The European Molecular Biology Laboratory (EMBL) was established in 1974 by 10 founding member states, including Switzerland, which serves as the depositary state. The EMBL is part of a special project of the European Molecular Biology Conference (EMBC). The EMBL supports European cooperation in fundamental molecular biology research, provides the necessary infrastructure and contributes to the ongoing development of cutting-edge instruments and methods for modern biology.
Since then, 27 countries are members of the EMBL. The 10 founding countries (Austria, Denmark, France, Germany, Israel, Italy, the Netherlands, Sweden, Switzerland and the United Kingdom) were joined by Finland (1984), Greece (1984), Norway (1985), Spain (1986), Belgium (1990), Portugal (1998), Ireland (2003), Iceland (2005), Croatia (2006), Luxembourg (2007), the Czech Republic (2014), Malta (2016), Hungary (2017), Slovakia (2018), Montenegro (2018), Poland (2019) and Lithuania (2019).
Thanks to its outstanding work, EMBL has become one of the world’s foremost molecular biology laboratories, recognised both in and outside of Europe. EMBL is home to over 80 independent research groups, which often work on an interdisciplinary basis. It provides researchers from member states with high quality services in areas such as microscopy, structural resolution and bioinformatics. These services are essential for maintaining a high level of research in Europe in the field of molecular biology. In addition to fundamental research and the development of new methods and techniques, one of EMBL's most important objectives is the training of young researchers. The EMBL contributes to the training of current and future European molecular biologists through its international doctoral programme, its postdoctoral programme and a large number of courses and workshops.
EMBL has over 1700 employees. The organisation’s headquarters is in Heidelberg, where around 800 researchers work. In addition to its headquarters, EMBL operates five dedicated research laboratories (outstations).
The epigenetics and neurobiology laboratory in Monterotondo (near Rome, Italy) is specialised in mouse genetics. This is also where the European Mutant Mouse Archives (EMMA) are located.
The two structural biology laboratories in Hamburg und Grenoble provide the EMBL and biologists from EMBL member states with access to x-ray radiation from the Deutsches Elektronen-Synchrotron (DESY) and the European Synchrotron Radiation Facility (ESRF) as well as the neutron flux at the Institut Laue-Langevin (ILL).
Established in 2017, the tissue biology and disease-modelling laboratory in Barcelona is EMBL’s most recent outstation. Specialising in human biology, its purpose is to gain a clearer understanding of diseases.
The European Bioinformatics Institute (EMBL-EBI) in Hinxton, Cambridgeshire, is home to Europe’s most important electronic database for biological information. EMBL-EBI develops and provides important archives and analysis tools for bioinformatics research. The headquarters of the European Life Sciences Infrastructure for Biological Information (ELIXIR) are located right next to the EMBL-EBI. Founded in 2014, this intergovernmental organisation is the result of a special project launched by EMBL. Switzerland is also a member of ELIXIR.
The scientific community in Switzerland was very actively involved in the creation of EMBL and has always supported it and gained many benefits as a result. Switzerland contributes 4.22% of the EMBL's annual budget of around EUR 115 million. The corresponding funding allocation is included in the budget of the State Secretariat for Education, Research and Innovation (SERI).