Robert Koch Institute

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Robert Koch Institute

State level Federation
position independent higher federal authority
Supervisory authority Federal Ministry of Health
founding 1891
Headquarters Berlin
Authority management President: Lothar H. Wieler
Vice President: Lars Schaade
Servants 1100, including around 450 scientists, including doctoral students and trainees
Budget volume 108 million euros (budget year 2020)
Web presence

The Robert Koch Institute (RKI, official spelling until 1994 Robert Koch Institute ) is an independent German higher federal authority for infectious diseases and non-communicable diseases. As a public health facility , it has the health of the entire population in view and is a central research facility in the Federal Republic of Germany .

Its headquarters are in the Berlin district of Wedding . The RKI is named after the physician and microbiologist Robert Koch and reports directly to the Federal Ministry of Health .


The task of the RKI includes both the observation of the occurrence of diseases and relevant health threats in the population as well as the derivation and scientific justification of the necessary measures for the effective protection of the health of the population. This also includes the development of necessary diagnostic, experimental or epidemiological methods that are not otherwise available, as well as the evaluation of genetic engineering work and environmental medical influences and methods.

The legal basis of the RKI is § 2 of the BGA successor law of June 24, 1994. Accordingly, it is particularly active in the following areas:

  1. Detection, prevention and control of communicable and non-communicable diseases,
  2. epidemiological studies in the field of communicable and non-communicable diseases including the detection and assessment of risks as well as documentation and information,
  3. Health reporting,
  4. Detection and assessment of risks in genetically modified organisms and products and in human genetics.

Special tasks are assigned to the RKI in connection with communicable diseases by § 4 Infection Protection Act (IfSG) at national level and by § 12 IfSG in the cooperation with the WHO in the implementation of the International Health Regulations and the European Union to combat serious cross-border health threats, tasks in connection with non-communicable diseases result, for example, from Section 1 of the Federal Cancer Register Data Act (establishment of a center for cancer registry data ) or for approval procedures according to Section 14 of the Genetic Engineering Act and the Stem Cell Act .

As part of its task of continuous observation ( health monitoring ), the RKI regularly conducts the health surveyGesundheit in Deutschland aktuell ” as a supplement to the “ Study on the health of adults in Germany ” and the “ Study on the health of children and adolescents in Germany ”.

The institute is

  • the central research and reference facility of the Federal Ministry of Health in the field of biomedical sciences, in particular infectious diseases and non-communicable diseases,
  • the central facility of the Federal Ministry of Health for the action-oriented analysis of health-related data ,
  • the reference institution of the Federal Ministry of Health for quality criteria and procedural standards in genetic engineering and environmental medicine , and
  • the central institution of the Federal Ministry of Health in the area of ​​the public (state) health service .


Main entrance on the north bank in Berlin-Wedding
Royal Prussian Institute for Infectious Diseases (around 1900)


A separate institute for researching and combating infectious diseases was considered in Prussia since 1887. The 10th International Medical Congress in Berlin in 1890 was the decisive factor in founding the Royal Prussian Institute for Infectious Diseases on July 1, 1891, with scientific and experimental departments and a clinical department. Robert Koch headed the institute until 1904. His first employees Georg Gaffky and Friedrich Loeffler were his later successors in office. In 1897 the foundation stone was laid for the new building on the north bank, which could be occupied in the summer of 1900. During the same period, the Rudolf Virchow Hospital , which opened in 1906, was built not far away . At the suggestion of Robert Koch, an infection department was set up here, which was headed by a doctor who was also an employee of the Koch Institute. The principle of separation between the “scientific” and the “health department” should be retained. Further collaborations resulted from the "Wutschutz" ( rabies ) - and other new departments. In 1912, on the 30th anniversary of the discovery of the tubercle bacillus, the institute was given the suffix "Robert Koch", after the First World War the "royal" disappeared from the name and was renamed the "Prussian Institute for Infectious Diseases Robert Koch". The building is still the headquarters of the Robert Koch Institute today.

The institute took on corresponding tasks for cities and imperial authorities. International inquiries were also answered.

Human experiments in the time of National Socialism

After Adolf Hitler was appointed Reich Chancellor , Jewish scientists had to leave the institute, emigrate or go into hiding. Two thirds of the scientific staff previously employed there were no longer at the institute, and most of the projects were discontinued.

During the National Socialist era , the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) was completely permeated by Nazi ideology and was significantly involved in the National Socialist policy of violence. The director and almost all department heads became NSDAP members. The Prussian Institute was initially affiliated with the Reich Health Office in 1935 , was an independent Reich Institute from 1942 and was named Robert Koch Institute . In collaboration with the Reichsarzt SS , many scientists at the institute carried out human experiments in Nazi concentration camps and in psychiatric institutions. Other employees held important positions in the (military science-oriented) science system and other medical institutions during the Nazi era. In addition to human experiments in Sachsenhausen concentration camp, typhus vaccines were tested on prisoners of Buchenwald concentration camp from 1942 onwards . Claus Schilling , director of the tropical medicine department at the RKI, infected around 1200 inmates in the Dachau concentration camp with malaria in order to test malaria vaccines. 300 to 400 people died as a result of these attempts.

After 1945

After the Second World War , the institute was assigned to the health administration of the city of West Berlin , but retained a special status as its tasks were not limited to Berlin. In 1952 it became part of the Federal Health Office (BGA). After German reunification , several former GDR authorities were affiliated with the RKI in 1991 . As part of the resolution of the BGA, the Federal Institute for infectious diseases and non-communicable diseases was on 1 July 1994 under the name Robert Koch Institute headquarters in Berlin as an independent federal authority in the division of the Federal Ministry of Health set up .

In 2008 the Robert Koch Institute was awarded the integration prize for the exemplary employment of severely disabled people in the state of Berlin .

Role in the corona crisis

In line with its role as higher federal authority, the RKI plays an important role in continuously recording the current situation of the spread of COVID-19, especially in Germany, evaluating all available information, carrying out risk assessments for COVID-19 for the German population and issuing Recommendations for the professional public.

The RKI rated the risk for the population in Germany on February 28, 2020 as “low to moderate”, as “high” since March 17, and as “very high” for risk groups since March 26. The risk varies regionally; severe disease courses are more likely "with increasing age and existing previous illnesses". The RKI listed the district of Heinsberg in North Rhine-Westphalia as the “particularly affected area in Germany” from March 6 to 31 .

To protect against infection , the RKI recommended keeping a sufficient distance from other people (for personal and external protection), washing your hands regularly with soap and not touching your face so that the virus does not reach the mucous membranes of your mouth, nose or eyes bring. After the President of the German Medical Association had called on the population on March 26, 2020 to also wear simple face masks, the RKI declared on April 2 that wearing simple face masks could also help prevent other people from being infected. But it is not a substitute for other measures such as keeping your distance.

Virologist Alexander Kekulé criticized the fact that the RKI did not initially properly communicate the danger posed by COVID-19 and did not expand monitoring and coronavirus tests for seriously ill patients with flu-like symptoms at an early stage.

When the RKI decided on May 8th to completely stop the daily press conferences until further notice, it came under criticism.

Mausoleum and museum

Mausoleum in the RKI: epitaph with relief image by Robert Koch

After Koch's death on May 27, 1910, a grave was set up for him in the institute building. On the ground floor of the south-west wing, a large room opposite the lecture hall was selected and lined with marble in various colors. The photography department was housed in this room during Koch's lifetime. The adaptation of the room as a mausoleum was carried out according to plans by the architect Paul Mebes . On December 4, 1910, in the presence of Koch's family members, the copper urn with his ashes was buried there. The official inauguration of the mausoleum took place on December 10, 1910. The mausoleum of the institute building contains on its western side, the narrow by Berlin artist Walter Schmarje executed Epitaph with a relief image chef. Below is the urn with Koch's ashes in a niche closed by a white marble slab. On the east side of the room under the heading "Robert Koch - Works and Works", essential data on the results of his research work are shown. The burial of Koch in the institute building was possible because at that time there was no law in Prussia on urn burial.

The mausoleum and the attached museum about the life and work of Robert Koch and the current work of the institute are open to the public. After a two-year planning and construction phase, the museum reopened on November 30, 2017 and has been open to the public since December 1, 2017. The redesign and expansion took place in cooperation with the Museum für Naturkunde .

Structure and direction

Robert Koch , the first director, headed the institute for 13 years. Fred Neufeld and Georg Henneberg stayed in the institute's management for 18 and 17 years respectively. The incumbent president since March 1, 2015 is Lothar H. Wieler .


The RKI is divided into the following areas

  • Infectious Diseases Department
  • Department of Epidemiology and Health Reporting
  • Infection Epidemiology Department
  • Center for Biological Hazards and Special Pathogens
  • Method development and research infrastructure
  • Project groups (immunological defense mechanisms, Acinetobacter baumannii, novel zoonoses, epidemiological modeling of infectious diseases, virulence factors of Salmonella and Campylobacter)
  • Junior research groups (microbial genomics, metabolism of microbial pathogens)
  • Global health and biosecurity
  • Admission office for applications according to the Stem Cell Act
  • Management area and central administration
  • Press, public relations
  • Research coordination

The RKI is (co-) editor of various scientific periodicals , including the Epidemiological Bulletin , the Journal of Health Monitoring and the Federal Health Gazette . Various national reference centers , consulting laboratories and scientific commissions are located at the institute, including the Standing Vaccination Commission (STIKO) and the Commission for Hospital Hygiene and Infection Prevention (KRINKO) .


As of 2016, the RKI employs around 1,100 people, including around 450 scientists, including doctoral students and trainees. Around 450 employees are employed on a temporary basis. Around 320 work part-time.

RKI 2010

In order to meet the new challenges in the health care system, the Bundestag convened the project group “RKI 2010” in 2008, a committee of national and international experts in the field of public health, whose task it was to develop a sustainable concept for the necessary strengthening and redesign of the institute work out. As a result, a new laboratory and office building was built at the Seestrasse location from 2010 and received federal funding of around 170 million euros.

The program made it possible to successfully deal with new and pressing public health topics and recruit highly qualified specialists for the specific specialist tasks. The individual topics, which initially started as scientific projects, have meanwhile mostly been integrated into the specialist departments of the RKI as longer-term tasks and have also been permanently reflected in the business allocation plan.

High security laboratory

On February 3, 2015, a new high security laboratory was inaugurated in Berlin. In addition to the Bernhard Nocht Institute for Tropical Medicine in Hamburg , a security level 4 laboratory in Marburg and the Friedrich Loeffler Institute on the island of Riems , it is the fourth of its kind in Germany and the only one in the federal government in the human medical field. It was built at the Seestrasse site right next to the special isolation ward of the Virchow Clinic, where patients suspected of having Ebola have already been treated.

The laboratory was put into operation on July 31, 2018.


Laboratory building from 1978 in Föhrer Strasse
Entrance Seestrasse 10
General-Pape-Strasse branch office
Wernigerode branch

Location north bank

The headquarters of the Robert Koch Institute is located in the building on the north bank, erected between 1897 and 1900 . It was built by the Prussian state as an institute building for the Royal Prussian Institute for Infectious Diseases, founded in 1891, and is now a listed building. The historic building in the immediate vicinity of the Charité's Virchow-Klinikum campus houses the institute management, research groups on HIV and bioinformatics, the administration, the library, the mausoleum for Robert Koch and a publicly accessible museum (see above).

Seestrasse location

The renovated building complex and a new laboratory and office building at Seestrasse 10 were opened on February 3, 2015 in the presence of Chancellor Angela Merkel , Health Minister Hermann Gröhe and Environment Minister Barbara Hendricks . The majority of the research laboratories are located here, including the newly established Biosafety Level 4 laboratory. Central facilities such as the IT department are also located here.

Location General-Pape-Strasse

The barracks building on General-Pape-Strasse, built for the Berlin Landwehr Inspection from 1895–1897 , houses the epidemiology and health monitoring department and the institute 's printing facility. The building complex, together with other barracks buildings, is a listed monument.

Wernigerode location

The research facility in Wernigerode am Harz , which had served the GDR as a central facility for bacterial research, became an important branch of the Berlin institute in the 1990s. Today it is housed in modern laboratories and a baroque building erected in 1754 and an annex. The main research areas are bacterial infections, antibiotic resistance, zoonoses , host-pathogen interactions and applied bioinformatics . This is where the National Reference Center for Staphylococci and Enterococci and the National Reference Center for Salmonella and other intestinal pathogens are located.

See also


  • Annette Hinz-Wessels: The Robert Koch Institute under National Socialism. Kadmos, Berlin 2008, ISBN 978-3-86599-073-0 .
  • On the Berlin location, General-Pape-Strasse: Robert Koch Institute (Ed.): Persecuted Doctors in National Socialism. Documentation for the exhibition about the SA prison General-Pape-Straße. Robert Koch Institute, Berlin 1999, ISBN 3-89606-030-9 .
  • Marion Hulverscheidt, Anja Laukötter (Hrsg.): Infection and Institution: on the history of science of the Robert Koch Institute under National Socialism. Wallstein-Verlag, Göttingen 2009, ISBN 978-3-8353-0507-6 .

Web links

Commons : Robert Koch Institute  - Collection of images, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. a b c d The Robert Koch Institute at a glance
  2. ^ Section plan 2020, target - Issue # 15 - Federal Ministry of Health. In: Federal Ministry of Finance, accessed on May 16, 2020 .
  3. Imprint on
  4. ^ The Institute for Public Health: The Robert Koch Institute. (PDF) In: Robert Koch Institute, 2016, accessed January 25, 2018 .
  5. Relevant legal bases in connection with infectious diseases and Preparedness and Response, accessed on March 10, 2020.
  6. European Commission : Cross-Border Cooperation on Health Matters: Theory and Practice Luxembourg: Publications Office of the European Union, 2017
  7. Gentechnikgesetz, accessed on March 10, 2020.
  8. Releases - Procedure for the Federal Office for Consumer Protection and Food Safety approval process , accessed on March 10, 2020.
  9. Approval procedure according to the stem cell law, accessed on March 10, 2020.
  10. Legal basis. In: Robert Koch Institute, July 20, 2017, accessed January 25, 2018 .
  11. Allergy (study in “Gesundheit in Deutschland aktuell”) ,, accessed on April 25, 2020.
  14. Barbara Rusch: Robert Koch - From country doctor to pioneer of modern medicine . Bucher Verlag, Munich 2010, ISBN 978-3-7658-1823-3 .
  15. a b History of the Robert Koch Institute , as of June 19, 2008, Robert Koch Institute, Berlin.
  16. Michael Hubenstorf: "But it seems to me as if you have lost nothing." In: Wolfram Fischer , Klaus Hierholzer , Michael Hubenstorf, Peter Th. Walther, Rolf Winau (ed.): Exodus von Wissenschaften aus Berlin . Questions - Results - Desiderata. Developments before and after 1933 (=  Berlin-Brandenburg Academy of Sciences: Research report. 7). Walter de Gruyter, Berlin a. a. 1994, ISBN 3-11-013945-6 , pp. 355-460.
  17. ^ A b Robert Koch Institute supported acts of Nazi violence., October 1, 2008.
  18. ^ Ordinance on the transfer of the Robert Koch Institute and the State Institute for Water, Soil and Air Hygiene to the Reich. From April 14, 1942. Reichsgesetzblatt, year 1942, part I, p. 176.
  19. ^ National Socialism: The Dark Past of the RKI., May 17, 2010.
  20. § 2 BGA successor law of June 24, 1994; proclaimed in the Federal Law Gazette on June 30, 1994, coming into force the day after the proclamation.
  21. ↑ The 2008 Berlin Integration Prize goes to Mondo Pasta GmbH. December 5, 2013, accessed April 22, 2020 .
  22. Coronavirus cases in 52 countries, but the risk in Germany is "low to moderate". In: February 28, 2020, accessed April 2, 2020 .
  23. Risk assessment for COVID-19. In: Retrieved March 27, 2020 .
  24. Risk assessment for COVID-19. In: Robert Koch Institute, March 17, 2020, accessed on March 17, 2020 .
  25. Daily situation report of the RKI on the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) March 6th, 2020. RKI, March 6, 2020, accessed on April 1, 2020 . Daily status report of the RKI on the coronavirus disease-2019 (COVID-19) March 31, 2020. (PDF) RKI, March 31, 2020, accessed on April 1, 2020 .
  26. BÄK President calls for protective masks to be worn on, March 26, 2020
  27. ^ Robert Koch Institute changes its assessment of mouthguards, April 2, 2020
  28. Coronavirus. “The danger was played down.” Rhein-Neckar-Zeitung February 26, 2020 .; The RKI and Corona - the consequences of playing down. Cicero April 2, 2020.
  29. How can the RKI stop its briefings now?, May 8, 2020.
  30. ^ Eckart Roloff and Karin Henke-Wendt: A pioneer, a museum and a mausoleum. (The museum in the Robert Koch Institute) In: Visit your doctor or pharmacist. A tour through Germany's museums for medicine and pharmacy. Volume 1, Northern Germany. S. Hirzel, Stuttgart 2015, pp. 29–30, ISBN 978-3-7776-2510-2 .
  31. ^ Museum and mausoleum in the Robert Koch Institute
  32. Lothar H. Wieler is the new President of the Robert Koch Institute. Robert Koch Institute, February 26, 2015, accessed April 20, 2017 .
  33. Epidemiological Bulletin
  34. The Robert Koch Institute at a glance. (PDF) In: Robert Koch Institute, 2017, accessed January 26, 2018 .
  35. The Robert Koch Institute - the Public Health Institute for Germany RKI 2010 (PDF)
  36. From: , February 3, 2015, accessed on February 25, 2015.
  37. High-security laboratory in the Robert Koch Institute goes into operation. In: press release. Robert Koch Institute, July 25, 2018, accessed August 1, 2018 .
  38. LDL Berlin: Royal Prussian Institute for Infectious Diseases & Mausoleum for Robert Koch & Robert Koch Institute
  39. ^ RKI - Museum and Art - The Museum in the Robert Koch Institute. Retrieved April 22, 2020 .
  40. LDL Berlin: architectural monuments barracks General-Pape-Straße 2-66 and Werner-Voss-Damm 54-68
  41. National reference centers and consulting laboratories. In: Robert Koch Institute, accessed January 26, 2018 .

Coordinates: 52 ° 32 ′ 21 ″  N , 13 ° 20 ′ 50 ″  E