New Helmholtz Young Investigator Group

Dr Mathias Munschauer from the Broad Institute (USA) to join HIRI with his junior research group “LncRNA and Infection Biology”


Mammalian cells have highly specialized defence programs to protect themselves from invading pathogens. To do this, the cells change the expression of their genes; previously inactive genes are switched on or active genes are no longer expressed. Genes encode the blueprint for making proteins. If a gene is expressed, this information is first converted into RNA (ribonucleic acid) before protein production begins. However, not all RNA transcripts are templates for protein synthesis. Long non-coding RNAs (lncRNAs) have many similar properties to protein-coding messenger RNAs, but are not translated into proteins. Instead, lncRNAs interact with DNA, RNA and proteins and thereby regulate various cellular functions. Since July 2019, Dr. Mathias Munschauer's Helmholtz Young Investigator group “Long non-coding RNA and Infection Biology” at the Helmholtz Institute for RNA-based Infection Research (HIRI) investigates the function of lncRNAs in the host defence against pathogens. The HIRI is a joint institution of the Helmholtz Centre for Infection Research (HZI) in Braunschweig and the Julius Maximilian University of Würzburg (JMU). Munschauers Young Investigator group is the eighth research group at HIRI, which was founded in 2017.

The human genome contains the information for thousands of lncRNAs. Modern sequencing technologies have shown that a large number of these lncRNAs are activated during infections. “LncRNAs are important regulators of the host response to a pathogen. But how lncRNAs function at the molecular level, which molecules they interact with and how lncRNAs use or influence these interaction partners, as well as many other questions remain unanswered,” says Munschauer. His research group is particularly interested in the interactions of lncRNAs with protein complexes. Munschauer is developing new technologies for the high-resolution investigation of RNA-protein interactions. The aim of his research is to understand how lncRNAs regulate cell defence programmes in order to develop novel treatments for infectious diseases.

We are pleased to have recruited an ambitious researcher like Mathias Munschauer to the HIRI. As Helmholtz Young Investigator, he will dedicate himself to non-coding RNA and thus decisively expand the scientific portfolio of HIRI.

Prof. Jörg Vogel, founding director of HIRI

Mathias Munschauer studied biotechnology at the University of Applied Sciences in Mannheim and completed his thesis research at Rockefeller University (USA). During his doctorate at the Max Delbrück Center for Molecular Medicine in Berlin and at New York University (USA), he developed methods for the identification of RNA-binding proteins. He then did his postdoctoral research at the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard (USA), studying lncRNAs. Since July 2019, he has headed the Young Investigator group “LncRNA and Infection Biology” funded by the Helmholtz Association at HIRI.