Press releases

Further growth spurt at BNITM

Comprehensive centre to advance infection research with digital technologies and data structures

The Bernhard Nocht Institute for Tropical Medicine (BNITM) is comprehensively putting its research on a digital footing: From 2025, it will establish the "Computational Sciences for Pathogen Research and One Health" centre. It will include all research sections and have two professorships. The Joint Science Conference of the federal and state governments had previously given the green light for funding from the Leibniz Association. The BNITM had only recently established a new "Implementation Research" section.

Greenish graphic that visualises the topic of "AI in biology and medicine". It shows a microscope, a filled test tube and, in the background, DNA strands and binary codes with ones and zeros.
©BNITM AI-generated with Adobe Firefly

Infection research is booming, also thanks to state-of-the-art computer technologies: they make it possible to delve much deeper than before into the most diverse areas of this discipline. With new software programmes, digital applications and artificial intelligence, bioinformatics can process, use and make available study results and data on a much larger scale.

Science at the Bernhard Nocht Institute for Tropical Medicine (BNITM) has also long been computerised. Jürgen May, Director of the Tropical Institute, is convinced "that computer technologies and data structures are essential in all our existing research sections in order to analyse and use study results in a sustainable way". This is the only way to drive scientific development forward; it is the only way for the BNITM to further expand its pioneering role in tropical and infectious medicine.

At the end of 2023, the Joint Science Conference (GWK) of the federal and state governments approved the funding. This will enable the BNITM to gradually establish the new "Computational Sciences for Pathogen Research and One Health" centre from 2025.

It will consist of two main areas: "Structure and Dynamics of Proteins" and "New Generation Bioinformatics for Pathogens and One Health". The BNITM plans to establish a joint professorship for the management of each of these areas together with other partners at the site. The virtual centre is linked to all five research sections of the institute (Pathogen, Interface, Patient, Population, Implementation). Together with them, it will develop innovative computer-based solutions for combining and analysing self-generated primary data and available data sets and using them for large holistic studies. Particularly in the case of neglected tropical diseases (NTDs), it is often not possible to collate existing study data due to a lack of resources.

The innovation areas include, for example, bioinformatics of pathogens, structure and dynamics of proteins, analysis and modelling of pathogen-host interactions, Digital One Health and software and app development. AI-supported test subject surveys are conceivable for drug and vaccine studies or implementation projects. Software modules, digital distance learning courses and training applications for classroom teaching are to be developed for the education and training of in-house and external scientists and cooperation partners. Finally, the BNITM wants to support the establishment of an innovative institute at an established university partner institution in sub-Saharan Africa.

Africa in particular lacks the capacity to analyse complex data sets on infectious diseases in a One Health context. An "African Institute for One Digital Health" is intended to help build further research capacities for clinical and epidemiological studies in endemic regions. To this end, the establishment of a corresponding partner institution including a training centre is planned. This institute should significantly improve the participation of African partners in the analysis and utilisation of large study data sets.

Katharina Fegebank, Deputy Mayor and Senator for Science, Research, Equalities and Districts of Hamburg: "The digital centre will give tropical medicine research at the BNITM a noticeable growth spurt that will have an impact far beyond Hamburg. Thanks to the planned cooperation with other local partners, it will also strengthen infection research in Hamburg. The digitalisation of research infrastructures can also be a major advantage in the current competition of the Excellence Strategy. I would like to thank everyone involved and wish the BNITM every success in setting up the new centre!"

Katharina Fegebank: a politician on a balcony. On the left are red flowers, on the right the light-coloured walls of Hamburg City Hall. Katarina Fegebank wears shoulder-length brown hair and a blue dress. The fingertips of her two hands touch in front of the centre of her body.
The Deputy Mayor and Senator for Science, Research, Equalities and Districts of the Free and Hanseatic City of Hamburg, Katharina Fegebank   ©Daniel Reinhardt | Senatskanzlei Hamburg
Prof. Dr Jürgen May: a researcher who is bald and wears a white shirt with a grey jacket.
Prof. D. Jürgen May   ©BNITM | Dino Schachten

Prof Dr Jürgen May, Chairman of the BNITM: "Research data is the currency of our work. Especially for researching and combating poverty-related diseases, they are too valuable to be used only for small individual studies. With the new digital centre, the BNITM is consistently integrating computational science into research, teaching and application. It also creates new bridgeheads to other partner institutions such as the University of Hamburg or partners in Africa."

The BNITM estimates a total funding requirement of around three million euros per year for the new cross-sectional area. As a Leibniz institution with expertise in the management of infection-related research data, the BNITM aims to share information and experience generated via the centre with other Leibniz institutes, research associations, networks and working groups and to exploit synergies. The institute is committed to the FAIR principles for the promotion of OpenData and OpenAccess: findable, accessible, interoperable and reusable.

About the Bernhard Nocht Institute for Tropical Medicine (BNITM)

The Bernhard Nocht Institute for Tropical Medicine (BNITM) is Germany's largest institution for research, care and teaching in the field of tropical and emerging infectious diseases. BNITM research has always focussed on global health / One Health and on translation - the transfer of basic research into application. This research approach is also reflected in the Institute's five sections: Pathogen (pathogen) -> Interface (immunology, host/pathogen) -> Patient (clinic) -> Population (epidemiology) -> Implementation (successful application and establishment of knowledge).

Current thematic priorities are malaria, haemorrhagic fever viruses, neglected tropical diseases (NTDs), immunology, epidemiology and the clinic of tropical infections as well as the mechanisms of virus transmission by mosquitoes. For the handling of highly pathogenic viruses and infected insects, the institute has laboratories of the highest biological safety level (BSL4) and a safety insectarium (BSL3). The BNITM's mobile laboratories are available for global outbreak control of highly pathogenic or highly infectious viruses.

The BNITM is a National Reference Centre for the detection of all tropical infectious agents, a WHO Collaborating Centre for Arboviruses and Haemorrhagic Fever Viruses, a WHO Collaborating Centre for Behavioural Research for Global Health and an institute in the Leibniz Association.

Together with the Ghanaian Ministry of Health and the University of Kumasi, the BNITM operates a modern research and training centre in the West African rainforest, which is also available to external working groups. The institute also maintains numerous other collaborations in other African countries such as Gabon, Nigeria, Tanzania and Madagascar.

Contact person

Prof. Dr Jürgen May (Chair)

Board of Directors

Phone : +49 40 285380-261

Email :