Kai Simons received his M.D. from the University of Helsinki and pursued postdoctoral research at Rockefeller University in New York. He then returned to the University of Helsinki before moving to the newly formed EMBL in 1975 where he was the coordinator of the Cell Biology Program. In 1998, Simons became a director of the Max-Planck-Institute of Molecular Cell Biology and Genetics in Dresden where he continues to work as a group leader today.
Early in his career, Simons used Semliki Forest Virus to study the detergent solubilization of lipid membranes as well as assembly of the virus in the host cell. Later, he began to investigate the sorting of lipids and proteins in polarized cells. He is the father of the concept of lipid rafts as a mechanism to organize cell membranes.
Simons’ contributions have been recognized with numerous awards including membership in the National Academy of Sciences, USA and the German Academy of Sciences, Leopoldina.