Departments of the MPIIB

Role of cytokines and T cell populations in immunity against intracellular bacteria, Regulation and memory in immunity to intracellular bacteria, Innate immune response to intracellular bacteria, Mucosal immunity and mucosal vaccination, Regulatory RNA, Systems biology and tuberculosis, Systems biology and vaccinatio, Rational design of a vaccine against tuberculosis, Biomarkers of susceptibility/ resistance in tuberculosis

The human mucosa constitutes the interphase between our body and the environment. Microbes that cause chronic infections and inflammation of the mucosal epithelium appear to be main drivers of malignant transformation. Yet, underlying mechanisms are sparsely understood. Our researchers are applying sophisticated means to illuminate this potentially fatal relationship between pathogen infections and their human host and aim to explore novel therapeutic strategies against cancer.

The Zychlinsky lab proposes the hypothesis that the multitude of diseases is based on only a limited number of molecular pathways. This is why we work on very different diseases which are caused either by an infection or by an endogenous stimulus.

The research of Dr Levashina explored the role of the immune system in regulating the survival of malaria parasites in the Anopheles mosquito, the insect vector that transmits malaria to humans. Here at the MPIIB, the group will have a greater focus on the vector biology, and investigate the mosquito responses to a wide range of pathogens including bacteria and fungi, and the trade off between immunity and reproduction. The developed knowledge should inform novel intervention strategies in the fight against vector-borne diseases.

Alex Sigal completed his PhD at the Weizmann Institute of Science in the field of Systems Biology, where he investigated the dynamics of cell-to-cell differences using a novel library of endogenously tagged proteins. He went on to postdoctoral training at the California Institute of Technology, where he focused on understanding the mechanisms of persistence in HIV, and specifically how directed spread of the virus by cell-to-cell contact can lead to reduced sensitivity to infection inhibitors. He joined the Kwazulu-Natal Research Institute for Tuberculosis and HIV (K-RITH) in Durban, South Africa as an Assistant Investigator in 2012 and concurrently became a Junior Research Group Leader at the Max Planck Institute for Infection Biology.


Professor Thumbi Ndung’u was born and grew up in rural Kenya.  He graduated with a degree in Veterinary Medicine from the University of Nairobi, Kenya.  He obtained a PhD in Biological Sciences in Public Health from Harvard University in 2001. He then undertook postdoctoral studies in Virology at Harvard Medical School. He subsequently worked as Laboratory Director at Botswana-Harvard Partnership and is currently an Associate Professor in HIV/AIDS Research at the Nelson R Mandela School of Medicine, University of KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa. He is a past recipient of the Edgar Haber award (Harvard University), the Vice-Chancellor’s research award (University of KwaZulu-Natal) and the Friedland Senior Health Researcher Prize (South Africa). He holds the South African Research Chair in Systems Biology of HIV/AIDS, is a Howard Hughes Medical Institute International Early Career Scientist and is the K-RITH/Max Planck Investigator at the KwaZulu-Natal Research Institute for Tuberculosis and HIV (K-RITH).

Cells use sophisticated networks of proteins to sense and process chemical information. The Taylor Lab investigates how these molecular networks self-organise to encode and decode information. By combining high resolution microscopy with synthetic and chemical biology approaches, we investigate this problem in the context of infection and immune cell activation. Our long-term vision is to be able to re-engineer cellular signalling systems to control cell behaviour and function. more
Go to Editor View