Vivo-Morpholinos: Same oligos, from cultures to critters -


Comments from the European Molecular Biology Laboratory
Iain Mattaj

Iain Mattaj is the Director General of the European Molecular Biology Laboratory (EMBL), which is a publicly funded basic research and molecular biology laboratory in Europe. EMBL consists of approximately 85 independent research groups contained in five separate facilities throughout Europe. In this brief interview with DMM, Dr Mattaj presents some of EMBL’s approaches to advancing scientific research.

Iain Mattaj, Director General of EMBL

Are there certain philosophies that EMBL uses to guide its selection of internal scientists to create an environment that is particularly conducive to medical research?

EMBL is a basic molecular biology research institute first and foremost, so we do not favour medically related science per se. However, given the enormous insight into biological systems made possible by recent advances in life science research, much of basic biology is rather directly disease related. This means that many of our scientists are, or become, very interested in the medical implications of the work they are doing, and what we try to do institutionally is to make it easier for our researchers to make contact with clinically orientated collaborators via our Centre for Disease Mechanisms, which organises workshops with a mix of basic and clinical speakers, and institutional partnerships.

What qualities do you look for when choosing your external partnerships?

Scientific quality, complementarity to EMBL’s own science and a willingness to adopt aspects of EMBL’s scientific culture, such as international recruitment, early independence, external review by recognised leaders and a staff turnover policy.

Is there anything that you would like to add about EMBL’s roles that are relevant to the model organism research community?

EMBL Main Laboratory, Heidelberg, Germany

The EMBL Monterotondo outstation is focused on mouse biology and mouse models of human disease, and participates in many European initiatives aimed at more effective coordination of the construction and analysis of mouse mutants. In addition, the EMBL-European Bioinformatics Institute (EMBL-EBI) data resources are of course crucial for researchers everywhere working with model organisms.


  • Frequent publications in DMM will include personal perspectives from leaders of institutions, organizations and funding agencies about the qualities they look for in recruiting, funding or enabling medical research.