feature. The HZI provides substantial expertise for developing phenotypic test systems in medium throughput. For example, assays addressing bacterial biofilm formation, pathogen-induced pore formation and host pathogen interactions have been established by us.

To elucidate the molecular mode of action of bioactive compounds – especially those of natural products – is an important objective of the HZI. Therefore a cascade of complementary techniques has been established. Profiling assays are applied to recognize patterns in comparison to known compounds in order to obtain hints to the mode of action. The patterns are generated using impedance spectroscopy and/or high content imaging.

Eventually the target structure of an inhibitor is defined via more detailed mode of action studies. We apply chemical-genetic interaction analysis using bacterial mutants, peptide microarrays, metabolome analysis and chemical probes.

Support offered

Transnational Access users will have access to HZI’s bioprofiling service for compounds and extracts. Bioprofiling at HZI comprises antibacterial, antiproliferative and antifungal assays, and mode of action analysis based on targeted and untargeted, mass spectrometry-based metabolomic profiling is provided.