The MPI-CBG has developed a non-departmental structure: While traditionally, Max Planck Institutes are divided into departments, we abolished this dividing structure and established an interactive network of research groups. All research group leaders are independent, receive a defined package of support and have a defined amount of space.

Alexander von Appen

Structural Self-Organization of Membranous Organelles

The von Appen lab studies membranous organelle formation and maintenance. In particular, we are interested in how the worlds of molecular condensates, bio-membranes, and structured molecular machines cooperate to pattern diverse subcellular compartments. We use integrated approaches combining cryo-electron microscopy, proteomics, in vitro reconstitution, and structural cell biology to cover a broad range of molecular scales – from the structure of molecules to cellular organization – and to understand how functional molecular collectives form and shape the cells interior. Ultimately, by revealing structure and mechanism of membranous organelle formation we hope to understand how dysregulation of these processes causes human disease.
Research Page

Jan Brugués

Self-organization of biological structures

The Brugués Lab studies the mitotic spindle in African clawed frog and zebrafish embryos, as it plays a major role in cell division (mitosis). Using an approach that combines theory, biophysics and cell biology, the team wants to understand the mechanisms behind spindle and chromatin formation. The main goal is to work out, how small molecules can collectively form large complex structures such as microtubules that make up the mitotic spindle. On the long term this research might lead to results that help us to understand how the human embryo develops and what causes deformities after cell division.
Research Page

© The Francis Crick Institute, Tracey Croggon

Research Page

Claudia Gerri

The fetal-maternal interface across species: from comparative embryology to multicellular systems

Research Page

Anne Grapin-Botton

Self-organization of cells into organ communities

The Grapin-Botton lab investigates the impact of the cellular and organ architecture on the cells’ fate choices and how single cells act in a community to generate an organ, focusing on the pancreas. To do so, they use mouse genetics, live imaging in 3D and they developed 3D in vitro “organoid” culture systems modelling development. More recently they used human in vitro stem cell models to investigate human development. These studies are intended to gain insight into human syndromes impairing pancreas development and they guide the generation of replacement beta cells for Diabetes therapy.
Research Page

Stephan Grill

Physics of Life

The Grill lab is interested in the mechanisms by which structure and form arises in living systems. We pursue interdisciplinary research and combine a biology, biophysics and theory approach. We pay a particular focus on the coupling of chemistry and mechanics, and work to reveal physical principles and develop physical concepts that underly the dynamic self-organization of living matter. We investigate morphogenetic force generation in molecules, surfaces and volumes, and work on a number of systems and model organisms ranging from in vitro systems, to the nematode worm, and quail.
Research Page

Pierre Haas

Self-Organization of Multicellular Systems

The research of the Haas group focuses on the mechanics of cells and tissues. We are particularly interested in deriving the continuum theories that represent the rich mechanical behaviour of tissues during development, and to understand how robust development is compatible with mechanical constraints and variability. While our research is theoretical, we work in close collaboration with experimental groups at the MPI-CBG and beyond.
Research Page

Alf Honigmann

Bio-membrane organization and function

The Honigmann Lab focuses on biomembrane organization, specifically plasma membrane function. Applying optical nanoscopy techniques we study how lipids and proteins self organize in the context of apico-basal polarization of epithelial cells. We aim to dissect how signals between cytoplasmic scaffolds and the extracellular environment are relayed by the plasma membrane. Ultimately, we want to understand the molecular mechanisms of how cells differentiate into tissue specific morphologies.
Research Page

Meritxell Huch

Tissue regeneration and its deregulation in disease

Our long-term goal is to understand the principles that govern proliferation and differentiation of adult organs and tissues to gain the knowledge required to further develop our organoid cultures and potentially recapitulate organogenesis in vitro.
Research Page

Wieland Huttner

Neural stem and progenitor cells and neocortex expansion in development and evolution

The Huttner Lab studies the cell biological as well as genomic basis of neurogenesis in the mammalian central nervous system. Especially, they are interested in the neocortex evolution – How do brains get bigger and folded? What are the genomic changes across species? How is the increasing number of basal progenitors needed for cortical expansion ensured?
Research Page

© Sven Döring

Research Page

Anthony Hyman

Organization of Cytoplasm

The Hyman Lab studies how the inside of a cell — the cytoplasm — is organized. The lab is particularly interested in how cells can form functional compartments without using a membrane to separate them from the rest of the cell. This happens through a process called liquid-liquid phase separation, much like how oil and vinegar separate in a vinaigrette. This breakthrough concept was developed in the lab and has changed the way we think about the basic properties of how a cell works. The lab now studies the properties of these compartments, as well as how they relate to disease.
Research Page

Elisabeth Knust

Control of Cell Polarity

The Knust Lab focuses its research on why certain cells have a differentiated top and bottom side and how this polarity develops. To understand the processes behind polarization, the lab studies epithelial and photoreceptor cells in fruit fly and zebrafish embryos. Since loss of cell polarity causes tissue to degenerate or to grow uncontrollably, this research eventually leads to a better understanding of various diseases, from cancer to blindness.
Research Page

Moritz Kreysing

Biophotonics and self-organization

The Kreysing Lab seeks to first understand the optical properties of cells as relevant for the functioning of the vertebrate retina and in relation to tissue microscopy. Second, they research how physical transport mechanisms are essential for structure in biology to occur.
Research Page

Rita Mateus

Biophysical Principles of Vertebrate Growth

DRESDEN-concept Research Group Leader MPG / TUD

Evolution brings us incredible diversity in animal size and shape, but remarkably, our organs and limbs remain proportional to our body size. This entails an extraordinary level of coordination across different scales. How do organs measure and control their size? This is a crucial question that has remained long unresolved in Biology. We aim to answer it by looking at cells. We are focused on studying biophysical modes of cellular communication: Electrical Flows, Chemical Signalling and Mechanical Forces, with the goal of understanding how organ growth information is encoded.
Research Page

Carl Modes

Network Complexity and Systems Biophysics

Our group seeks to leverage principles and methods of applied topology and geometry in order to better understand complex biological phenomena, with a particular focus on the role of network complexity in these systems.
Research Page

Gene Myers

Exploring Cells & Systems via Image Analysis and Customized Microscopy

The interdisciplinary and technology-oriented Myers Lab is developing new microscopes and computer vision methods to truly digitize and thus accelerate discovery in cell and developmental biology. Specifically, we are building application specific rigs and software that will allow us to better observe and quantitate meso-scale cell dynamics and cell lineages over long arcs of time during the development of a tissue or organism.
Research Page

André Nadler

Membrane Chemical Biology - Spotlight on lipids

While the localization of proteins in membranes is quite well studied and comparatively straightforward to visualize, lipids are much harder to locate and study. The Nadler Lab develops methods to visualize lipids in the cellular membranes by using chemical probes. This research will eventually lead to a better understanding of how biological membranes work by making observable what can’t be observed yet.
Research Page

Jonathan Rodenfels

Energetics of Biological Systems

The research in the Rodenfels lab will focus on understanding how energetics shape the behavior of biological systems. We are particularly interested in how cells and organisms partition their metabolic energy among the complex array of cellular processes that are necessary for life at any scale, from isolated biochemical networks to quiescent and highly proliferative cells to organismal growth and development.
Research Page

Ivo Sbalzarini

Scientific Computing for Image-based Systems Biology

The MOSAIC Group does research in Scientific Computing for Image-Based Systems Biology. They exploit the unifying framework of particle methods for image analysis, numerical simulation, and model identification. The research is mainly theoretical and computational. As they do not perform own experiments and do not run a wet-lab, they collaborate with numerous experimental groups in order to apply their methods to help advance biology.
Research Page

Andrej Shevchenko

Mass Spectrometry in Life Sciences

Every molecule has a structure and its corresponding mass, by ionizing these molecules. We are able to use mass spectrometry to detect and quantify the molecular composition. We develop analytical technologies to quantify known biomolecules as well as discover novel biomolecules, particularly lipids and proteins, that can be found in a variety of biological and biomedical contexts.
Research Page

Jacqueline Tabler

Cell biology and dynamics of skull growth

The skull is essential to human life as it protects the brain from damage. Despite the skull’s importance, many fundamental questions about skull development remain unanswered: What cellular behaviours drive skull growth and morphogenesis during embryogenesis? How is skull expansion regulated genetically? Which cellular processes go wrong in human craniofacial diseases? How does variation between species alter the cellular dynamics of skull growth?
Research Page

Dora Tang

Dynamic Protocellular systems

The Tang Lab is focused on mimicking cellular processes using in-vitro minimal systems. In particular, we use a molecular understanding of interactions between polymers, lipids, peptides, nucleotides and proteins to design and construct novel dynamic protocells using bottom up approaches. These model systems allows us to question our current understanding of biology whilst developing new technologies for synthetic biology applications.
Research Page

Pavel Tomancak

Patterns of gene expression in animal development

The Tomancak Lab's overall goal is to understand how the information contained in animal genomes transforms into coordinated cell behaviors during development, and how evolutionary changes in gene regulatory networks shape and constrain the formation of animal body plans. The most direct manifestation of the genome sequence is the tissue specific regulation of gene expression and the integration of tissue specific gene activity governs the building of a multicellular organism. Therefore, by studying patterns of gene expression and their evolutionary variations in developing systems, we take the necessary steps towards understanding the information transfer from genome sequences to developmental processes.
Research Page

Agnes Toth-Petroczy

Protein plasticity and evolution

The ATP lab’s main focus is understanding proteins and their evolution. We are fascinated by the encoding of information in the genome, how sequences determine structure and function, and ultimately the phenotype of an organism. The sequence processing however is not precise, and errors, i.e. genetic and phenotypic mutations occur, altering the information. These variations provide raw material for evolution via selection, potentially leading to adaptation. We combine computational methods with wet-lab experiments to advance our understanding of protein evolution. Our current spotlight includes studying and modeling protein synthesis errors, investigating proteins forming condensates, modeling protein structures, and classifying the effects of mutations in disease relevant genes.
Research Page

Jesse Veenvliet


During embryogenesis form, forces and fate need to be tightly coordinated in space and time to produce a normal foetus. How this is achieved in mammalian embryos upon implantation into the uterus remains largely an enigma, mostly due to the inaccessibility of the embryo for direct observation and manipulation. In the Stembryogenesis Lab, we therefore reconstruct development in a dish to understand how embryos build themselves. By coaxing pluripotent stem cells to form embryonic organoids - stembryos - we can address questions with a long history with modern tools. Which cellular interactions drive mammalian embryo architecture? How are form and fate coordinated? How is developmental variability controlled? In sum, how is a mammalian embryo reproducibly shaped?
Research Page

Christoph Zechner

Stochastic processes in cells and tissues

Chemical reactions serve as central units for cellular information processing and control. However, reaction chemistry inside cells is “noisy”, leading to significant variability in the molecular constitution of living systems. How can we reconcile the large degree of stochasticity in intracellular chemistry with the high degree of spatiotemporal control that is required for forming and maintaining a complex multicellular organism? In the Zechner lab, we merge signal and control theory with statistical physics to address this question. We develop effective computational methods to analyze stochastic biological processes across scales, and to reverse-engineer their dynamical features from experimental data. We apply these techniques to different biological systems in collaboration with experimentalists at the MPI-CBG and elsewhere.
Research Page

Marino Zerial

Principles of cell and tissue organization: from endocytosis to a systems understanding of liver structure and function

The research focus of the Zerial Lab is to unravel basic cellular processes at the molecular level and understand how they are applied in a tissue. We are particularly interested in endocytosis – how cells eat, drink and process information. We study endocytosis in the liver, how it regulates liver metabolism and signalling, and how cells interact to form the liver tissue. We look at how cells get infected by viruses, bacteria and parasites through these normal cell functions in order to understand the implications for disease.
Research Page
Biophysics Biology

Jointly Affiliated Research Groups

Natalia Rodriguez-Muela

Natalia Rodriguez-Muela

Selective Neuronal Vulnerability in Neurodegenerative Diseases

Co-affiliation: DZNE-German Center for Neurodegenerative Diseases

Research Page

Maximina Yun

Maximina Yun

Regeneration of complex structures

Co-affiliation: DFG-Center for Regenerative Therapies Dresden

Research Page