The IUF was founded in 2001. Its legal form is that of a non-profit, limited liability company. Sole shareholder is the “Gesellschaft zur Förderung umweltmedizinischer Forschung e.V.” (GFUF, Society for the Promotion of Environmental-Medical Research) – a non-profit association of seven highly prestigious medical associations. In January 2011, the IUF became a member of the Leibniz Association and was renamed IUF – Leibniz Research Institute for Environmental Medicine.

The IUF’s major task is to carry out molecular preventive medical research of environmentally-induced disorders. The main objective is to improve health care with regard to environmental pollution and to develop preventive strategies. The IUF carries out research projects addressing the biological effects that pollutants (in particular particles, non-ionizing radiation and chemicals) have on humans. Environmentally-induced aging processes of the cardiovascular system and the skin as well as environmentally-induced disturbances of the immune system and damages to the brain are in focus. Based on the scientific competence in the institute these investigations are carried out interdisciplinarily. The IUF bundles scientific expertise in the fields of toxicology, immunology, molecular aging research and epidemiology. This interdisciplinary research approach needs experimental models of one or more barrier organs (boundary surface medicine). The impact of environmental factors is mainly investigated in the organ systems skin, lung, cardiovascular system, and brain. Besides in vitro examinations on cultured cells and (partly genuinely at the IUF developed) human 3 dimensional organic model systems, in vivo examinations are conducted in animal models as well as in humans using a specially established research unit for this purpose. Additionally, epidemiological studies are conducted.

The IUF has about 130 employees at the moment. Approximately half of them are being financed through external project-bound grants provided by the German Research Foundation (Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft, DFG), the European Union, the Federal Ministry of Education and Research (Bundesministerium für Bildung und Forschung, BMBF) and other research-funding institutions.