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 22 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), and Monterotondo (near Rome). 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. Israel is the only Asian state that has full membership.

Research at EMBL

EMBL main entrance

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. 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,[3] 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
 Iceland 2005
 Ireland 2003
 Israel 1974
 Italy 1974
 Luxembourg 2007
 Malta 2016
 Netherlands 1974
 Norway 1985
 Portugal 1998
 Spain 1986
 Sweden 1974
  Switzerland 1974
 United Kingdom 1974
Prospect Member State
 Hungary 2014[4]
 Lithuania 2015[5]
 Poland 2014[6]
 Slovakia 2014[7]
Associate member
 Argentina 2014[8]
 Australia 2008


The EMBL Heidelberg buildings, including the new Advanced Training Centre

Advanced training is one of EMBL's four core missions. 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.[9]

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,[10] 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.[11]


EMBL was the idea of Leó Szilárd,[12] James Watson and John Kendrew.[13] Their goal was to create an international research centre, similar to CERN, to rival the strongly American-dominated field of molecular biology.[14] Kendrew served as the first Director-general of EMBL until 1982, and was succeeded by Lennart Philipson.[15][16][17] From 1993 to 2005 Fotis Kafatos,[18][19] served as director and was succeeded by Iain Mattaj, EMBL's fourth and current Director General since 2005.[1]


  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. 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.
  4. "Hungary joins EMBL as prospect member state".
  5. "Lithuania, new prospect member state".
  6. "Witamy! EMBL welcomes Poland as prospect member state".
  7. "Slovak Republic becomes EMBL Prospect Member State".
  8. "Argentina joins EMBL as associate member state".
  9. Training at EMBL, EMBL website
  10. University of Heidelberg — Press Releases
  11. Science and Society Programme, EMBL website
  12. Maas, W; Crow, J. F. (2004). "Leo Szilard: A personal remembrance". Genetics. 167 (2): 555–8. doi:10.1534/genetics.104.030320. PMC 1470899Freely accessible. PMID 15238510.
  13. Holmes, K. C. (2001). "Sir John Cowdery Kendrew. 24 March 1917 - 23 August 1997: Elected F.R.S. 1960". Biographical Memoirs of Fellows of the Royal Society. 47: 311–332. doi:10.1098/rsbm.2001.0018. PMID 15124647.
  14. "EMBL History". 2015. Archived from the original on 2014-04-13.
  15. 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 3223467Freely accessible. PMID 22106290.
  16. Simons, K.; Mattaj, I. W. (2011). "Lennart Philipson (1929-2011)". Science. 333 (6043): 711. doi:10.1126/science.1210990. PMID 21817041.
  17. Baltimore, D. (2011). "Lennart Philipson (1929–2011): A Warrior Has Passed". PLoS Biology. 9 (9): e1001153. doi:10.1371/journal.pbio.1001153.
  18. Gilbert, N. (2010). "The labours of Fotis Kafatos". Nature. 464 (7285): 20. doi:10.1038/464020a. PMID 20203577.
  19. Kafatos, F. (2008). "Straight talk with...Fotis Kafatos". Nature Medicine. 14 (9): 902–903. doi:10.1038/nm0908-902. PMID 18776875.

External links

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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