Matthias Wilmanns
Head of EMBL Hamburg


Activities at EMBL Hamburg focus on state-of-the-art structural biology methods using synchrotron radiation, combining cutting-edge technology with an ambitious research programme for structures of multifunctional proteins and protein complexes of biomedical relevance.

EMBL Hamburg’s laboratories are on the German Synchrotron Research Centre (DESY) campus, with synchrotron radiation (PETRA III) and laser (FLASH) facilities available. In addition, a powerful X-ray free electron laser is under construction. EMBL operates a new integrated facility, called EMBL@PETRA3, for applications in structural biology at the PETRA III ring. It comprises three state-of-the-art beamlines for macromolecular X-ray crystallography and small angle X-ray scattering of biological samples, complemented by facilities for sample preparation and characterisation, and data evaluation. EMBL Hamburg is also one of the main partners in the future Centre for Structural Systems Biology (CSSB) on the DESY campus.

Overview of research at EMBL Hamburg

Fiedler Team Synchrotron instrumentation for structural biology beamlines at PETRA III
Garcia Alai Team Molecular biophysics and high-throughput crystallisation
Kosinski Group Integrative modelling of infection cycles
Landau Group (Visiting)

Functional protein fibrils in microbial infections and aggregation diseases

Löw Group

Structural and dynamic insights into nutrient uptake systems

Schneider Group Tools for structure determination and analysis
Svergun Group Small-angle X-ray scattering from macromolecular solutions
Wilmanns Group Structure and function of molecular machinery for protein translocation across membranes

EMBL Hamburg has set up an ambitious research programme for structures of multifunctional proteins and protein complexes of biomedical relevance. Present research interests of group leaders include cell surface receptors, protein assemblies in muscle cells, protein kinases, protein translocation into peroxisomes, and several projects relating to tuberculosis. Common to all projects is the goal to make optimum use of on-site high-brilliance synchrotron radiation and to explore novel opportunities of the X-ray Free Electron Laser. Beyond the tools in structural biology that are available on-site, EMBL Hamburg groups are engaged in many interdisciplinary collaborations with colleagues from other EMBL units, enabling access to a large variety of in vitro and in vivo functional techniques, including cellular imaging techniques.

EMBL Hamburg also has a well-established record for the development of novel, innovative technologies in structural biology. Leading software packages for the automation of data interpretation have been developed here and are used in a large number of projects across the world’s research community. One example is the ARP/wARP package that allows automatic X-ray structure determination. Another package, ATSAS, allows the automatic interpretation of small angle X-ray scattering data for structural shape determination. Finally, there are two groups that focus on the development and construction of new equipment for experimental stations in structural biology, using synchrotron radiation. Present efforts focus on the installation of new robotics that allow automatic placement of biological samples into specialised synchrotron experiment facilities.

Matthias Wilmanns
Head of EMBL Hamburg