Medical Systems Biology

The Berlin Institute for Medical Systems Biology (BIMSB)

Systems Biology integrates high-throughput technologies, mathematics, bioinformatics, molecular biology, biochemistry and engineering to derive predictive, quantitative models for biological systems, which may be molecules, cells, organisms or entire species. In combination with biomedical research, Systems Biology has the potential to steer medicine into the next century of personalized medicine.

In combination with the major disease oriented programs of the MDC, Medical Systems Biology is an essential strategic and overarching component of the scientific profile of the MDC: the Berlin Institute for Medical Systems Biology (BIMSB) was launched in 2008. The scientific concept was initiated by Nikolaus Rajewsky, who is now leading the program and its further developments.

Research at the BIMSB is focused on the understanding of gene regulatory networks, in particular transcriptional and post-transcriptional processes and their integration with major cellular regulatory mechanisms, such as protein-protein and protein-DNA/RNA interaction networks, signal transduction pathways, post-translational modifications, metabolic feedback, both, in health and disease states.

In addition to active national and international collaborations, BIMSB activities are strongly connected with the development of the life sciences in Berlin: together with the Humboldt-Universität and the Charité Berlin. BIMSB is also part of the Integrative Research Institute Life Sciences (IRI LS).

Scientific Coordinator




Associated Groups


Founding and Funding


BIMSB was initiated and developed by Nikolaus Rajewsky (BIMSB Scientific Director). BIMSB is an expansion of the MDC into Medical Systems Biology.

BIMSB received, starting 2008, 19 Mio € kick-off funding through the competitive federal initiative “Spitzenforschung in den neuen Bundesländern” (BMBF & Senate Berlin). After a highly successful external peer-review, the BMBF decided to provide additional institutionalized funding for BIMSB (17.5 Mio € /year + 2.5 Mio € /year MDC “Eigenanteil”).

The Humboldt University included BIMSB in their successful participation in the “Exzellenzinitiative” and provided the real estate on the new life science Campus in Berlin Mitte. This neighborhood is important for the BIMSB scientific mission and promotes collaborations between the HU and the MDC. The BMBF provides additional money for the new building (33.5 Mio €). So far, BIMSB researchers newly acquired additional 28.7 Mio € in competitive third-party funds by the BMBF, DFG, EC, HFSP, NIH, industry, BIH and DZHK.

Total external funding to date: 47.7 Mio € (competitively acquired) + 86 Mio € (institutionalized funding by the BMBF).

Collaborations and International Networks


Medical systems biology research combines various disciplines, technologies and experts. Current regional collaboration partners include the Charité, Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin (HU), Freie Universität Berlin (FU), the DFG research center for applied Mathematics MATHEON, the German Center for Rheumatology Research (DRFZ), the Max Planck Institute for Molecular Genetics (MPI-MG) and others. BIMSB is part of the Integrative Research Institute for Life Sciences (IRI-LS) of the HU, supporting many collaborations between the local research institutions and educational activities in the field of systems biology.

The scientific concept of BIMSB includes medical systems approaches as well as basic questions of gene regulation and collaborations with translational and clinical academic partners are in place. This includes the integrative approaches funded by the Berlin Institute of Health. With the Berlin Institute of Health (BIH), the Max Delbrück Center for Molecular Medicine (MDC) and the Charité - Universitätsmedizin Berlin have joined forces to build a research space for  translational research and overarching systems medicine approaches to bridge the gap between basic research and clinical application. BIMSB will be a strong collaborating partner for BIH groups and projects as well as for all academic partners mentioned above. 

At the national level, BIMSB participates in the German Epigenome Programm (DEEP) as part of the IHEC (International Human Epigenome Consortium). Also, BIMSB will be a key hub in the National Bioinformatics Infrastructure for RNA Biology (de.NBI, funded by the BMBF), to be established in 2015.

BIMSB is fostering and maintaining institutional collaborations with national and international research institutes, universities, and other organizations to facilitate joint research projects, staff exchange, access to cutting-edge technologies, and development of joint training activities. Close collaboration exists e.g. with the New York University for the PhD-Student exchange program as well as with the MRC CSC London. Individual PIs hold multiple collaborations and grants with other European and international institutes and groups.

At the European level, BIMSB is involved in the European Strategy Forum on Research Infrastructures (ESFRI). ESFRI is a strategic instrument to develop the scientific integration of Europe and to strengthen its international outreach. It supports a coherent and strategy-led approach to policy-making on research infrastructures in Europe, and facilitates multilateral initiatives leading to the better use and development of research infrastructures, at EU and international level. BIMSB is currently partner in the ESFRI initiative ISBE (Infrastructure for Systems Biology in Europe), aiming to build a distributed infrastructure of interconnected systems biology centres providing resources and services to all European life scientists.

For more information on ESFRI or other European activities please contact  Christian Popp.