Jump directly to the page contents

Helmholtz Health

Detecting diseases, treating them early or even preventing them - that is the goal of Helmholtz Health. For the healthiest possible life in all phases of life.

About Helmholtz Health

What are the molecular causes of disease? How can tools such as artificial intelligence and data science help us understand them down to the level of individual cells? And how can pandemics be prevented or contained in the future? Scientists in the Research Field Health (Helmholtz Health) are working on questions like these. 

Two things in particular are needed for the medicine of the future: new insights at the smallest levels of detail - for example, of individual molecules in the body's cells - and broad and comprehensive approaches that combine different disciplines and research methods. The Research Field Health (Helmholtz Health) has thus developed into one of the most important biomedical research clusters worldwide.

In five research programs, located at six renowned Helmholtz centers, the complex causes of widespread diseases are being investigated.

Many diseases, not least cardiovascular diseases and other common diseases, affect more than one organ. In the program "Systems Medicine and Cardiovascular Diseases", located at the Max Delbrück Center for Molecular Medicine (MDC), the researchers therefore analyze the human system - they want to understand what controls or disturbs the natural balance in the individual cells, in an organ or in the whole body. This knowledge of cross-organ mechanisms offers the opportunity to effectively prevent diseases, to diagnose them on the basis of the first cellular changes and to stop their progression with tailored therapies before major damage occurs in the body.

In Germany, around half a million people are diagnosed with cancer every year, and the incidence of cancer is increasing dramatically worldwide. To meet this challenge and the great biological diversity of cancers, the "Cancer Research" program at the German Cancer Research Center (DKFZ) with the participation of Helmholtz-Zentrum Dresden-Rossendorf (HZDR) is helping to decipher the causes and mechanisms of cancer development and progression on the basis of excellent, interdisciplinary basic research and to develop new strategies for prevention, early detection, diagnosis and personalized cancer therapies through innovative translational cancer research.

Transfer from health research to application

Not least as a result of the Corona pandemic, research into diseases caused by tiny pathogens such as viruses or bacteria has gained enormous importance worldwide. Multi-resistant pathogens, for example, have been one of the biggest problems at hospitals for decades. The Helmholtz Centre for Infection Research (HZI) is implementing the "Infection Research" program. The scientists study bacterial and viral pathogens and their interaction with the immune system, and identify active substances to improve prevention and therapy in the long term.

Numerous changing environmental factors, such as climate change or air pollution, are changing our world faster than ever before. The mechanisms driving the dramatic increase in diseases such as obesity, diabetes, allergies, asthma and chronic lung disease are being investigated in the research program "Environmental and Metabolic Diseases" at Helmholtz Munich.

The "Neurodegenerative Diseases" program is based at the German Center for Neurodegenerative Diseases (DZNE). In view of the demographic development and the resulting increase in the number of people with dementia, it is dedicated to the question of how Alzheimer's and other neurodegenerative diseases such as Parkinson's can be prevented, detected at an early stage and treated. The aim is also to develop optimal care and treatment to improve the health and quality of life of the people affected.

For these challenging tasks, the Helmholtz centers bring first-class research expertise, high-performance infrastructures and technologies, interdisciplinarity and a strong national and international network. Together with university medicine, translational centers have been established in which highly competitive research for precision medicine takes place, enabling patient access to innovations and thus creating a bridge between research and clinical practice. For example, the Helmholtz Health Centres play a central role in the German Centers for Health Research, among others. In this way, findings from basic research are rapidly transferred into clinical practice. This guarantees that patients benefit quickly from the research results of "Helmholtz Health".  Talent promotion and the transfer of knowledge and technology to society and industry are also of particular importance for the research field of health.

German National Cohort

In the research field of health, the human being is viewed as a complex, holistic system. In order to incorporate long-term developments and to be able to better treat widespread diseases, Helmholtz launched the nationwide German National Cohort (NAKO Gesundheitsstudie)  in 2014 in cooperation with the Leibniz Association, German universities, university hospitals, federal and state institutes and the Fraunhofer Gesellschaft. Around 200,000 citizens will undergo comprehensive medical examinations over several decades and be asked about their lifestyle habits. In this way, the researchers hope to uncover new connections between diseases and environmental factors, genetic characteristics and behavioral patterns.

  • The Research Field Health (Helmholtz Health) comprises five research programs at six Helmholtz Centres.
  • The programs investigate the causes of widespread diseases such as cardiovascular diseases, cancer, diabetes, neurodegenerative diseases or infectious diseases in order to effectively prevent them, diagnose them in time and effectively treat those affected.
  • The focus is on innovative, integrative and interdisciplinary basic research with the aim of rapidly transferring findings into clinical practice (translation).
  • An outstanding example of interdisciplinary cooperation and a holistic research approach is the NAKO health study, in which around 200,000 participants are medically examined over several decades and questioned about their lifestyle habits.

Helmholtz Biomedical Engineering

By combining biomedical expertise with technological innovation, biomedical engineering creates efficient solutions for the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of diseases. Together with our partners from research and industry, we are working across center and research field boundaries to improve healthcare and make Germany an international leader in biomedical engineering. The initiative is open to all Helmholtz Centers and Research Fields.

Briefing: Helmholtz Biomedical Engineering (PDF)

Website: www.helmholtz-bioengineering.de

White Paper

Knowledge for patients and relatives

Our findings should be put into practice as quickly as possible. To this end, we not only cooperate with clinics and manufacturers, but also address patients and their relatives directly: We provide information via numerous websites and hotlines, post explanatory videos online, and organize lectures and conferences.


From the Centers


  • Health

    A daring e-mail took biochemist Mathias Munschauer from Mannheim to New York, to the laboratory of one of the world’s most renowned RNA researchers. Today, he is one of the most sought-after experts…

  • Health

    Researchers at the branch of the German Cancer Research Center (DKFZ) in Dresden are working on tiny robots. These are designed to act autonomously in the body and fight cancer directly at its root.

  • Health, Earth & Environment

    At the Helmholtz Center in Munich Lara Urban is developing a rapid genetic laboratory for your pocket. Combined with artificial intelligence, she wants to use it to detect pathogens in the environment…

  • Health

    For her groundbreaking research on the intricate interactions between immune cells and metabolic tissues, Maike Becker was honored in Berlin.

  • Health

    Just as engineers changed our outer world with the findings of physics in the last century, bioengineers are on the cusp of transforming our inner world with the tools of biomedicine in this century.…

  • Health

    Physician and epidemiologist Berit Lange from the Helmholtz Centre for Infection Research, who has just been appointed to the STIKO, talks about bringing a breath of fresh air to the committee,…


Matthias H. Tschöp

Vice-President Research Field Health
Helmholtz Munich

Dr. Katja Großmann

Chief Research Manager Health
Helmholtz Association

As curious as we are? Discover more.