The origins of the molecular biology discipline stem from the early 1960s when scientists first began studying biological entities at a molecular level. The EMBC was founded by the European Molecular Biology Organization (EMBO) as a way of funding and structuring the field in Europe.
In 1964, EMBO was incorporated as a non-profit organization under Swiss law and approximately 200 leading scientists from within the emerging molecular biology field were selected as the first members. EMBO thus established itself as an academy and took its first steps towards becoming a unique organization. As the role of EMBO and the range of its activities was defined, the organization began to seek the financial support to execute its plans.
The newly established Volkswagen Foundation initially supported the early activities of EMBO. The EMBO Council then sought more long-term support from the European states with the guiding principle that
… projects and persons be chosen regardless of nationality and that all its (EMBO) activities be guided by scientific excellence, coupled with usefulness to European molecular biology.
These efforts led 14 governments to participate in an inter-governmental action in 1970 to ensure support of EMBO. These governments were Austria, Belgium, Denmark, the Federal Republic of Germany, France, Greece, Israel, Italy, the Netherlands, Norway, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, and the United Kingdom. As a result, the European Molecular Biology Conference (EMBC) was established as the legal entity to provide a secure source of funds, initially for the EMBO fellowships, courses, workshops and administration, as well as a framework to establish the European Molecular Biology Laboratory (EMBL).
Today, the EMBC supports those EMBO activities that fall within the area of its General Programme. EMBO, in turn, acts through its members as a guarantor of the quality of the programmes and as a source of new initiatives appropriate for the evolving field of molecular biology. These initiatives may be separate from the General Programme.
Since 1969 the number of EMBC Member States has continued to grow and today comprises 30 countries from Europe and neighbouring regions. Globally, EMBC and EMBO have two EMBC Associate Member States (India, Singapore) and two co-operation partners (ANID, Chile and NSTC, Taiwan). In this way, the EMBC is contributing to scientific integration in Europe and beyond.
*Observer status since 1970