As the first research institution in the world to exclusively address the role of ribonucleic acids (RNA) in infection processes, we would like to tell you what led to our establishment, describe the research environment we are embedded in and how far we have come since our foundation in May 2017.




Increasing antibiotic resistance, chronic infections and emerging pathogens pose major challenges for the health care system.

While the central importance of RNA in regulatory and sensory cell processes has become clear in recent years, its role in infection processes is largely unknown. 

Against this background, HIRI was founded in May 2017 as a partnership between the Helmholtz Centre for Infection Research (HZI) and the Julius-Maximilians University of Würzburg (JMU)

The University of Würzburg, which is very well positioned in infection research, has outstanding expertise in researching the role of RNAs in infections and, with HIRI director Professor Jörg Vogel​​​​​​​, has an internationally leading RNA researcher. 
As the largest German infection research institution, the HZI has built up a pipeline that is unique in the academic field, ranging from the development of new therapeutic targets and drug candidates to the development of new anti-infectives.

With the foundation of the HIRI, existing intensive collaborations between the two institutions were expanded. For the HZI, the HIRI means the expansion of its research portfolio to include an area with outstanding innovation potential, for the University of Würzburg it means the connection to the powerful infection research region of Braunschweig / Hannover and the Research Field Health of the Helmholtz Association.

The Helmholtz Association of German Research Centres is the largest science organization in Germany. It is a union of 18 scientific-technical and biological-medical research centers. The official mission of the Association is "solving the grand challenges of science, society and industry".

Taken together, the founding of the HIRI represents the unique opportunity to link the infrastructure and competence networks of both founding institutions and to create synergies come true. 

What we do

At HIRI, scientists investigate so-called ribonucleic acids (RNA) and their role in infectious diseases. RNAs are transcripts of genetic material and serve, among other things, as carriers of genetic information, but also have regulatory functions.

During an infection, the RNA molecules of a disease-causing agent  interact with those of the infected cell to enable the pathogen to survive and to multiply within the host.

To date, little is known about the regulatory role of RNAs in infections. This is where the research of the HIRI sets in.

Based on novel findings, innovative therapeutic approaches are developed at HIRI in an integrated research approach and made clinically usable through the development of pharmaceutical forms of application.



Emerging topic: SARS-CoV-2

The integration of emerging topics in RNA research are key to our research concept. With the ongoing SARS-CoV-2 pandemic,  HIRI immediately started to investigate the background and mechanisms of action of this pathogen

The common goal of our research efforts on SARS-CoV-2 at HIRI is to gain knowledge about fundamental aspects of the infection process and disease development in order to identify the Achilles heel of SARS-CoV-2. This will provide the basis for initiating the second phase: To use the knowledge gained to develop effective treatments against SARS-CoV-2 and other corona viruses to counteract this and future pandemics.


Work Ethics & Infrastructure

The tight interconnection of research and management is of great importance for our work at HIRI. We strive on excellence both in and out of the lab. Hence, HIRI provides state-of-the-art infrastructure and cutting-edge technologies to foster scientific advancement, interdisciplinary cooperation and outreach activities. To provide for a good work-life-balance we have created a family-friendly atmosphere with flexible working hours, a parent-child room and regular social activities.



Your chance to become part of the future of RNA & Infection! Learn more about scientific career opportunities at HIRI and find out about our current vacancies. We are seeking skilled and motivated talents to advance our mission to investigate the role of RNA in infection.


Graduate Training Program “RNA & Infection”

Our graduate training program is dedicated to training the next generation of scientists to undertake cutting-edge research at the interface of RNA and infection biology. Explore the details of the programme and find out about current calls.