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HIPS building One of the most pressing challenges in current infection research is the increasing multi-resistance of pathogens against established anti-infectives. The unique combination of expertise from infection research and pharmaceutical sciences allows concerted and synchronous approaches to the discovery and mining of novel microorganisms producing potential drugs, their rational improvement and bioactivity profiling, as well as their optimal formulation and eventual drug delivery.

Uni Campus E8.1
66123 Saarbrücken, Germany
+49 681 98806-3001

► Institute overview at HZI website

Upcoming events

Save the date for BioBarriers 2018 - the 12th International Conference and Workshop on Biological Barriers, 27-29 August 2018, a biennial event receiving constantly 200+ registered attendees from all over the world. 30 international experts presenting their views and latest research.

► BioBarriers 2018


Biosynthetic studies of telomycin reveal new lipopeptides with enhanced activity  Fu C, Keller L, Bauer A, Brönstrup M, Froidbise A, Hammann P, Herrmann J, Mondesert G, Kurz M, Schiell M, Schummer D, Toti L, Wink J and Müller R  Journal of the American Chemical Society 2015, 137 (24), 7692–7705.

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Research at HIPS

HIPS consists of three departments and three junior research groups. The range of scientific activities at HIPS comprises genetic, genome-analytic and chemical methods for optimizing natural product producers and lead compounds as well as methodologies to improve the delivery of pharmaceuticals across biological barriers towards their target.

► HIPS information (.pdf) EN / DE

Microbial natural products Microbial Natural Products - MINS

Natural products of microbial origin continue to be very important sources for the development of pharmaceuticals. The Department focusses on the discovery and biotechnological production of natural products primarily from myxobacteria. Scientists at MINS employ a broad spectrum of techniques to exploit microbes for novel bioactive compounds and to evaluate their potential in infection research. For promising compounds different approaches are being applied to study their biosynthesis and modes-of-action as well as to optimize their production using post-genomic and synthetic biotechnology tools to provide enough material and structural analogues for further development.


Drug Design Drug Design and Optimization - DDOP

The Drug Design and Optimization Department develops small molecules that avoid the increasing resistances of pathogens to commonly used antibiotics. Those new drugs should interfere in essential processes within the bacteria in order to kill them or to switch off their protective mechanisms.


Drug Delivery Drug Delivery - DDEL

Recent advances in biotechnology and medicinal chemistry have led to the discovery of many promising new drug candidates. In order to guarantee their bioavailability and therapeutic efficiency, such entities necessitate sufficient permeability across biological barriers. Intelligent technologies and biocompatible carriers are needed to ensure the safe and effective delivery of these drugs to their site of action. In the DDEL department, we are exploring drug interactions at biological barriers such as the lung, skin and gastrointestinal tract. Most recently the department expanded this approach for overcoming bacterial barriers, namely biofilms, the bacterial cellular envelope and host cell membranes.


Actinobacteria engineering Actinobacteria Metabolic Engineering - AMEG

The AMEG group focuses on development and application of genetic tools for actinomycetes. The demand for gene knockouts in actinomycetes has been increased greatly as researchers are trying to define the functions of the large number of genes discovered by whole-genome sequencing. Although a number of high-throughput methods have been developed for the analysis of whole-genome transcription and protein function, with respect to fundamental information content, none can replace the genetic analysis of organisms that have specific genes mutated. We develop new recombinogenic engineering strategies which will simplify and shorten the time required to generate genetically engineered actinomycetes.


Chemical biology Chemical Biology of Carbohydrates - CBCH

Many human pathogens can establish chronic infections with the help of a biofilm mode of life. As a protective shield, the matrix of the biofilm renders antibiotics ineffective and secures survival of the embedded pathogen. Novel ways for treatment address disintegration of such biofilms and thus restore activity of antibiotics. Frequently, the architecture of biofilms is maintained by carbohydrates and so-called lectins, recognizing and cross-linking carbohydrate motifs of the glycocalyx, both on human cells and pathogens. The group aims at the development of antibacterial drugs using a combination of medicinal chemistry, biochemistry and microbiological methods. Such anti-biofilm directed compounds may ultimately lead to successful treatment of chronic infections without evoking resistances among the pathogens.


Biogenic Nanotherapeutics Biogenic Nanotherapeutics - BION

Nature does it best – we aim at exploring biomimetic systems that utilise mechanisms present in nature or that are derived from natural principles. In particular, we are interested in developing smart nanocarriers for selective and efficient delivery of drugs and at establishing novel non-invasive real-time imaging techniques. Synthetic drug carriers such as polymer-based nanoparticles often struggle to meet clinical expectations due to their potential incompatibility and induction of undesired side-effects. One avenue to overcome these drawbacks of known nano systems is by using biogenic carriers, such as extracellular vesicles (EVs). Our smart nanotechnology platforms utilise biocompatible drug carriers combined with state-of-the-art imaging modalities to counteract decreasing options for treating resistant infections.


Structural biology Structural Biology of Biosynthetic Enzymes - SBBE

The production of natural products by means of organic synthesis often requires harsh conditions such as toxic organic solvents and high temperatures. Remarkably, enzymes can carry out complex chemical reactions in aqueous solution and at room temperature making their application a "green" option. We aim to understand how selected enzymes accomplish this feat in detail, to be able to harness their transformative powers for our purposes and to gain fundamental insights into the underlying biochemical principles. The improved understanding of an enzyme's capabilities is then applied to specific natural product pathways to produce variants of promising anti-infective agents or to increase the yield obtained from the natural producer. We use X-ray crystallography to determine the atomic-resolution structures of enzymes of interest.


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