Institute chronicles


After more than 40 years of Fraunhofer ITEM, we can look back on quite a few milestones:


Das Fraunhofer ITA als Neubau 1981.
© Fraunhofer ITEM
The newly built facility of Fraunhofer ITA in 1981.

Start as Fraunhofer ITA

On May 27, 1981, the Fraunhofer Institute in Hannover started its operations – after only two years of planning and construction. One of the factors that had led to the founding of the institute was the enactment of the Chemicals Act in 1980. The research focus of the institute was on inhalation toxicology, with the lung as primary target organ. The first two institute directors were aerosol physicist Prof. Werner Stöber and pathologist Prof. Ulrich Mohr, head of the Department of Experimental Pathology at the Hannover Medical School at the time.

A large research project on behalf of an automobile manufacturer was already on its way: exhaust emissions were to be investigated. In early summer 1981, more than 40 employees were at work in the new laboratories and offices. “Fraunhofer Institute of Toxicology and Aerosol Research ITA” was the institute’s initial name, indicating already its thematic focuses.

The aim was to elucidate correlations between the presence of airborne pollutants and their toxic effects in human beings. The scientists therefore focused their research in the fields of inhalation toxicology, environmental hygiene, cell biology, testing of chemicals, aerosol research, and analytical chemistry.


Aerial view of the Fraunhofer ITEM
© Fraunhofer ITEM, Andreas Krukemeyer
In the aerial view, the various sections of the building can be clearly seen today.

Extension of the initial building

The second part of the building was completed. By 2010, another nine building extensions will be made. The institute’s laboratory and office space will then sum up to more than 19,000 square meters.


Director of the institute Prof. Uwe Heinrich
© Fraunhofer ITEM
Prof. Uwe Heinrich was Executive Director of Fraunhofer ITEM for over 20 years.

New Institute Director and two new departments

Prof. Dr. Dr. Uwe Heinrich, professor of toxicology and aerosol research at the Hannover Medical School, took over as Institute Director. Since the institute’s foundation in 1981, Prof. Heinrich had been one of its research fellows, enriching the institute with his broad knowledge in inhalation toxicology and experimental oncology.

In addition, the departments of Molecular Toxicology/Molecular Medicine and Clinical Research were set up.


Pharmaco- and Toxicogenomics
© Fraunhofer ITEM
New methods of pharmaco- and toxicogenomics were established.

Pharmaco- and Toxicogenomics

The Division of Pharmaco- and Toxicogenomics was set up, including research on molecular diagnostic and therapeutic approaches. This new research area received funding from the federal state of Lower Saxony from 2000 on.


Proband während des Lungenfunktionstests (Spirometrie)
© Fraunhofer ITEM, Nick Neufeld
The turn of the millennium marks the beginning of clinical airway research at the Fraunhofer Institute in Hannover.

Department of Clinical Airway Research

In the late 1990s, the Department of Clinical Airway Research was established and has meanwhile gained high international reputation. Its focus is on airway diseases such as asthma, COPD, allergic rhinitis, and interstitial lung diseases.


Allergen challenge chambers
© Fraunhofer ITEM, Ralf Mohr
The Fraunhofer Allergen Challenge Chamber enables testing of anti-allergic medications in early-phase clinical trials.
Models of Lung Disease
© Fraunhofer ITEM, Till Holland
Since 2014, the two-day conference Models of Lung Disease has been hosted at the CRC Hannover.

"Fraunhofer Allergen Challenge Camber"

The pollen exposure chamber, later named “Fraunhofer Allergen Challenge Chamber” (ACC), proved its worth. The first clinical trial was successfully completed. Today, Fraunhofer ITEM is equipped with three special challenge chambers where pollen and other allergens can be dispersed in the air under controlled conditions.





First workshop “Models of Lung Disease”

The international workshop “Models of Lung Disease” is held for the first time, then under the name “Animal Models of Asthma”. To date, this event brings together experts from academia and industry from all over the world once a year to discuss new pharmaceutical developments and recent findings in experimental lung research.


Fraunhofer ITEM, Hannover
© Fraunhofer ITEM
Fraunhofer ITEM, then still only in Hannover.

ITA became ITEM, the Fraunhofer Institute for Toxicology and Experimental Medicine

By the turn of the millennium, the Fraunhofer institute in Hannover had considerably expanded its scope of services. The departments of Clinical Airway Research and of Molecular Medicine, with research in genomics, proteomics, and metabolomics, were increasingly at the focus.

The past competencies though continued to be important, aerosol technology in particular, as this know-how is also required in the clinical unit with its allergen challenge chambers. In order that the expansion of competencies be clearly perceived also in the public, the institute changed its name. “Fraunhofer Institute of Toxicology and Aerosol Research ITA” thus became “Fraunhofer Institute for Toxicology and Experimental Medicine ITEM”.


Fraunhofer ITEM, Braunschweig
© Fraunhofer ITEM, Ralf Mohr
Fraunhofer ITEM in Braunschweig hosts the Division of Pharmaceutical Biotechnology.

“Pharmaceutical Biotechnology” complementing the institute’s competencies

The year 2008 marked the institute’s start at a second location – today’s Science Campus Braunschweig-Süd: In the Braunschweig-based Division of Pharmaceutical Biotechnology, Fraunhofer ITEM scientists have since developed manufacturing processes for biopharmaceutical agents, such as proteins and viruses, to the point of manufacturing of investigational medicinal products in the form of infusion solutions or in vials or ampoules – in compliance with GMP guidelines.


Fraunhofer ITEM in Regensburg
© Biopark Regensburg GmbH
Establishment of the Project Group for Personalized Tumor Therapy, headed by Prof. Christoph Klein.
Logo of the German Center for Lung Research
© German Center for Lung Research
Fraunhofer ITEM has been a member of the German Center for Lung Research since 2010.

Start of “Personalized Tumor Therapy”

In Regensburg, the Project Group for Personalized Tumor Therapy was established, headed by Prof. Christoph Klein, who is also holding the Chair of Experimental Medicine and Therapy Research at the University of Regensburg. The focus of this division has since been on the development of diagnostic tests and innovative models to enable detection of disseminated cancer cells early in the disease and prediction of the response to therapy of metastatic progenitor cells. 



Member of the German Center for Lung Research (DZL)

Fraunhofer ITEM became a member of the German Center for Lung Research, one of six national centers for health research initiated by the German government in 2010 and funded under its new health research program. The primary goal of these centers is the translation of research results into successful therapies.


Clinical Research Center Hannover
© Fraunhofer ITEM, Felix Schmitt
On 6000 square meters floor space, the CRC Hannover hosts clinical trials, patient-oriented research, epidemiological studies, and the central biobank of the Hannover Medical School.

CRC Hannover: Opening of a unique study center for patient-oriented translational medicine

The Clinical Research Center Hannover (CRC Hannover) was opened – the only medical research center for early-phase clinical trials of its kind in Germany, operated by Fraunhofer ITEM in cooperation with the Hanover Medical School and the Helmholtz Centre for Infection Research. The aim was to allow the results of fundamental research to be even more efficiently translated into novel biomedical diagnostic, therapeutic, and preventive methods. Hallmarks of the CRC Hannover are in particular its cutting-edge equipment and technology.


Director of the Fraunhofer Institute Prof. Dr. Norbert Krug
© Fraunhofer ITEM, Ralf Mohr
Prof. Dr. Norbert Krug.
Fraunhofer ITEM, Regensburg
© Fraunhofer ITEM, Ralf Mohr
Together with partners from industry and academia, a new inhalation system was developed that enables efficient and gentle inhalation treatment of preterm neonates.
Personalized Tumor Therapy in Regensburg
© Fraunhofer ITEM, Patrick Reinig
Stationspartner Herr Alper, TOTAL Deutschland GMBH, TOTAL StationStarnberg, Münchnerstr.16, 82319 Starnberg

Prof. Dr. Norbert Krug took over as Director of Fraunhofer ITEM

After 21 years of successful management, Professor Uwe Heinrich ceded his position as Fraunhofer ITEM Executive Director to Professor Norbert Krug on January 1, 2017. Prof. Krug is professor of immunology, allergology and clinical inhalation research and had been medical director and co-director of Fraunhofer ITEM already since 2008.



“Translational Biomedical Engineering” became a division of Fraunhofer ITEM

The division of Translational Biomedical Engineering assists clients in the development of medical devices and brings them from the lab into phase I of clinical development in compliance with the European Medical Device Regulation.


New High-Performance Center

In spring 2017, the High-Performance Center Translational Biomedical Engineering was inaugurated. From this, the High-Performance Center Medical and Pharmaceutical Technology was created in 2021.



Personalized Tumor Therapy: from project group to division

After its successful evaluation, the Project Group for Personalized Tumor Therapy in Regensburg became a division of Fraunhofer ITEM. The project group had been founded in December 2010 as a research collaboration between the Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft, the Bavarian state government, and the University of Regensburg.


The Project Group Bioinformatics
©, Vasily Smirnov
Bioinformatics for better health and chemical safety.

New Project Group for Bioinformatics

The Project Group for Bioinformatics was set up under the “Fraunhofer Attract” research grant. The aim was to improve the analysis of data collected in health research by using novel intelligent methods and to provide special techniques that enable efficient and validated analyses.


© Fraunhofer

Fraunhofer vs. Corona

As an institute with decades of experience in infection and airway research, drug development,  biomedical engineering, and in the field of chemical risk assessment, Fraunhofer ITEM has made an important contribution to scientific progress in the fight against the new coronavirus.


Prof. Dr. Dr. Thomas Thum
© Fraunhofer ITEM, Ralf Mohr
Prof. Dr. Dr. Thomas Thum
© Fraunhofer ITEM, Ralf Mohr

Institute management in tandem

From January 1, 2021 to December 31, 2023, Prof. Dr. Dr. Thomas Thum headed Fraunhofer ITEM together with Prof. Dr. Norbert Krug.


Pioneers for sustainable health – since 1981

40 years of Fraunhofer ITEM – giving us every reason to be proud of what we have made happen during this period of time. In 2021, Fraunhofer ITEM celebrated its 40th anniversary.

On this occasion, Lower Saxony's Minister of Science Björn Thümler, Prof. Michael Manns, Prof. Ulrike Köhl, Prof. Norbert Krug and Prof. Thomas Thum discussed potentials of health research in Lower Saxony.

A short video summary of the panel discussion (in German language) is available here.


© Fraunhofer ITEM

Research grant Fraunhofer Attract

As part of the Fraunhofer Attract funding program, the project "IMMUNITY – designer cells: novel immune cell platforms for health research" started at Fraunhofer ITEM 2022 under the leadership of Prof. Lachmann at Fraunhofer ITEM. Human immune cells are used to test and develop new drugs and play an important role in research for new cancer treatments.