Olaf Rötzschke obtained his PhD in 1993 at the University of Tübingen, Germany, where he studied biochemistry. He started his immunology carrier at the Max-Planck Institute of Biology in the group of Hans-Georg Rammensee, where he isolated the first natural T cell antigen and resolved the primary structure of MHC ligands. In 1993 he joined the group of Jack Strominger at Harvard University and in 2000 he moved to the Max-Delbrueck-Center in Berlin. He joined SIgN as Principal Investigator in July 2008 and in 2011 became Adjunct Associate Professor at the ‘Department of Microbiology’, National University of Singapore (NUS) and Adjunct Professor at the ‘Division of Molecular and Cell Biology’, Nanyang Technological University (NTU), Singapore.

Adjunct Positions

  • Adjunct Associate Professor, NUS, Singapore
  • Adjunct Professor, NTU, Singapore

Research Focus 

Allergy and Immune-regulation
Central to the research is the functional and genetic characterization of allergy- and immune-related pathways in humans. Because of the variations in the genetic composition and environmental adaption of the individuals, the experiments are carried with cohorts. In contrast to conventional cohort studies each individual had been characterized in depth on the genomic, transcriptomic and phenotypic/functional level by a variety of methods. The resulting hyper-annotated database consists of more than 3000 data entries per individual, which together with complete mRNA, eQTL and full-genome SNP data allows for unbiased pathway- and disease-analysis by association/correlation studies. Besides being used for the systems biology characterization the database also represents a valuable resource to select individuals for further studies based on specific genetic or phenotypic/functional markers. The systematic data analysis combined with the experimental data obtained after the targeted recall of individuals can be applied on the various fields of immunology. In tropical-urban Singapore however, it proved to be particularly fruitful for the study of allergic reactions. Due to an apparent saturation of the environment with house dust mite (HDM) allergens, virtually each citizen is exposed, resulting in a natural (mono-) sensitization of more than 70% of the population. This simple yet strongly penetrating local allergen-environment thus facilitates the identification of allergy-associated genes and mechanisms, which in moderate regions with seasonal allergens remain elusive. A specific focal point of the research by the group is therefore the search for biomarkers of allergies (genetic and phenotypic) and the characterization of mechanisms related to the tolerization and desensitization of allergens. 

Additional translational studies are carried out with ‘untouched’ human Treg cells, isolated by a protocol developed by the group from the plasmaphereses fraction of blood donors. In cooperation with the Singapore General Hospital (SGH) and the Health Science Authority (HSA) of Singapore the suppressive capacity of these cells will be determined in a phase I clinical trial to treat Graft-vs.-Host-Disease (GvHD) in leukemia patients.


Structure of the database of the current SIgN/NUHS cohort. The cohort consists of 2 x 300 individuals recruited in January and August 2011. Data-collection and -analysis was carried by the various SIgN groups (indicated by initials of the PI), utilizing the ‘Immunomonitoring-‘, ‘Flow cytometry-‘, ‘Functional Genomics-‘ and ‘Bioinformatics’-platforms established at SIgN. The are coordinated by Profs. Wang De Yun (WDY), NUHS and O. Rötzschke (OR), SIgN.


Lab Members

SIgN Fellow  Postdocs (Ph.D) Research Officers PhD Students
Ser Mei KOH
Jolene TAN
  Liang Wei WANGJocelyn ONGNai Yao LAM
  Jing Hui LOW 


Olaf Rotzschke's SIgN affiliated publications (last updated 16 March 2023)