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 that stems from our research 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 dazzling speed, with exciting new developments emerging almost every week.

MPUSP focuses on fundamental mechanisms of regulation in the processes of infection and immunity with a focus on Gram-positive bacterial human pathogens. Our scientists are interested in understanding how RNAs and proteins control cellular processes at the transcriptional, post-transcriptional and post-translational levels. We study regulatory RNAs and proteins in various biological pathways, such as horizontal gene transfer, adaptation to stress, physiology, persistence, virulence, infection and immunity. In particular, we investigate interference systems in the defense against genetic elements (CRISPR-Cas), small regulatory RNAs that interfere with pathogenic processes, protein quality control that regulates bacterial adaptation, physiology and virulence, basic principles of DNA replication and its role for life, and interactions of bacteria and their vesicles with the innate immunity of the human host.

Scientists at MPUSP use an interdisciplinary approach based on a combination of cutting-edge methodologies – bioinformatics, omics, genetics, molecular, biochemical, physiological, and cell infection – to identify new molecules and mechanisms, and decipher their origins, functions and modes of action at the molecular and cellular levels. One pathogen mostly studied in the laboratory is S. pyogenes also called Group A streptococcus that can cause highly aggressive invasive infections such as toxic shock and necrotizing diseases. In the past years, we have also studied various other Gram-positive organisms such as Listeria monocytogenesStaphylococcus aureus, Streptococcus pneumoniae and Bacillus subtilis.

“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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