EMBC History Print

The origins of the molecular biology discipline stem from the early 1960's when scientists first began to study biological entities at a molecular level. The EMBC was founded by EMBO as a way of funding and structuring the field in Europe.

In 1964, the European Molecular Biology Organization 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 generously supported the early EMBO networking activities. 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."

This guiding principle, early EMBO achievements and the quality of people associated with EMBO, 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.

Legally, this governmental support had to be different from that which bound EMBO. As a result, the European Molecular Biology Conference (EMBC) was established as the legal entity to 1) provide a secure source of funds for a generic programme that included initially the EMBO fellowships, courses, workshops and administration and 2) provide 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 Member States of the EMBC has continued to grow. The core group of 14 members is supplemented today by Croatia, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Finland, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Montenegro, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia and Turkey. In recent years, new members have come increasingly from Eastern Europe. In this way, the EMBC is contributing to the integration of these countries into European science.


The Foundation of the European Molecular Biology Conference (EMBC), 1963 – 1969 (pdf)

Francesco Cassata, University of Genoa (Italy) and

Bruno J. Strasser, University of Geneva (Switzerland)

Reprint with minor typographical corrections of Cassata F, Strasser BJ. 2014


The EMBC Agreement

The full text of the agreement (pdf)

• 12 February 1969: 12 governments signed the Agreement

• 1970: formal ratification of EMBC

Accord instituant la Conference européene de biologie moleculaire (pdf) (French)

Agreement establishing the European Molecular Biology Conference (pdf) (English)

Übereinkommen zur Gründung einer Europäischen Konferenz für Molekularbiologie (pdf) (German)


EMBC Timeline (ratification)

2018 Montenegro
2016 Malta
2007 Belgium*
2006 Estonia
1999 Poland
1998 Croatia
1997 Slovenia
1994 Czech Republic
1993 Turkey
1992 Hungary
1978 Iceland
1977 Finland
1974 Ireland
1972 Greece
1970 Austria
United Kingdom
1969 Germany

*Observer status since 1970