Visit to the Robert Koch Institute

Due to the worldwide corona pandemic, the Robert Koch Institute has become the focus of public attention. Willkommen in Berlin had the opportunity to visit Germany's national public health institute on 9 June 2022. The Robert Koch Institute (RKI) has five locations in Germany, three of which are in Berlin. We met the RKI headquarter located in Nordufer in Berlin-Wedding at the lecture hall of this historic building. After the warm welcome by the Research Scientist, Dr. Sigward von Laue, Ms. Esther-Maria Antao, Strategic Advisor to the President, gives us an interesting introduction.

The RKI has been focusing on health population for more than 130 years. It is one of the oldest institutions of its kind in the world. It was founded in 1891 as the "Königlich Prussian Institute for Infectious Diseases" by the famous physician, microbiologist and Nobel Prize winner, Robert Koch. The institution was later renamed after him. The core tasks of the RKI include the detection, prevention and combating of diseases, especially infectious diseases. Another central area is various research projects to tackle urgent public health problems. More than 1,100 staff members from 90 different professions involve in the research projects at the RKI.

Disease and health are examined at all levels - from the virus in the body cell to obesity in the population. For this purpose, the RKI collects data on non-communicable diseases such as diabetes and cancer, infectious diseases such as COVID-19 and other (new) biological hazards. Based on this data, concrete recommendations as well as protection and prevention concepts  are developed, and it provides support for the partner countries. The Robert Koch Institute not only makes an important contribution to health protection in Germany, but also worldwide. Dr. Iris Hunger of the Centre for International Health Protection, gave an overview of selected international activities, such as the collaboration with the "Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention" in Addis Ababa.

Afterwards, we visited the mausoleum in the institute lined with multi-colored marble, where Robert Koch was buried in 1910. This construction was made possible by the donations from the employees, colleagues and friends. Besides Koch, only Louis Pasteur is known to be buried in his own institute (in Paris). The modern museum exhibiting the day-to-day work at the institute provides information as a "window to science". It shows Robert Koch's life and work, the history of the institute and the changing in research methods. Dr. von Laue answered many questions from the WiB members over coffee and refreshments at the end of the tour.