History of the IBP

Research aimed at investigation of physical properties of biological systems has a long tradition in Brno. The history of biophysics in the former Czechoslovak Republic is closely connected with two men, who were active at the Masaryk University in the early thirties, Ferdinand Herčík and Vilém Laufberger. Whereas Professor Laufberger moved to Charles University in Prague in 1935, Ferdinand Herčík remained in Brno.

Professor Herčík´s scientific interests, which ranked from studies of effects of ionising radiation on living organisms to molecular biophysics, prompted him to initiate actions directed at establishing a specialised laboratory devoted to research in biophysics.

On 1 February 1954 he established the Laboratory of Biophysics as a part of the former Czechoslovak Academy of Sciences. On 1 January 1955 the Laboratory was transformed into the Institute of Biophysics. Professor Ferdinand Herčík was named director of the Institute. In the initial stage the Institute was predominantly equipped for radiobiological research.

Due to its experience and scientific results the Institute was included into the principal task of the State Research Programme, "Biophysical research of the living matter", until 1990, and became a centre for postgraduate education in biophysics and participated also in pregraduate education in cooperation with Masaryk University .

In 1966, after death of Professor Ferdinand Herčík, the former scientific secretary Dr. Zdeněk Karpfel was elected a director of the Institute. Under his leadership the research aims gradually changed from radiobiology to cell and molecular biophysics. In this period the Institute grew up and in 1989 consisted of 97 research fellows.

Since 1970 the research of the Institute of Biophysics was included into the international programmes such as COMECON and Intercosmos. Other types of international collaboration were based mainly on bilateral co-operations amongst the countries of the Eastern bloc.

At the beginning of 1990 the system of "scientific planning" was abolished and the process of transformation of the Academy commenced. The transformation of the Institute of Biophysics begun by the election of the Scientific Council and by the election of the Dr. Milan Bezděk a director of the Institute.

The new scientific management respected the traditional research activities, the internal organisation of the Institute has been changed, however. Competitive associations of teams with related research tasks were established instead of former departments. The research concerned three thematic areas: molecular biophysics, biophysics of complex systems, biophysics of the effects of external factors.

In the next period, in accordance with the transformation of the Academy, research activities of individual teams were evaluated, and due to the differential reduction of the staff, the number of research fellows decreased to 65%, compared with the year 1998.

These changes were aimed at preparing conditions for a new style of the research work based on the individual responsibility of team leaders. Thus, the Institute was ready to participate in the grant system and, in the years 1990-1996, the Institute proved to be competitive both on the national and international level. The research results and the management of the Institute were evaluated by the independent international evaluation committee in 1996 with the conclusion that the Institute has established an excellent position in science.

In 1997 Dr. Bezděk was elected a member of the Scientific Council of the Academy and resigned from the position of the director. In the same year Dr. Jana Šlotova has been elected a new director.

In the period 1997-2000 some significant accomplishments were reached. The Institute has become a Methodical and Educational Centre of Molecular Biophysics and opened a National node of the ICCBnet, a constitutive part of the International Center for Cooperation in Bioinformatics Network.

In 1999 Ministry of Education of the Czech Republic granted to the Institute of Biophysics the accreditation to participate in the Doctoral Study Programms in cooperation with Faculty of Science of the Masaryk University in biophysics, molecular and cellular biology, genetics, physiology and evolutionary biology of animals and immunology.

The management of the Institute payed attention to the systematical renewing the infrastructure (computers and networking as well as scientific instrumentation) and establishing creative conditions for the research. The Laboratories of the Institute were grouped into five Programmes, international contacts of scientists were stabilised and joint research continued on direct agreements or grants among partners. The research themes are determined by the guidelines of the Scientific Conception, based on the Institute traditions and prospective scientific trends. This Conception is upgraded periodically and its present version is valid for three years.

In the frame of periodical evaluations of institutes of the Academy, second evaluation of the Institute by the international evaluation committee was accomplished in 2000. The Committee declared that the scientific results obtained contribute to the progressive recognition of important biophysical characteristics of living systems and the Institute of Biophysics was recognised as the most important czech institution in the field of biophysics.