Study of human medicine, doctorate Frankfurt Univ. (1982), German Habilitation in biological chemistry Frankfurt Univ. (1988), member of Scientific Staff Laboratory of Molecular Biology, Cambridge (1989-1991), Professor Freiburg Univ. (1991-1994), Full Professor Heidelberg Univ./German Cancer Research Centre (1994-1997), Director and Scientific Member at the Max Planck Institute of Immunobiology and Epigenetics (since 1998). Our goal is to contribute to the understanding of the genetic basis of immune system function with a view to explaining human disease and to developing targeted therapies for correcting failing immune function.
Studying animals as diverse as lampreys and mice, we aim to understand the mechanism(s) by which adaptive immune systems achieve an effective quality control to eliminate and/or control the function of potentially self-reactive receptors that are generated by a somatic and essentially random assembly process. Because this selection process takes place in primary lymphoid organs such as the thymus, we are investigating the genetic basis of the development and function of these organs. In an iterative process, we combine forward genetic screens and methods of precise genetic interference in model systems to examine the role of single genes or combinations thereof in the formation of the epithelial thymic anlage and the development of T cells. Our aim is to use this information to reconstruct ancient forms of thymopoietic tissue and to build artificial equivalents for potential therapeutic use.