Welcome to MPUSP!

The Max Planck Unit for the Science of Pathogens (MPUSP) is an independent institute of the Max Planck Society. MPUSP was founded in 2018 by Emmanuelle Charpentier to strengthen fundamental research on pathogens causing diseases in humans. The institute is located on the Campus Charité Mitte in Berlin.

The mission of MPUSP is to achieve a better understanding of the complexities of pathogens and their interactions with their natural environment by developing innovative approaches. As part of the Max Planck Society, MPUSP offers an interactive and dynamic environment where our team of international and creative scientists receive ongoing support to conduct original research projects and are given the freedom to work on fundamental biological questions. Our scientists benefit from a state-of-the-art infrastructure, integrated and customized research platforms, and a wide range of scientific activities. MPUSP emphasizes personal development: junior and senior scientists at MPUSP are engaged in research, but also take an active part in scientific education, mentoring and teaching, as well as in the organization and development of the institute.    

A greater understanding of the fundamental mechanisms of regulation in pathogens is essential to generate new discoveries in basic science and possibly translate them into novel and transformative biotechnological and biomedical applications (e.g. genome editing tools, anti-infective strategies). A successful example of the application of our basic research in biotechnology and medicine is our discovery of an RNA-guided DNA cleavage mechanism that has been harnessed as an RNA programmable genome engineering technology and stems from research in Emmanuelle Charpentier’s former labs on the CRISPR-Cas9 adaptive immune system in bacterial pathogens, especially Streptococcus pyogenes. This discovery has revolutionized life sciences research and opens up entirely new opportunities in the field of biomedical gene therapies, among other opportunities that have an impact on society and humanity. The field of CRISPR-Cas applications continues to develop at lightning speed, with exciting new developments appearing almost every week.

MPUSP scientists study the fundamental molecular and cellular mechanisms of bacteria. They use an interdisciplinary approach based on a combination of cutting-edge methodologies - bioinformatics, omics, genetics, molecular biology, structural biology, biochemistry, physiology and cellular infection - to identify new molecules and mechanisms, and decipher their origins, functions and modes of action at the molecular and cellular levels. Two platforms, bioinformatics and proteomics, support scientists by developing tailor-made approaches and solutions for genome, transcriptome and proteome analysis.

Emmanuelle Charpentier's laboratory focuses on the Gram-positive human pathogen Streptococcus pyogenes, also known as group A streptococcus, which can cause highly aggressive invasive infections such as toxic shock and necrotizing diseases. Scientists are seeking to understand how RNAs and proteins control cellular processes at the transcriptional, post-transcriptional and post-translational levels. They are studying regulatory RNAs and proteins in various biological pathways, such as bacterial defense systems (CRISPR-Cas), horizontal gene transfer, adaptation to stress, physiology, persistence, virulence, infection and human host immunity.

Marc Erhardt's laboratory studies the Gram-negative human pathogen Salmonella enterica, responsible for food-borne epidemics. Scientists are investigating the molecular and cellular regulatory mechanisms during colonization and infection, focusing on the role of motility, protein secretion and flagellum assembly during pathogenesis. They are also focusing on the development of Salmonella genetic engineering for pharmaceutical and biotechnological applications.

Kürşad Turgay's laboratory studies the control of protein homeostasis and bacterial stress response mechanisms in the non-pathogenic Gram-positive model organism Bacillus subtilis. They investigate the role and function of the AAA+ chaperone protease systems and their adaptor proteins as well as the stringent response and the second messenger (p)ppGpp under stress conditions such as heat or oxidative stress. 

“Excellence is never an accident. It is always the result of high intention, sincere effort, and intelligent execution; it represents the wise choice of many alternatives – choice, not chance, and determines your destiny.” Aristotle (384-322 BC)

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