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The thematic track "Infection, Immune and Tumor Biology" is a dense network that brings together the expertise of the Institutes and Departments of Virology, Gene Vectors, Pathology and Toxicology in collaboration with members of the collaborative research centers SFB 684 "Molecular Mechanisms of Normal and Malignant Hematopoiesis", SFB 576 “"Facultative Microbial Pathogenesis and Innate Immunity", SFB-TR36 "Principles and Applications of T cell Therapy" and the Helmholtz Alliance “Immunotherapy of Cancer”.

Research themes include:

  • Biology of persistent infections by herpesviruses, hepatitis B and C virus, human immune deficiency virus and endogenous retroviruses, each of which is a constant risk factor for the infected individual to develop chronic diseases and/or cancer
  • Biology and interactions of immunological effector cells like dendritic cells, B cells, natural killer cells and T cells recognizing tumor antigens and pathogens
  • Chronic disease and cancer in response to chemical substances, pathogens and medical treatment
  • Strategies to assess the individual risk for disease development based on genetic predisposition  
  • The molecular tumor biology and tumor immunology of hematological malignancies, liver cancer, osteosarcomas, head and neck cancer and renal cell carcinoma

While the thematic track covers a wide array of different biological systems, all focus on elucidating the molecular mechanisms that control complex disease and tumor development in response to environmental stimuli. They focus on cellular responses leading to the modulation of signal transduction pathways and genetic and epigenetic (re)programming of cells as well as on local and systemic immune responses. State-of-the-art cell culture technologies and small animal models have been developed to study environmental stimuli such as infections, chemical compound and toxin exposition and how they interact with genetic predisposition and life style factors.

Thus, the faculty of this thematic track offers a comprehensive curriculum covering fundamental aspects of infection, immunology and tumor biology on the organismic, cellular and molecular level. The training in basic biological concepts and state-of-the-art methodology in the field is complemented by the contribution of eight clinical cooperation groups, which actively pursue translation of basic science into diagnostic and therapeutic concepts and their clinical application. The students have the unique opportunity to experience the scientific tracks from bench to bedside and back to bench across different projects in their immediate scientific environment. They can learn the principal requirements needed to generate novel scientific insights, to validate the relevance of a new discovery for disease development and develop strategies for the diagnosis, prevention and treatment of diseases.

Further information

Quotation: Prof. Dr. Ulla Protzer

"Interdisciplinary interaction with medical doctors as well as the scientific and disease-oriented training concept within the curriculum "Infection, Immune and Tumor Biology" will open up great career opportunities for our students."

Quotation: Prof. Dr. Bettina Kempkes

"The interdisciplinary concept of HELENA will frame the curriculum of "Infection, Immune and Tumor Biology" and thereby promote the career development of independent young scientists in this research field."


Prof. Dr. Ulrike Protzer
Helmholtz Zentrum München and TU München

Prof. Dr. Bettina Kempkes
Helmholtz Zentrum München and LMU München