Iain Mattaj

Director General

Professor Iain Mattaj was born in St Andrews, Scotland. He attended the University of Edinburgh, Scotland, and after completing his undergraduate degree in Biochemistry (honours), he obtained his PhD from the University of Leeds, England. Following his PhD, Iain carried out postdoctoral research at the Friedrich Miescher Institute, Switzerland, then at the Biocentre, University of Basel, Switzerland. In 1985, he joined EMBL as a Group Leader at the Heidelberg laboratory. He became Coordinator of the Gene Expression Unit at EMBL in 1990 before being promoted to the position of Scientific Director in 1999. Iain was appointed Director General of EMBL in May 2005.

In addition to his leadership success at EMBL, Iain's own research achievements have been considerable and varied. His early work centred on a group of ribonucleoprotein (RNP) particles that function in the processing of messenger RNA precursors. His analyses of these RNPs spanned a variety of topics, including transcription of the RNA components, RNA-protein interactions, function of the RNPs in messenger RNA production and assembly of the RNPs from their component parts in vivo. This work led to numerous studies of transport of RNA and proteins between the cell nucleus and cytoplasm. Iain’s group identified numerous factors and mechanisms involved in this important process. Iain’s more recent work has demonstrated the critical role of the Ran GTPase in regulating mitotic events including spindle assembly, nuclear pore complex formation and nuclear envelope assembly. His prominent standing in the field was underlined by his election as President of the RNA Society and his award of the prestigious Louis-Jeantet Prize for Medicine in 2001.

In addition, Iain has received numerous other awards and honorary lectureships, including the FEBS Anniversary Prize, Caledonian Research Foundation – Royal Society of Edinburgh Award, Italian Chemical Society Award, Feldberg Foundation Prize, Honorary Professor of the Faculty of Bio-Sciences of the Ruprecht-Karls-Universität Heidelberg, and Honorary Doctorate of the University of Edinburgh and the University of Dundee. His scientific contributions have also been recognised by his election as a Fellow of the Royal Society (London), Fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh, Member of Academia Europaea, Foreign Honorary Member of the American Academy of Arts and Science, Member of the Deutsche Akademie der Naturforscher (Leopoldina), appointed Trustee of the Darwin Trust, appointed Curator of the Lautenschläger Research Prize, appointed Member of the Life Sciences Search Committee for the Körber Prize, and appointed Member of the Search Committee for the Louis-Jeantet Prize for Medicine.

He is a member of many national and international scientific advisory boards and panels, including periods as chair of EIROforum, the Scientific Advisory Board of the DKFZ-ZMBH Alliance, and the Senior Awards Advisory Board of the Wellcome Trust. He is a member of the European Molecular Biology Organisation (EMBO) and helped make The EMBO Journal a highly successful international scientific journal, acting as Executive Editor from 1990 to 2004.


Kirsi Heerde
Personal Assistant to the Director General
Tel: +49 6221 387-8201

Michael Thompson
Assistant to the Director General
Head of Council Secretariat
Tel: +49 6221 387-8288

Contact Email: dg-office@embl.org