Overview of the history of the Institute

At the beginning of the 1990s, on the initiative of the then Ministry of Labor, Health and Social Affairs of the Free and Hanseatic City of Hamburg, the historian Stefan Wulf was entrusted with the reappraisal of the history of the Tropical Institute after the First World War until the end of the Second World War. In 1994, Stefan Wulf published the study "Das Hamburger Tropeninstitut 1919-1945: Kulturpolitik und Kolonialrevisionismus nach Versailles" (Dietrich Reimer Verlag).

In connection with the current debate on the reappraisal of German colonial history, in particular Hamburg's colonial legacy, the Bernhard Nocht Institute for Tropical Medicine has continued the research into its history and commissioned the Research Centre for Contemporary History in Hamburg to compile an expert report on the person of the first director Bernhard Nocht.

The "Institute for Ship and Tropical Diseases" began its work on 1 October 1900, with 24 employees. Today, more than 400 staff work at the "Bernhard Nocht Institute for Tropical Medicine" (BNITM), making it Germany's largest institution for research, care and teaching in the field of tropical diseases and emerging infectious diseases.

Origins in colonial times

Like all tropical institutes founded around 1900, the BNITM has its roots in the colonial era. In the course of the colonial conquest and exploitation of countries and territories in the Global South, ship crews and travellers increasingly brought unusual infectious diseases to Germany via the port of Hamburg. The founding purpose was therefore the research and control of tropical pathogens.

The cholera epidemic of 1892 in Hamburg provided the final impetus: about 9,000 people had died of the disease. The economic damage was also immense. Russian sailors or emigrants in transit had probably brought the bacterium with them. Because of the outdated drinking water system, it was able to spread quickly. The city of Hamburg was forced to restructure its health system and appointed Bernhard Nocht as harbour doctor. A little later, the city's parliament decided to "restructure the Seamen's Hospital and combine it with an Institute for Ship and Tropical Diseases".

Black and white photo of a launch on the Elbe
The harbour doctor on his way to the ship's crew.   ©BNITM

History of the Institute

The new port doctor realised the urgent need for further training for doctors in dealing with tropical diseases. According to the principle of "research, cure, teach", the institute made research and teaching in the field of ship and tropical medicine its task in addition to patient care. After the experience of the cholera epidemic, similar outbreaks were to be prevented in the future. Hamburg's merchants also had an economic interest in the development of tropical medicine. They implemented new findings on the prevention of malaria and other diseases on their ships so that the crews remained healthy and efficient. The institute offered numerous continuing education courses for doctors in the early years and counted more than 800 participants by 1914. Research focused on laboratory studies of exotic pathogens and their vector insects. In addition, the institute conducted studies on travellers and seafarers with imported infections. Research visits to the tropics took place only very sporadically.

At the onset of the war in 1914, the building was converted into a reserve hospital and research work largely came to a standstill. During the world wars, the Institute endeavoured to retain or regain access to the tropics in the German colonial territories: During the Weimar Republic, the economic and world political conditions on which the existence of the Tropical Institute was based had changed fundamentally. After the peace treaty of Versailles, the German Empire no longer possessed any colonies. German scientists were internationally isolated. The Tropical Institute lacked a raison d'être. Its continued existence was uncertain.

Old black and white photograph showing a bombed building
Heavy bomb damage, especially in the hospital wing of the institute   ©BNITM

Under National Socialism, several Jewish employees were forced by the Nazis to leave the Institute. There is evidence of drug trials on the inmates of the Langenhorn sanatorium and nursing home and the testing of new cures on prisoners suffering from typhus in the Neuengamme concentration camp near Hamburg. The institute building was severely damaged during the nights of bombing in Hamburg.

Shortly after the end of the war, Bernhard Nocht and his wife took their own lives. In a farewell letter to their children, they wrote that they did not feel up to the task of reconstruction.

Reconstruction and reorientation

With the liberation by the Allies in 1945, a phase of reorientation began at the Bernhard Nocht Institute. The Institute's directors cultivated international contacts and made intensive efforts to establish the first research cooperations with South America, Asia and Africa. In 1968, the Institute established its first research station in Liberia, West Africa, and a few years later took over the management of the clinical laboratory of the Albert Swiss Hospital in Lambaréné, Gabon. With the founding of the Department of Virology in the 1950s, the Institute received one of the first electron microscopes in Germany and acquired the corresponding expertise. It was thus also able to significantly support the establishment of electron microscopy at the Instituto Oswaldo Cruz in Rio de Janeiro.

However, after an external review in 1986, the Science Council stated that the BNI did not meet the expectations of a modern non-university research institution. Tropical medicine had failed to use new disciplines such as immunology or molecular biology for its research.

This was to change in the 1990s. The institute received modern laboratories, was able to attract young international scientists and developed modern research concepts. It also succeeded in establishing research cooperation with various countries. For example, the Kumasi Centre for Collaborative Research in Tropical Medicine (KCCR) was opened in Ghana in 1998. It is run in partnership by BNITM, the University of Kumasi and the Ministry of Health of the Republic of Ghana. These projects directly contribute to building research infrastructures in Africa.

KCCR employees in predominantly red T-shirts stand on the balcony of the institute, some waving. In the front, in the middle, stand the scientific director Prof. Phillips and the blonde managing director Ingrid Sobel.
In 2022, the Kumasi Centre for Collaborative Research in Tropical Medicine in Ghana (KCCR) celebrates its 25th anniversary.   ©KCCR

Research for Global Health

Today, the BNITM is one of the world's leading institutions in the field of tropical and emerging infections. The institute conducts state-of-the-art laboratory research and uses the latest methods in immunology, molecular and cell biology. As a founding member of the Centre for Structural Systems Biology (CSSB), the BNITM maintains laboratories on the DESY campus in Hamburg Bahrenfeld. The scientists have access to the unique imaging techniques used for the latest research results in virology and parasitology. In addition to research in the laboratory, the BNITM carries out extensive research projects in Africa, Asia and Latin America. In cooperation with partner countries, BNITM conducts research on the epidemiology, therapy and control of neglected tropical diseases (NTDs) such as malaria, worm infections or haemorrhagic fevers, among other things.

First training courses

The first training courses for ship and navy doctors take place at the Institute.

[Translate to English:] Fotografie des original Gründungsdokuments
Parliamentary resolution to establish an "Institute for Ship and Tropical Diseases"

Romanowsky staining

Gustav Giemsa, one of Bernhard Nocht's first collaborators, improves the Romanowsky staining by stabilising the staining solutions. This makes it possible to obtain reproducible staining results of cells and pathogens. The method is still part of the standard repertoire of many laboratories today.


Work is carried out at the Institute on improving the quinine therapy for malaria. Phokion Kopanaris discovers that antimalarial drugs work similarly in humans and canaries. Experiments with modified quinine formulations no longer have to be carried out on humans.

Inauguration of the new building

Inauguration of the new building for the Institute in Bernhardstraße (today Bernhard-Nocht-Straße), which has grown considerably in the meantime. It still houses the laboratories and clinic today. After the outbreak of World War I, almost all the Institute's staff are called up. The clinical department is used as a reserve hospital.

The picture shows an old black and white photo of the BNITM.
Historical picture of the old BNITM building   ©BNITM


The zoologist Stanislaus von Prowazek dies of typhus while investigating an epidemic in a prisoner-of-war camp. The pathologist Henrique da Rocha-Lima identifies the causative agent of typhus and proposes to name the bacterium Rickettsia prowazeki.

Identification of the five-day fever pathogen

Henrique da Rocha-Lima makes a significant contribution to the identification of the causative agent of fifth-day fever (Rochalimea quintana, later renamed Bartonella quintana).




August 1921

A strained financial situation threatens the existence of the Institute. Hamburg businessmen and prominent people found the "Association of Friends of the Hamburg Tropical Institute" with the aim of supporting the Institute financially and politically.

The picture shows a black and white photograph of former BNITM doctors.
Head of Department of the Institute of Maritime and Tropical Diseases 1920.   ©BNITM | Klaus Jürries

25th anniversary

The "Association of Friends of the Tropical Institute" donates the Bernhard Nocht Medal to the Institute to mark its 25th anniversary. The threat to its existence is considered to have been overcome.

New Director

The Bernhard Nocht era comes to an end. His office is taken over by Friedrich Fülleborn (1866-1933).

A photo of a newspaper article showing a large group standing on a staircase.
Farewell of Professor Dr. Nocht   ©BNITM

Development cycle of the cat liver fluke

Hans Vogel clarifies the development cycle of the cat liver fluke (Opisthorchis felineus) via the intermediate hosts (snails and fish) to the final host (cat, human). With this and later work on sucking worms, he significantly expanded the knowledge of the development and transmission of the pathogen of schistosomiasis (bilharzia), a disease that is a major health problem, especially in Asia.

New director

With the National Socialist Civil Service Law, the Nazis force several Jewish employees to leave the Institute. The Institute's director Friedrich Fülleborn dies in September 1933 before a decision can be made on his resignation. He is succeeded by Peter Mühlens (1874-1943).

"War-relevant research"

After the outbreak of the Second World War, especially the assistant doctors were drafted for military service. War-relevant research", including on typhus, accounts for a large part of the scientific research of these years.


On the occasion of Bernhard Nocht's 85th birthday, the Institute is renamed the "Bernhard Nocht Institute for Ship and Tropical Diseases".

In the last years of the war, the Institute is increasingly used as a Wehrmacht hospital and is severely destroyed by bomb

Old black and white photograph showing a bombed-out building.
Severe bomb damage, especially in the hospital wing of the institute   ©BNITM

New director

The protozoologists Eduard Reichenow and Lilly Mudrow clarify the last gap in the multiplication cycle of the pathogen of avian malaria (Plasmodium praecox): the multiplication between transmission by the mosquito and penetration into the erythrocytes. After Peter Mühlen's death in June 1943, Ernst-Georg Nauck (1897-1967) took over as director. He is vehemently committed to the reconstruction of the Institute and its connection to international science. In 1953 he was appointed Dean of the Medical Faculty of the University of Hamburg, and in 1958 Rector of the University.


Death of Bernhard Nocht in Wiesbaden.

[Translate to English:] Seitliches Portrait von Bernhard Nocht vorm Mikroskop
Bernhard Nocht (1857-1945)   ©BNITM

Proof of immunisation

In twelve years of work, the helminthologist Hans Vogel proves that rhesus monkeys can be immunised with the pathogen of Far Eastern schistosomiasis, Schistosoma japonicum.

Research site

Helminthologist Hans Vogel clarifies the reproduction cycle of the fox tapeworm (Echinococcus multilocularis) and is able to distinguish it as an independent species from the dog tapeworm. E.G. Nauck, H. Vogel and H.-H. Schumacher undertake an exploratory trip to Sudan and Cameroon to find a location for a research station.

Three people in front of a jungle background.
E.G. Nauck, H. Vogel and H.-H. Schumacher on an exploratory trip.   ©BNITM

New director

Hans Vogel (1900-1980) becomes Director of the Tropical Institute after Ernst Georg Nauck retires.

Laboratory in the tropics

After several years of construction and planning, the Institute can begin its work in a laboratory in the hospital of the German mining settlement Bong Town in Liberia. The reconstruction of the hospital wing in Hamburg is completed.

New director

Hans-Harald Schumacher becomes the new Director of the Tropical Institute.

Provisional management

After Hans-Harald Schumacher, a board of directors takes over the provisional management of the Institute.

Proof in HIV research

Paul Racz and Klara Tenner-Racz, in collaboration with American colleagues, show that in HIV-infected persons, even those who do not yet show any symptoms of the disease, there is already a marked multiplication of the virus in the lymph nodes

Science Council

The evaluation of the Institute by the Science Council, published in 1986, draws attention to a number of failures in the scientific orientation of the Institute.

New director

Hans J. Müller-Eberhard (1927-1998) is appointed director to implement the recommendations of the Science Council. Among other things, immunological and molecular biological groups are established.

Proof in amoeba research

Egbert Tannich succeeds for the first time in distinguishing between pathogenic and apathogenic forms of Entamoeba histolytica using genetic methods.


The Institute is renamed "Bernhard Nocht Institute for Tropical Medicine". The laboratory in Liberia has to be abandoned because of the Liberian civil war.

New director

Bernhard Fleischer (*1950) succeeds Hans J. Müller-Eberhard. The review of the Science Council published in 1996 gives a positive assessment of the Institute and the quality of its scientific work.

Research station in Ghana

The Free and Hanseatic City of Hamburg and the Republic of Ghana agree in the form of a state treaty on the establishment of a cooperative research station in Ghana with the support of the Volkswagen Foundation. The local partner of the Bernhard Nocht Institute is the University of Kumasi. The ceremonial opening of the Kumasi Centre for Collaborative Research in Tropical Medicine (KCCR) takes place in Ghana on 19 February 1998.


Construction of the KCCR
Construction of the KCCR   ©BNITM | Bernhard Fleischer

Discovery of a therapeutic option for the treatment of river blindness

Achim Hörauf discovers intracellular bacteria, so-called Wolbachia, as new target structures for the therapy of filariae and later develops a novel antibiotic treatment for river blindness (onchocerciasis) on this basis.

100th anniversary

In May 2000, the "Travel Medicine Centre" of the Bernhard Nocht Institute is opened. On the occasion of the 100th anniversary, the special postage stamp "100 Years Bernhard Nocht Institute" is issued on 14 September. First Mayor Ortwin Runde and Federal Health Minister Andrea Fischer speak at a ceremony in Hamburg City Hall.

National Reference Centre for Tropical Infectious Agents

The Bernhard Nocht Institute for Tropical Medicine is appointed National Reference Centre for Tropical Infectious Agents by the Federal Ministry of Health and Social Security.

[Translate to English:] LOGO NRZ Blaue Weltkugel mit Symbolen in Weiß. Dazu die Bezeichnung des Zentrums in schwarzer Schrift rundherum: Nationales Referenzzentrum für tropische Infektionserreger
Logo Nationales Referenzzentrum (NRZ)   ©NRZ

Architectural competition for new building

In March, the official jury decision is made in the architectural competition for the new building of the Tropical Institute: out of 65 applicants, the group led by the Cologne architects Kister - Scheitauer - Gross wins the race.

First commercial SARS test

Virologists in Prof. Schmitz's research group, in close cooperation with the University of Frankfurt and others, succeed in detecting a novel coronavirus as the causative agent of the Frankfurt cases of the lung disease SARS. The test protocol developed in the Department of Virology was launched on the market a few weeks later by BNI cooperation partner artus GmbH as the first commercially available SARS test worldwide.

Laying of the foundation stone for the new building

The demolition of the old animal house in February marks the start of construction of the new extension building, the foundation stone of which is laid in July in the presence of the Federal Minister of Health, Ulla Schmidt, the Mayor of Hamburg, Ole von Beust, and architect Prof. Susanne Gross.

A bird's eye view of a construction site in winter.
Construction site new building   ©BNITM

Cooperation agreement with the Bundeswehr

In October, the German Armed Forces and the Bernhard Nocht Institute sign a contract on cooperation in outpatient and clinical tropical medicine.

Federal Order of Merit

In December, Federal Minister of Health Ulla Schmidt awards the Order of Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany to the pathologists Prof. Dr. Paul Racz and Dr. Klara Tenner-Racz for their scientific life's work, and to the virologists Dr. Stephan Günther and Dr. Christian Drosten for identifying the SARS coronavirus.

Bernhard Nocht Clinic & Outpatient Clinic

The University Medical Center Hamburg-Eppendorf (UKE) takes over the Clinical Department of the Bernhard Nocht Institute. BNI and UKE sign a contract for clinical-scientific cooperation.

Unknown parasite stage discovered

Dr. Volker Heussler succeeds in clarifying a "blind spot" in the life cycle of the malaria pathogen Plasmodium. It is the first description of so-called "merosomes", with the help of which the pathogens pass from the liver cells into the bloodstream. The sequence of this transition, which marks the change from the liver to the blood phase, had not been known before.

Anniversary in Ghana

The Kumasi Centre for Collaborative Research in Tropical Medicine in Ghana (KCCR) celebrates its 10th anniversary.

A group sits on a stage, in the foreground a banner with 10th Anniversary
10th anniversary KCCR   ©BNITM | Bernhard Fleischer

The Institute becomes a foundation under public law

The Institute becomes an independent legal entity, a foundation under public law. At the same time, political responsibility for the Institute was transferred from the Hamburg City Health Authority to the Hamburg Ministry of Science and Research.

The BNI is now managed by a Board of Directors, appointed for five years by the Board of Trustees and consisting of two or three scientists and the Commercial Director: The first members of the Board are Prof. Dr Bernhard Fleischer, Prof. Dr Rolf Horstmann (Chair) and Prof. Dr Egbert Tannich, and Udo Gawenda as Commercial Director.

The Board of Trustees now includes three representatives each from the City of Hamburg and the Federal Government as well as the Chairperson of the Scientific Advisory Board, two elected members of the Institute and two external experts representing areas of interest for the development of the Institute. As before, the chair is held by the senator of the Hamburg authority responsible for the Institute or, as representative, by a state councillor, currently Bernd Reinert.

New building

In July, the ceremonial inauguration of the extension building takes place with Federal Minister of Health Ulla Schmidt and Hamburg's First Mayor Ole von Beust. Immunology and virology research groups move into the new laboratories.

A large, modern brick building can be seen looking upwards towards the sky from below. The surrounding trees cast leafy shadows on the wall of the building
The new BNITM building from the outside   ©BNITM

Successful evaluation

In July, the Senate of the Leibniz Association publishes its report on the evaluation of the Institute by the Leibniz Association, which takes place every seven years. It was carried out by 19 external experts at the end of 2009. The Institute was certified as having "very good to excellent scientific achievements" and a "convincing overall concept for development". The federal and state governments are recommended to continue to fully support it as a "nationally and internationally visible, recognised centre of excellence for tropical medicine".

Foundation of an MVZ

Foundation of a Medical Care Centre (MVZ) to secure and expand patient care in special laboratory diagnostics in the long term. As a national reference centre, the Institute continues to be responsible for diagnostics and counselling for all infectious agents typical of tropical diseases.

Cooperation with Altona Diagnostic Technologies GmbH

Altona Diagnostic Technologies GmbH and the BNITM establish a public-private partnership. Easy-to-use tests are to be developed from the Institute's numerous diagnostic procedures and offered for sale worldwide. The "Tropical Diagnostics" project is being funded for four years with over 4.5 million euros by the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) and the City of Hamburg.

Research successes in cooperation with the KCCR

Together with colleagues from the University of Kumasi, Ghana, and the University Hospitals of Lübeck and Kiel, Prof. Rolf Horstmann's group has succeeded in the first successful genome-wide search for mutations that protect against fatal courses of malaria. To this end, they examined thousands of young children at the KCCR in Ghana - the decisive basis for the success of the study.

Hamburg region becomes DZIF site

With its focus on "Global and Emerging Infections", the Hamburg region will become the location of the German Centre for Infection Research (DZIF), which is funded by the BMBF, in April. The BNI coordinates partners from the University of Hamburg, the University Medical Center Hamburg-Eppendorf, the University of Lübeck and the Leibniz Institutes Heinrich Pette Institute - Leibniz Institute for Experimental Virology and Research Center Borstel.

[Translate to English:] Logo des DZIF: Der in blau gehaltene Schriftzug DZIF wird links oben von einem grauen Ring, der durch das D geht, mit einem blauen Punkt verziert. Darunter in kleinerer Schrift, ebenfalls in blau German Center for Infection Research
Logo Deutsches Zentrum für Infektionsforschung (DZIF)   ©DZIF

Another award for the Virology Department

At the end of the year, the World Health Organisation (WHO) appoints the Department of Virology as WHO Collaborating Centre for Arbovirus and Haemorrhagic Fever Reference and Research for the third time in a row.

New Institute logo

The acronym BNI is lengthened to BNITM to avoid confusion with the term Bureau of National Investigation, which is abbreviated BNI and refers to the secret service in Ghana. The new acronym will be incorporated into the Institute's logo in large letters.

Research in Madagascar

Extension of the scientific cooperation agreement with the University of Antananarivo, Madagascar, which has been in place since 2008, and inauguration of a health station in the Madagascan highlands.

New working groups at the institute

Dr Ellis Owusu-Dabo becomes head of a BNITM working group at the KCCR in Ghana, which is to investigate the special features of non-communicable diseases, so-called diseases of civilisation, in the tropics. Dr Tobias Spielmann is founding a working group dedicated to the cell biology of malaria parasites, and Priv.-Doz. Dr Jonas Schmidt-Chanasit will investigate viruses transmitted by mosquitoes or other arthropods, so-called arboviruses, with his new working group.

High-security laboratory put into operation

The new high-security laboratory (Biosafety Level 4, BSL-4-Laboratory) starts operation. The Virology Department begins a one-year test phase before genetically modified viruses of the highest biological risk group can be examined at the Institute.

You can see a metal end door with two yellow triangular warning signs on it. One shows the biohazard symbol, the second says S4 genetic laboratory. You can look inside through a round window and see two researchers inside. Both are wearing a full white suit and a transparent cap on their heads. One researcher is sitting at a workbench while the second researcher hands her a transparent cell culture flask containing red cell medium.  Both researchers are wearing a headset.
The door of the BSL-4 high-safety laboratory with a view into the laboratory.   ©BNITM

Research in Uganda honoured

Prof. em. Dr Rolf Garms is honoured by the Minister of Health of the Republic of Uganda with the "Outstanding Achievement Award" for essential contributions to the eradication of river blindness in Uganda. River blindness is the term used to describe blindness resulting from infection with certain nematodes (onchocercariae) transmitted by black flies in Africa and the Americas.

Ebola virus epidemic in West Africa

On behalf of the World Health Organisation, the first European Mobile Laboratory (EMLab) is deployed in Guinea shortly after the beginning of the Ebola epidemic. A few months later, the two other EMlabs follow, their deployment will last two years. They are coordinated by the Virology Department of the BNITM and operated with experts from the BNITM and institutes from several EU countries. The labs make a significant contribution to the diagnosis of what will ultimately be 28,000 Ebola cases.

New Borna virus discovered

Following the occurrence of fatal brain infections in three breeders of variegated squirrels within three years in Saxony-Anhalt, employees of the BNITM and the Friedrich Loeffler Institute succeed in proving a novel Borna virus as the cause, which is apparently transmitted from the animals to humans during close contact. The Robert Koch Institute and the country's veterinary and health authorities are alerted.

Federal Health Minister thanks Ebola helpers

Federal Minister Hermann Gröhe and Hamburg Science Minister Dr Dorothee Stapelfeldt visit the Institute to personally thank the BNITM staff for their numerous missions in the Ebola crisis area and for reliable diagnostics of samples from all over the world.

Zika virus epidemic in the Americas

As the WHO Collaborating Centre for Arbovirus Infections, the Institute's virological diagnostics department examines up to 100 samples from Brazil daily at the beginning of the year, in addition to the already numerous samples from travellers from Germany and other European countries. In February 2016, the World Health Organisation declares an international health emergency. Later, the infection is scientifically proven to be the cause of birth defects.

Political visits to the Institute

In January, the Executive Board receives Stephan Albani, Member of the Bundestag, in February, the President of the Leibniz Association, Prof. Matthias Kleiner, informs himself about the Institute's work, and in October, Hamburg's First Mayor Olaf Scholz visits the Institute.

Restructuring of the scientific units

On 1 October, Prof. Bernhard Fleischer retires. His professorship for Immunology is reclassified as a W3 professorship for Epidemiology, and the sections "Parasitology" and "Virology and Immunology" are merged into the section "Molecular Biology and Immunology", while Clinical Research and Epidemiology now form independent sections. Appointment procedures for W3 professorships in "Epidemiology" and "Clinical Research" are initiated with the Medical Faculty of the University of Hamburg.

New Managing Director

On 15 February, Birgit Müller takes up her work as Managing Director and Board Member of the Institute.

Evaluation by the Leibniz Association

In the second half of 2016, the elaborate seven-year evaluation of the institute by the Leibniz Association takes place, which concludes with the visit of a group of experts in November.

Evaluation by the Leibniz Association successfully completed

In its final statement, the Senate of the Leibniz Association emphasises that the interplay of laboratory research, patient-oriented research and population-based research at the Institute has proven its worth. Since the last evaluation in 2010, the BNITM has successfully further developed its overall concept and will continue to be funded by the federal and state governments for the next seven years.

Virus research again honoured by WHO

The Department of Virology is named WHO Collaborating Centre for Arbovirus and Haemorrhagic Fever Reference and Research for the fourth time in a row.

Opening of the CSSB

On 29 June 2017, the Centre for Structural Systems Biology (CSSB) officially opens on the premises of the German Electron Synchrotron (DESY). The BNITM is represented by the Department of Cellular Parasitology headed by Prof. Tim Gilberger.

The picture shows the inauguration of the CSSB.
Symbolic handover of keys from the donors to the CSSB partner institutions (including BNITM) at the inauguration of the interdisciplinary Center for Structural Systems Biology CSSB on the DESY site

20 years of KCCR

The 20th anniversary celebrations of the Kumasi Centre for Collaborative Research (KCCR) are attended by the Chancellor of Kumasi University, BNITM board members, the German Ambassador to Ghana, high representatives of the Ghanaian government and the King of Ashanti, among others.

50th anniversary of the discovery of the Marburg virus

With a scientific symposium, the Institute honours the work of Prof. Werner Slenczka (University of Marburg) and Dr Günther Müller (former BNITM staff), who identified the Marburg virus in 1967, nine years before the discovery of the closely related Ebola virus.

EU Commissioner visits EMLab

Christos Stylianides, EU Commissioner for Humanitarian Aid and Crisis Management, learns about the workings of a European Mobile Laboratory (EMLab), which is demonstrated by a BNITM staff member. He is accompanied by Science Minister Katharina Fegebank and numerous members of the press.

Establishing mobile laboratory diagnostics in East Africa

In order to detect cross-border epidemics at an early stage, the Institute is overseeing the acquisition and commissioning of a total of nine mobile laboratories in six East African countries, as well as the training of the relevant laboratory personnel.

New board and new working groups at the Institute

After Prof. Rolf Horstmann retired at the end of 2017, Prof. Egbert Tannich took over as the Institute's Executive Board Chairman at the beginning of the year. In addition to Managing Director Birgit Müller, Prof. Jürgen May and Prof. Stephan Günther joined the Board. There was also restructuring in the research groups: Prof. Egbert Tannich has taken over the establishment of an "Infection Diagnostics" department, and Prof. Michael Ramharter has been appointed to the W3 professorship "Clinical Tropical Medicine" at the University Medical Center Hamburg-Eppendorf and is moving to the BNITM with his Clinical Research Department. In addition, new independent working groups have been established: Prof. Iris Bruchhaus heads the WG Host-Parasite Interaction, Prof. Hannelore Lotter the working group Molecular Infection Immunology and Dr. César Muñoz-Fontela the working group Virus Immunology.

Ebola-Epidemie in der Demokratischen Republik Kongo

Bei der großen Ebola-Epidemie in der Demokratischen Republik Kongo (DRK) ist das BNITM zusammen mit Mitarbeitern des Robert Koch-Instituts und der Gesellschaft für internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) innerhalb der Mission der „Schnell einsetzbaren Expertengruppe Gesundheit“ in Brazzaville, Kongo, direkt an der Grenze zur DRK im Einsatz. Die Mission dient dazu, medizinisches Personal vor Ort in Biosicherheitsmaßnahmen und der sicheren und schnellen Diagnostik zu schulen, um ein mögliches Überspringen der Infektion von der DRK in den Kongo frühzeitig zu erfassen. 

The First Mayor of the Free and Hanseatic City of Hamburg visits the Institute

The First Mayor of the Free and Hanseatic City of Hamburg, Dr Peter Tschentscher, visits the BNITM for the first time. In addition to current research highlights, the Executive Board also presents the mobile laboratories and the medium-term research strategy.

New Implementation section

From January, the BNITM will be setting up the new research area "Implementation Research". This research area at the BNITM is dedicated to the question of how infectious diseases can best be combated using the findings from basic research, even under the most difficult conditions.



SARS-CoV-2 pandemic

The first person infected with SARS-CoV-2 in Germany becomes known. The Hamburg authorities ask the BNITM for rapid SARS-CoV-2 virus diagnostics. At the same time, a press storm begins and leads to extensive public relations work by experts from the medical profession, virology and epidemiology at the BNITM.


You can see an image of a coronavirus. The background is a pixelated gray. In the center you can see a green round circle, at the edge of which small red dots are distributed over the surface at irregular intervals.
Electron microscope image of the SARS coronavirus-2   ©LIV Leibniz-Institut für Virologie

120th anniversary

The institute is celebrating its 120th anniversary without a public ceremony due to the spread of the SARS coronavirus and the associated restrictions.

New Board of Directors

With a scientific symposium, the BNITM bids farewell to its Chairman of the Board and long-standing Head of Department, Prof Egbert Tannich, on his retirement in mid-September. From October, infection epidemiologist Prof Jürgen May takes over the management of the BNITM. In addition to Managing Director Birgit Müller and Deputy Chairman Prof Stephan Günther, Prof Iris Bruchhaus joins the Executive Board.

Institute-wide audit of the scientific advisory board

In an institute-wide audit, the Scientific Advisory Board certifies the BNITM's outstanding development and particularly emphasises the performance of the young Implementation section.

(Ex) employees found start-up "Panadea Diagnostics"

Researchers at the BNITM have developed and patented a special technology for antibody detection, which will be marketed by a specially founded company, Panadea Diagnostic GmbH, from April. The Executive Board of the BNITM and Panadea Diagnostics GmbH sign a corresponding licence and cooperation agreement.

Institute to be modernised

The institute building, built in 1914, is getting on in years. The old institute building is to be extensively renovated from 2025/2026 and combined with a new research building. A memorandum of understanding is signed to this end.

Evaluation by the Leibniz Association

In the second half of 2023, the Leibniz Association will once again carry out the extensive seven-year evaluation of the institute, which will be concluded with a visit by a group of experts in November.