A profile of the Robert Koch Institute

Die Doktorandin Jenny La Verde aus Venezuela arbeitet im Labor des Wernigeröder Robert-Koch-Instituts. Nuotrauką padidinti (© picture-alliance/ dpa)

The Robert Koch Institute is one of the central institutions for health protection in Germany . It serves the Federal Ministry of Health as a central scientific institution in the field of biomedicine. The Institute combines risk research with political advice. Its most important tasks include protection against infectious diseases and the analysis of the health situation in Germany .

The classical work area of the Robert Koch Institute is research into infectious diseases. Various teams use molecular biological methods to examine, for instance, the traits and transmission routes of specific bacteria, HIV or BSE pathogens. Furthermore, on the basis of the Protection against Infections Act – which has strengthened the position of the Institute as a central institution in the health system – the incidence of numerous infectious diseases is recorded and evaluated nationwide.

Moreover, the spread and trends of many non-infectious diseases are examined at the Robert Koch Institute with, for example, data from the Länder on the frequency of cancer cases also being collected there.

Its scientists conduct surveys in the population at large and analyse quality of life and health risks for people in Germany . These analyses are integrated into a regular health reporting service which – besides research into infectious diseases – has become one of the hallmarks of the Institute.

Laborarbeiten im Robert-Koch-Institut Nuotrauką padidinti (© Robert-Koch-Institut)

The Robert Koch Institute prepares recommendations for regional authorities and doctors – for instance what vaccinations should be given or how infections can be avoided in hospitals. It has a “rapid task force” in order to investigate regional outbreaks of epidemics. Furthermore, under its aegis epidemic preparedness plans have been drawn up for extraordinary situations – for instance the emergence of a global flu epidemic. For various bacteria and viral diseases there are National Reference Centres and advisory laboratories within the Robert Koch Institute which are the central contacts for the identification and control of disease. The Institute cooperates with various institutions in Germany and around the world, including the World Health Organisation (WHO).

A new task which has been assigned to the Robert Koch Institute is biological safety. The Centre for Biological Safety, established in 2002, develops methods for the rapid diagnosis of pathogens of relevance for bioterror and models scenarios to defend against bioterror attacks. The Centre is also the contact point for national and international institutes in the field of bioterrorism defence. The Federal Information Office for Biological Safety, a part of the Centre, is on hand to deal with inquiries from the public at large and expert groups.

Another new task was assigned to the Institute following the entry into force of the Stem Cell Act in 2002. The import and use of embryonic stem cells in Germany must be approved according to the Stem Cell Act. Applications for approval must be submitted to the Robert Koch Institute.

The Robert Koch Institute has its headquarters and two branches in Berlin and a further branch in Wernigerode in the Harz region. Of its   880  employees, around   370  are scientists (including Ph.D. students   and trainees ). For its research projects it seeks third party funding.

Specific scientific questions are tackled in project groups. There are special groups to promote the work of young research scientists. An internal research committee and an external advisory scientific council examine the quality of the work undertaken.


Laborarbeit im Robert-Koch-Institut Nuotrauką padidinti (© Robert-Koch-Institut)

A profile of the Robert Koch Institute

Laborarbeit im Robert-Koch-Institut