Thomas Bosch


Academic Appointments

Since 2000
Professor (C4) and Director, Zoological Institute, Christian-Albrechts-University Kiel

2010 – 2013
Vice President of Christian-Albrechts-University Kiel

Since 2013
Head/Director of Interdisciplinary Research Center « Kiel Life Science » (KLS)

2016 -2023
Head/ Spokesperson Collaborative Research Center (CRC / SFB 1182) “Origins and functions of metaorganisms”

1997 -1999
Professor (C3) „Spezielle Zoologie“ at the Friedrich-Schiller University Jena

1993 -1997
Junior Faculty (Oberassistent, Privatdozent C2), Zoological Institute, University of Munich


1976 – 1983
Study of Biology at University of Munich and University College Swansea, UK

1983 – 1986
Doctoral student, Zoological Institute, University of Munich

1986 – 1988
Post-Doc (Feodor Lynen fellow of Alexander-von-Humboldt Foundation) at the Developmental Biology Center, University of California, Irvine, USA

1988 – 1993
Research Assistant, Zoological Institute, University of Munich

Habilitation in „Zoologie“, University of Munich

Major research interests

Evolutionary Developmental Biology; Zoology; Comparative genomics; host-microbiota interactions; the influence of bacteria on animal development; the evolution of animal-bacterial interactions


Birth Date: 3 September 1955. German Citizen

Current main grants and functions

Since 2013
Head/Speaker Interdisciplinary Research Center «Kiel Life Science» (KLS) at the University of Kiel

2016 – 2023
Founding Director DFG Collaborative Research Center (CRC/SFB 1182) „Origin and Function of Metaorganisms” 2016-2024: ca 22 million € to the consortium

2024 – 2027
Principal Investigator, Collaborative Research Center CRC 1182 (SFB 1182 ) „Origin and Function of Metaorganisms” at the University of Kiel Project C1 (630.000,00 €)

Since 2016
Fellow, Canadian Institute for Advanced Research (CIFAR), Human and the Microbiome Program

Since 2021
Principal Investigator, Collaborative Research Center CRC 1461 (SFB 1461) “Neurotronics: Bioinspired information processing” at the University of Kiel . Project A1 (626.900,00 €)

Président de la Conferences Jacques Monod “Comparative Biology of Aging”. Roscoff November 2022

Chair, Gordon Research Conference “Animal-Microbe symbioses”, June 2023 Italy

Fellowships, important rewards

Feodor Lynen Fellowship (Alexander-von-Humboldt Foundation)

Honorary Professorship St. Petersburg State University, Russia

Doctor „honoris causa“ from St. Petersburg State University, Russia

De Bary Lecture, University of Vienna

Carl-Friedrich-von-Siemens Foundation Lecture, Munich

Koshland Lecture Award, University of Chicago, USA

Distinguished Lecturer, King Abdullah University Science Technology (KAUST), Saudi Arabia

Since 2016
Senior Fellow, Canadian Institute for Advanced Research (CIFAR)

Peter Hemmerich Vorlesung, Universität Konstanz

Fellow, Wissenschaftskolleg zu Berlin / Institute for Advanced Study in Berlin, Academic Year 2018/2019

Kane Memorial Lecturer, University of Hawaii

The Hilgendorf Lecture, Univ Tübingen

The René Touraine lecturer, Europ Soc Dermatol Research (ESDR), Sept 2020, Amsterdam

Wissenschaftspreis der Deutschen Zoologischen Gesellschaft (DZG) – Karl-Ritter-von-Frisch-Medaille

Most significant contributions to science

My work helped to develop new paradigms across a range of evolutionary developmental biology topics. My work also discovered early emerging metazoans as holobionts/metaorganisms and helped to identify fundamental components and mechanisms through which an animal host regulates its microbiome.

I. Evolution of stem cells

As a junior scientist I discovered that ancestral metazoans have multipotent stem cells capable to differentiate into both somatic and germline lineages (Bosch & David 1986, Proc. Nat. Acad. Sci. USA. 83; Bosch TCG and CN David, 1987, Dev.Biol.121, 170 citations). My work also uncovered FoxO as one of evolutionary conserved genes controlling stem cell biology, stem cell aging and immunoaging (Boehm et al, 2012, Proc Natl Acad Sci USA, 109(48), 172 citations). More recently we discovered that tissue homeostasis in Hydra can be dysregulated by environmental factors leading to tumor formation (Domazet-Lošo et al, 2014, Nature Communications 5/1, 102 citations)

II. Method Development

Over the course of the years we developed a number of methods which represent a significant community resources and are widely used by dev biologists (Lohmann J, HP Schickle and TCG Bosch (1995) REN, a rapid, efficient and non-radioactive method for differential display and isolation of mRNA, BioTechniques 18 (146 citations).
I participated in an international project to sequence the Hydra magnipapillata genome. The research generated numerous publications, including a full-length article (and accompanying ‘News & Views’) in the pages of Nature (Chapman et al (2010) The dynamic genome of Hydra, Nature 464, 732 citations). With our homemade “Compagen” platform we developed a comparative genomics platform for early branching metazoan animals (G Hemmrich, TCG Bosch, Bioessays 30 (10), 1010-1018; 109 citations)
Most significantly, my lab developed a robust method to generate transgenic Hydra polyps (Lohmann J, I Endl & TCG Bosch (1999) Silencing of developmental genes in Hydra. Developmental Biology, 214: 211-214, 324 citations ; Wittlieb J, Khalturin K, Lohmann JU, Anton-Erxleben F and Bosch TCG (2006) Transgenic Hydra allow in vivo tracking of individual stem cells during morphogenesis. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA 103, 295 citations). Klimovich A, Wittlieb J, Bosch TCG (2019) Transgenesis in Hydra to characterize gene function and visualize cell behaviour. Nature Protocol

III. Ancestral Mechanisms mediating patterning formation

Throughout my career I have made substantial contributions to our understanding of the evolution of development (Weinziger, …, Bosch (1994): Ks1, an epithelial cell specific gene, responds to early signals of head formation in Hydra. Development 120; Endl I, J Lohmann and TCG Bosch (1999) Head specific gene expression in Hydra, PNAS 96, 1445-1450; Lohmann & Bosch (2000) The novel peptide HEADY specifies apical fate in a simple, radially symmetric metazoan. Genes and Development, 14 (21); Augustin, …, Bosch TCG (2006) Dickkopf related genes are components of the positional value gradient in Hydra. Dev. Biol. 296. Bosch: Why polyps regenerate and we don’t: Towards a cellular and molecular framework for Hydra regeneration, Dev Biol 303 (2) (217 citations). Mortzfeld , … Bosch (2019). Temperature and insulin signaling regulate body size in Hydra by the Wnt and TGF-beta pathways, Nature Comm.; López-Quintero, …, Bosch TCG (2019) Boundary maintenance in the ancestral metazoan Hydra depends on histone acetylation, Developmental Biology). Khalturin, …, Bosch: More than just orphans: are taxonomically-restricted genes important in evolution? Trends in Genetics 25 (9) (368 citations)

IV. Origin and function of symbiosis and host-microbiota interactions

My work helped to develop new concepts and paradigms in host-microbiome research across a range of topics (“Metaorganisms as the New Frontier”, Bosch & McFall-Ngai (2011) Zoology 114 (4), 303 citations). Fraune & Bosch (2007): Long-term maintenance of species-specific bacterial microbiota in the basal metazoan Hydra. PNAS 104 (32) (340 citations). Fraune & Bosch (2010) Why bacteria matter in animal development and evolution, Bioessays 32 (7) (277 citations), Bosch TCG (2013) Cnidarian-Microbe Interactions and the Origin of Innate Immunity in Metazoans. Ann Rev Microbiol Vol 67, 499-518, 138 citations ; McFall-Ngai et al 2013: Animals in a bacterial world, a new imperative for the life sciences. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2013;110(9), 1850 citations ; Gilbert SF, TCG Bosch, C Ledón-Rettig (2015) Eco-Evo-Devo: developmental symbiosis and developmental plasticity as evolutionary agents. Nature Reviews Genetics 16(10), 273 citations).

My current research specializes in beneficial relationships between animals and bacteria, including the establishment and maintenance of symbiosis, the evolution of these interactions, and how they affect the animal’s health. Specifically, we discovered that in Hydra there is a species specific microbiota which is an integral part of the innate immune system (Fraune S and Bosch TCG (2007) Long-term maintenance of species-specific bacterial microbiota in the basal metazoan Hydra. PNAS 104, 332 citations). Similar patterns have been observed in taxonomically diverse animal groups and this is now believed to be a universal principle of animal-microbe symbiosis (Bordenstein & Theis, 2015; McFall-Ngai et al., 2013; Zilber-Rosenberg & Rosenberg, 2008). My work has shown that the innate immune system and its antimicrobial peptides are used to shape the microbiome ( Fraune , … Bosch (2010) In an early branching metazoan, bacterial colonization of the embryo is controlled by maternal antimicrobial peptides, Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA , 107, 134 citations; Distinct antimicrobial peptide expression determines host species-specific bacterial associations (S Franzenburg, J Walter, S Künzel, J Wang, JF Baines, TCG Bosch, … (2013) PNAS 110 (39), 249 citations). Bosch & Zasloff(2021) mBio; that communication between host and microbiota is done by conserved innate immune pathways (Franzenburg, …, Bosch (2012) MyD88 deficient Hydra reveal ancient function of TLR-signaling in sensing bacterial colonizers. PNAS 109 (47), 136 citations). Taubenheim J, Willoweit-Ohl D, Knop M, Franzenburg S, He J, Bosch TCG, Fraune S (2020) Bacteria- and temperature-regulated peptides modulate beta-catenin signalling in Hydra. Proc Natl Acad Sci USA); that ancient nervous systems interact with the local microbiota and that the microbiota affects the nervous system (Augustin , … Bosch (2017) A secreted antibacterial neuropeptide shapes the microbiome in Hydra: Nature Comm., 8(1):69; Klimovich … Bosch TCG (2020) Prototypical pacemaker neurons interact with the resident microbiota. Proc Natl Acad Sci US,; Murillo-Rincon … Bosch TCG (2017) Spontaneous body contractions are modulated by the microbiome of Hydra. Sci Rep. 7(1):15937); and that metabolic co-dependence drives the evolutionarily ancient Hydra-Chlorella symbiosis (Hamada … Bosch TCG (2018) Metabolic co-dependence. eLife 2018;7:e35122).

In the last decade I have built one of the strongest interdisciplinary host-microbiome programs in Germany (CRC1182) coordinating the research efforts of >20 scientists at 8 institutions. The project is supported by the German Science Foundation DFG and lead to high international visibility (Chair of Gordon Conference; CIFAR Fellow). I am now a recognized thought leader regarding the cornerstone role microbiota play in the life sciences.

Represantative publications

Google Scholar statistics: ~16921 citations (~8147 since 2018)
h-index=66, i10-index=156



Bosch TCG (Ed.) (2008) “Stem Cells: From Hydra to Man”.192 pages. Springer Netherlands (2008) ISBN-10: 1402082738;

Bosch TCG and D Miller (2016): The Holobiont Imperative: Perspectives from Early Emerging Animals. Springer New York,

Bosch TCG & M Hadfield (Eds.) (2020) Cellular Dialogues in the Holobiont. CRC Press, London, New York, ISBN 978-0-367-22881-1

Popular science writing

I am committed to the process of communicating science and research to non-specialist audiences.

Bosch TCG (2017) Der Mensch als Holobiont – Mikroben als Schlüssel zu einem neuen Verständnis von Leben und Gesundheit, paperback. Ludwig Verlag.

Bosch TCG (2022) Die Unentbehrlichen – Mikroben, des Körpers verborgene Helfer. Warum sind so viele Menschen krank? Antworten aus der Mikrobiomforschung. Springer Fachbuch. ISBN 978-3-662-65082-0