Prof. Dr. Thomas F. MeyerDirector emeritus
Thomas F. Meyer was born in August 7th, 1952 in Mannheim, Germany. He started his career at the Max Planck Institute (MPI) for Medical Research in Heidelberg as a Ph.D. student working on the in vitro replication of bacteriophage fd. As a postdoctoral fellow in 1980, he became interested in mobile genetic elements and pioneered investigations into the molecular basis of pilin antigenic variation in Neisseria. The research was conducted with Dr. Maggie So at the Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory and the Public Research Institute, New York.
In 1982, back in Heidelberg as a staff scientist at the Centre for Molecular Biology (ZMBH) at the Heidelberg University, he discovered the first example of variable gene expression based on the variation of short repeats (slipped strand mispairing). After moving to the MPI for Biology, Tübingen, he discovered neisserial IgA protease as the first example of the large family of bacterial autotransporter proteins and explored its secretory pathway.
In the late 80’s, his focus shifted gradually towards the pathogen-host cell interface, where he discovered central adhesins and host cell receptors crucial for infection with Neisseria. As appointed Director of the Department of Infection Biology in Tübingen (1990) and Founding Director of the new Max Planck Institute for Infection Biology in Berlin (1994), he continued to explore crucial aspects of pathogen-host cell interactions using Neisseria, Chlamydia and Helicobacter as model systems.
After relocating to the MPI’s new purpose-built facilities in Berlin in 2001, Dr. Meyer served as the director of the Molecular Biology Department. He developed large-scale applications of short interfering RNAs (siRNA) for the analysis of human gene function during infection. Alongside other projects, he coordinated the EU FP6 RIGHT project on the application of RNAi for human therapy (2005 to 2009). In 2020, he retired from Max Planck Institute for Infection Biology, retaining an Emeritus title, and relocated to the Kiel Campus of the University Hospital Schleswig Holstein. He is now a Senior Professor at the Institute of Clinical Molecular Biology, Christian Albrecht University of Kiel.
Thomas Meyer holds also professorships at the Charité University Medicine and the Humboldt University (both Berlin) and he is a member of EMBO and the German Academy of Sciences Leopoldina. His current research interests have moved to focus on the manifestation of heritable infection signatures and the sequels of long-term chronic infection, such as cancer. In order to address these questions, he has been a forerunner in the development of advanced primary cell models, such as organoids, as models for human infections.