The European Molecular Biology Laboratory (EMBL) is a molecular biology research institution supported by 21 member states,[3] three prospect and two associate member states. 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.

Research at EMBL

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,[5] for which they were awarded the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 1995.


Member country[3]Year of joining
 Czech Republic2014
 United Kingdom1974
Prospect Member State
Associate member


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.[11]

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,[12] 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.[13]


EMBL was the idea of Leó Szilárd,[15] James Watson and John Kendrew.[18] Their goal was to create an international research centre, similar to CERN, to rival the strongly American-dominated field of molecular biology.[20] Kendrew served as the first Director-general of EMBL until 1982, and was succeeded by Lennart Philipson.[22][25][26] From 1993 to 2005 Fotis Kafatos,[28][30] served as director and was succeeded by Iain Mattaj, EMBL's fourth and current Director General since 2005.[2]