Institute of Pharmaceutical Biology

The Institute of Pharmaceutical Biology at the Technische Universität Braunschweig is one of the oldest of its kind in Germany. Its origin goes back to the 19th century.

Within the Curriculum of Pharmacy, Pharmaceutical Biology covers all subjects of general biology, biochemistry and biotechnology as well as all subjects concerning plant drugs, biologically active natural products and their sources. Major topics of current research at the Institute are basic and applied aspects of natural products research, i.e. secondary metabolism of plants, microorganisms and insects.

Topics cover mechanistic, functional and evolutionary aspects of secondary metabolism.

  • Chemistry – natural product isolation, structure elucidation, analytics
  • Biochemistry – biosynthesis, enzymology, metabolism, regulation
  • Physiology – compartmentalization, product accumulation, transport, metabolic diversity
  • Chemical Ecology – mechanisms of plant-herbivore interactions
  • Molecular Biology – cloning, recombinant expression of new enzymes
  • Molecular Biotechnology – metabolic engineering, synthetic biology of natural products
  • Molecular Evolution – recruitment of essential enzymes for functions in secondary metabolism in plants and insects


In 1872, the pharmacist Carl Wilhelm Ferdinant Grote was appointed Dozent of Pharmacognosy at the reputable Institute of Pharmacy already founded 1835. Grote was followed by Otto Linde (1902-1929) who became director of the Laboratory of Pharmacognosy which further developed to an independent chair under the guidance of Robert Jaretzki (1931-1956). Jaretzki already began natural product research by studying plant drugs and their biological activities. He was one of the first to provide a causal basis of scientific Pharmacognosy. During the term of Kurt Steffen (1958-1974) the name Pharmacognosy was changed to Pharmaceutical Biology. With the completion of the new building of the School of Pharmacy in 1981, the institute attained the spatial infrastructure for attractive teaching and successful and competitive research.

The recent history of the Institute started with the appointments of Thomas Hartmann as successor of Kurt Steffen (1976) and of Adolph Nahrstedt (1977) on a newly established professorship. Since that time, a number of excellent and innovative scientists joined the institute temporarily and contributed considerably to its reputation. A number of them took over honorable appointments at other universities:

  • Adolph Nahrstedt (Braunschweig 1977-1986); since 1986 chair of the 'Institute of Pharmaceutical Biology and Phytochemistry' at the University of Münster (until 2004).
  • Dieter Strack (Braunschweig 1986-1992); since 1992 head of the 'Abteilung für Sekundärstoffwechsel' at the Leibniz Institute of Plant Biochemistry in Halle (until 2010).
  • Gabriele König (Braunschweig 1993-1999), since 1999 chair of the 'Institute of Pharmaceutical Biology' at the University of Bonn.
  • Michael Wink (Habilitation Braunchweig 1985); since 1989 chair of the devision 'Pharmaceutical Biology' at the University of Heidelberg.
  • Peter Proksch (Habilitation Braunschweig 1988); 1990 Professor at the University of Würzburg; since 2001 chair of the 'Institute of Pharmaceutical Biology' at the University of Düsseldorf
  • Rolf Müller (Habilitation Braunschweig 2000); since 2003 chair of 'Pharmaceutical Biotechnology' at the University of Saarbrücken
  • Dietrich Ober (Habilitation Braunschweig 2005); since 2006 Professor at the Institute of Botany at the University of Kiel
  • Debabrata Sircar (Braunschweig 2011-2013); since 2013 Professor at the Indian Institute of Technology in Roorkee
  • Mohammed Khalil (Braunschweig 2010-2013); since 2019 Professor at the College of Pharmacy at the Cairo University

After Adelheid Ehmke had left the insitute to become President of the University of Applied Sciences in Trier, Rainer Lindigkeit took over her position in 1998 coming back from industry. In 2000, Ludger Beerhues from Bonn University was appointed as professor succeeding G. König. In 2001, we lost Ludger Witte who died in a tragic accident. His position was taken over by Till Beuerle who joined the Institute in 2002. Thomas Hartmann retired in 2005. As his successor, Ute Wittstock from the Max Planck Institute for Chemical Ecology in Jena was appointed as W3 professor at the institute in January 2006.