European Molecular Biology Laboratory

European Molecular Biology Laboratory (EMBL)
Established 1974
Director General Iain Mattaj[1]
Faculty ~95

The European Molecular Biology Laboratory (EMBL) is a molecular biology research institution supported by 25 member states, four prospect and two associate member states.[2] EMBL was created in 1974 and is an intergovernmental organisation funded by public research money from its member states. Research at EMBL is conducted by approximately 85 independent groups covering the spectrum of molecular biology. The Laboratory operates from five sites: the main laboratory in Heidelberg, and outstations in Hinxton (the European Bioinformatics Institute (EBI), in England), Grenoble (France), Hamburg (Germany), Monterotondo (near Rome) and Barcelona (Spain). EMBL groups and laboratories perform basic research in molecular biology and molecular medicine as well as training for scientists, students and visitors. The organization aids in the development of services, new instruments and methods, and technology in its member states.


EMBL was the idea of Leó Szilárd,[3] James Watson and John Kendrew.[4] Their goal was to create an international research centre, similar to CERN, to rival the strongly American-dominated field of molecular biology.[5] Kendrew served as the first Director-general of EMBL until 1982, and was succeeded by Lennart Philipson.[6][7][8] From 1993 to 2005 Fotis Kafatos,[9][10] served as director and was succeeded by Iain Mattaj, EMBL's fourth and current Director General since 2005.[1] In January 2019, Edith Heard will succeed Mattaj, and become the fifth Director General of EMBL.[11]


Each of the different EMBL sites have a specific research field. The EMBL-EBI is a hub for bioinformatics research and services, developing and maintaining a large number of scientific databases, which are free of charge. At Grenoble and Hamburg, research is focused on structural biology. EMBL's dedicated Mouse Biology Unit is located in Monterotondo. Scientists at EMBL Barcelona will explore how tissues and organs function and develop, in health and disease [12]. At the headquarters in Heidelberg, there are units in Cell Biology and Biophysics, Developmental Biology, Genome Biology and Structural and Computational Biology as well as service groups complementing the aforementioned research fields.

Many scientific breakthroughs have been made at EMBL, most notably the first systematic genetic analysis of embryonic development in the fruit fly by Christiane Nüsslein-Volhard and Eric Wieschaus,[13] for which they were awarded the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 1995.


Member country[2] Year of joining
 Austria 1974
 Belgium 1990
 Croatia 2006
 Czech Republic 2014
 Denmark 1974
 Finland 1984
 France 1974
 Germany 1974
 Greece 1984
 Hungary 2017
 Iceland 2005
 Ireland 2003
 Israel 1974
 Italy 1974
 Luxembourg 2007
 Malta 2016
 Montenegro 2018
 Netherlands 1974
 Norway 1985
 Portugal 1998
 Slovakia 2018
 Spain 1986
 Sweden 1974
  Switzerland 1974
 United Kingdom 1974
Prospect Member State
 Lithuania 2015[14]
 Poland 2014[15]
Associate member
 Argentina 2014[16]
 Australia 2008


Advanced training is one of EMBL's five core missions.[17] Over the years, the Laboratory has established a number of training activities, of which the EMBL International PhD Programme (EIPP) is the flagship - it has a student body of about 200, and since 1997 has had the right to award its own degree. Other activities include the postdoctoral programme, including the EMBL Interdisciplinary Postdoctoral programme (EIPOD); the European Learning Laboratory for the Life Sciences (ELLS) for teacher training; and the Visitor Programme.[18]

EMBL Advanced Training Centre

In March 2010, the EMBL Advanced Training Centre (ATC) was inaugurated on the main campus in Heidelberg. Shaped in the form of a double helix,[19] it hosts conferences and provides training.

Science and society

EMBL also runs an active Science and Society Programme which offers activities and events on current questions in life science research for the general public and the scientific community.[20]

See also

Notes and references

  1. 1 2 MATTAJ, Iain William. Who's Who. 2015 (online Oxford University Press ed.). A & C Black, an imprint of Bloomsbury Publishing plc. (subscription required)
  2. 1 2 "EMBL member states". European Molecular Biology Laboratory. 2015.
  3. Maas, W; Crow, J. F. (2004). "Leo Szilard: A personal remembrance". Genetics. 167 (2): 555–8. doi:10.1534/genetics.104.030320. PMC 1470899. PMID 15238510.
  4. Holmes, K. C. (2001). "John Cowdery Kendrew". Biographical Memoirs of Fellows of the Royal Society. 47: 311–332. doi:10.1098/rsbm.2001.0018. PMID 15124647.
  5. "EMBL History". 2015. Archived from the original on 2014-04-13.
  6. Pettersson, U (2011). "Lennart Philipson: A fighter is gone". Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. 108 (47): 18875. doi:10.1073/pnas.1116859108. PMC 3223467. PMID 22106290.
  7. Simons, K.; Mattaj, I. W. (2011). "Lennart Philipson (1929-2011)". Science. 333 (6043): 711. doi:10.1126/science.1210990. PMID 21817041.
  8. Baltimore, D. (2011). "Lennart Philipson (1929–2011): A Warrior Has Passed". PLoS Biology. 9 (9): e1001153. doi:10.1371/journal.pbio.1001153.
  9. Gilbert, N. (2010). "The labours of Fotis Kafatos". Nature. 464 (7285): 20. doi:10.1038/464020a. PMID 20203577.
  10. Kafatos, F. (2008). "Straight talk with...Fotis Kafatos". Nature Medicine. 14 (9): 902–903. doi:10.1038/nm0908-902. PMID 18776875.
  11. Noyes, Dan (2017-06-28). "EMBL Council selects next Director General". EMBL etc.
  13. Nüsslein-Volhard, C.; Wieschaus, E. (1980). "Mutations affecting segment number and polarity in Drosophila". Nature. 287 (5785): 795–801. doi:10.1038/287795a0. PMID 6776413.
  14. "Lithuania, new prospect member state".
  15. "Witamy! EMBL welcomes Poland as prospect member state".
  16. "Argentina joins EMBL as associate member state".
  18. Training at EMBL, EMBL website
  19. University of Heidelberg — Press Releases
  20. Science and Society Programme, EMBL website

Coordinates: 49°23′4.64″N 8°42′36.51″E / 49.3846222°N 8.7101417°E / 49.3846222; 8.7101417

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