Kai Simons received his MD degree from the University of Helsinki in 1964. Simons then conducted postdoctoral research with A.G. Bearn at Rockefeller University in New York. In 1967, he received a PI position from the Finnish Medical Research Council at the University of Helsinki. In 1975, he became a Group Leader at the European Molecular Biology Laboratory (EMBL) in Heidelberg, Germany and he started the Cell Biology Program, which became the focal point for molecular cell biology in Europe. In 2001 Kai Simons moved to Dresden to build up the new Max Planck Institute for Molecular Cell Biology and Genetics. This Institute is today an internationally recognized center in its area of research. His early research was focused on Semliki Forest virus that matures by budding out of the host cell plasma membrane to become enveloped by the world?s simplest membrane. This simplicity made it possible to find out how this membrane was assembled in the cell and how it was built. Semliki Forest virus became a tool to study membrane trafficking and unraveled how viruses can enter and exit cells. From there Simons moved on to study epithelial cell polarity. These studies revealed the biogenesis of the apical membrane and formed the basis for what we know about epithelial surface polarity today. His recent research has focused on cell membrane organization and function. He has pioneered the concept of lipid rafts as a membrane organizing principle, based on the phase-separating capabilities of sphingolipids and cholesterol in cell membranes.

Research Interests

Simons closed his lab in 2014 and founded a startup Lipotype in Dresden that specializes in lipidomics. Lipotype has developed a comprehensive, high throughput, and quantitative mas -based shotgun lipidomics platform for lipid analysis. The main technical hallmarks of this technology are: (i) it is comprehensive, allowing the quantification of up hundreds of lipid species of >20 lipid classes; (ii) it is high-throughput; (iii) it provides "absolute" quantifications, (iv) it is reproducible (v) it is transferable, allowing the direct comparison of data acquired in different sites. The research that Simons is directing is exploring how the metabolic status of the body is reflected in blood lipidomes. The studies are suggesting that multiparametric blood lipidomes are differentiating between different diseases and between health and disease.

Membership Type

International Member

Election Year


Primary Section

Section 22: Cellular and Developmental Biology