Contemporary biology covers an enormous scale, from research on basic cellular processes to predictions about global climate change. But this spectrum has not been continuous: while biologists have long known that organisms physically adapt to their natural environment, the underlying genetic, molecular and biochemical processes have often remained a mystery. The Max Planck Institute for Developmental Biology is uniquely poised to help close this gap. At the atomic level, we are investigating how protein machines work. At the molecular and subcellular level, we are studying how proteins and RNA molecules cooperate to regulate fundamental processes, such as transcription, translation and signal transduction, and how this regulation depends on the location of proteins within the cell. At the tissue level, we are determining how cells interact to produce complex outcomes during development. Finally, at the whole organism level, we are asking how the naturally occurring interactions between microbes, plants and animals shape their respective genomes.