RNA modifications

Modern Research in the Life Sciences is interdisciplinary by default. The Helm group integrates disciplines from chemistry, biology, physics, bioinformatics, and pharmacy to advance research on nucleic acids, in particular on RNA. The central focus is on RNA modifications of natural or synthetic origin. Insight into how and why nature chemically modifies ribonucleosides guides the design and synthesis of man-made nucleic acids, with applications in fundamental science, biotec, and therapy alike. The Helm group has made significant contributions to two major areas of interest which are RNA modification and delivery of modified RNA. We have been able to do so mainly because we maintain a balanced spectrum of in-house competences and cooperations that includes synthetic organic chemistry, single molecule biophysics, sophisticated RNA biochemistry, cutting edge RNA analytics, and cell culture.

The current research focus is on the so-called “epitranscriptome”, i.e. the information contained in transcribed, process and modified RNAs of a cell. Deciphering the various aspects of the epitranscriptome, in particular of numerous RNA modifications is a driving force in technology development of the group. Applications with pharmaceutical and therapeutic perspectives include analytics of RNA vaccines and recognition of RNA by the innate immune system.

Research website

Positions held

  • Since 2009: Associate Professor of Pharmaceutical Chemistry (W2), Johannes Gutenberg University (JGU), Mainz
  • 2002 - 2009: Independent Head of research group, IPMB Heidelberg University
  • 2001 - 2002: Postdoc at the Free University of Berlin
  • 1999 - 2001: Postdoc, California Institute of Technology


  • 1999: PhD ULP Strasbourg, France
  • 1995: Diploma in Chemistry

Selected publications by Mark Helm

Werner S, Galliot A, Pichot F, Kemmer T, Marchand V, Sednev MV, Lence T, Roignant JY, König J, Höbartner C, Motorin Y, Hildebrandt A, Helm M (2021) NOseq: amplicon sequencing evaluation method for RNA m6A sites after chemical deamination. Nucleic Acids Res, 49(4):e23 Link

Werner S, Schmidt L, Marchand V, Kemmer T, Falschlunger C, Sednev MV, Bec G, Ennifar E, Höbartner C, Micura R, Motorin Y, Hildebrandt A, Helm M (2020) Machine learning of reverse transcription signatures of variegated polymerases allows mapping and discrimination of methylated purines in limited transcriptomes. Nucleic Acids Res, 48(7):3734-3746 Link

Jacob D, Thüring K, Galliot A, Marchand V, Galvanin A, Ciftci A, Scharmann K, Stock M, Roignant JY, Leidel SA, Motorin Y, Schaffrath R, Klassen R, Helm M (2019) Absolute Quantification of Noncoding RNA by Microscale Thermophoresis. Angew Chem Int Ed Engl, 58(28):9565-9569 Link

Keller P, Freund I, Marchand V, Bec G, Huang R, Motorin Y, Eigenbrod T, Dalpke A, Helm M (2018) Double methylation of tRNA-U54 to 2'-O-methylthymidine (Tm) synergistically decreases immune response by Toll-like receptor 7. Nucleic Acids Res, 46(18):9764-9775 Link

Lence T, Akhtar J, Bayer M, Schmid K, Spindler L, Ho CH, Kreim N, Andrade-Navarro MA, Poeck B,Helm M and Roignant JY (2016) m6A modulates neuronal functions and sex determination in Drosophila. Nature, 540:242-247 Link