In 1971, the Max Planck Institute for Biophysical Chemistry (Karl Friedrich Bonhoeffer Institute) was founded by Nobel Laureate Manfred Eigen, whose unique vision was to study biological processes using physical-chemical methods. Four decades later, research at the institute still centers on improving our understanding of the basic processes that make life possible.
How do nerve cells communicate? How can complex organisms develop from a single cell? Why can some animals regenerate lost tissue while others cannot? What regulates our "internal clocks"? These are just a few of the questions scientists at the institute are trying to answer. Beyond elucidating life processes, a focal point of the institute's research is developing techniques that permit us to see into the nanocosmos of living cells. We use ultra-high-resolution microscopes, powerful nuclear magnetic resonance spectrometers and high-performance computers to study basic cellular processes, such as for example how proteins are produced and the mechanisms by which they fulfill their varied functions as molecular motors, chemical factories, photo cells and sensors. Research at the institute is also being conducted on energy conversion at the molecular level, as well as on ever-faster image capture for magnetic resonance tomography in order to make the body's inner workings visible.