Humanity faces massive challenges

Humanity faces massive challenges

The 2020s will have to be a decade in which we all, citizens of planet Earth, help to solve the pressing problems that threaten humankind and our environment. Climate change – of course – but also pollution and biodiversity loss, just to name a few. Humanity has been placing too many pressures on the natural world with devastating consequences – not least the COVID-19 pandemic, which experts have directly linked to habitat and biodiversity loss. We must act now to address these global problems and avoid further, catastrophic and irreversible damage to our planet. What we do over the next ten years will determine the future of life on this planet.

Life science research for our planet

The Environmental Research Initiative (ERI) aims to identify the best ideas and empower the brightest scientists to address global problems using any aspects of molecular biology. EMBL will support them with our state-of-the-art technology and infrastructure and an unparalleled interdisciplinary research culture.

Through ERI, EMBL will invest in the knowledge and curiosity of scientists, paving the way for innovative and impactful solutions to our most complex environmental problems.

“I started the Environmental Research Initiative because I see a tremendous chance in bringing EMBL’s world-leading know-how in the life sciences to the pressing problems of our times. Join me to help find new and creative solutions through research as the most effective way to preserve our environment."
- Prof. Matthias Hentze, EMBL Director

EMBL research tackles environmental challenges

EMBL scientists are already engaged in a number of exciting environmental research projects. With starting donations received from Friends of EMBL and other generous donors, EMBL has launched three catalyst projects in the context of the Environmental Research Initiative, a unique approach where science and technology meet philanthropy. These projects, which have enormous potential for fighting pollution through innovative life science research techniques and advanced technology, are just the tip of the iceberg of what EMBL and the life sciences can do to tackle urgent environmental challenges.

ERI Catalyst Projects

Fighting pesticide pollution with microbes

Fighting pesticide pollution with microbes

Pesticides used in agriculture are a major threat for soil and water ecosystems. Although it is known that microbes can break down pesticides, it is still not well understood which microbes do this and how they do it. This research project will develop novel approaches to answer these questions and help identify ways to better monitor the environment for pesticide contamination, to remove pesticides from the environment, and to design greener chemicals. For more information, please visit Michael Zimmermann, Group Leader and principal investigator of this project.

Tackling nanoplastic pollution

Tackling nanoplastic pollution

Eight million tons of plastic waste end up in the oceans each year. This plastic waste eventually breaks down into tiny particles called microplastics and nanoplastics, which can wreak havoc in animals, humans and ecosystems. However, understanding the impact of nanoplastics remains largely unexplored. EMBL scientists in Hamburg will combine advanced X-ray technology and biophysical techniques to better understand the links between nanoplastics and their impacts. For more information, please visit the Svergun group in Hamburg.

Cleaning wastewater polluted by artificial hormones

Cleaning wastewater polluted by artificial hormones

The daily use of pharmaceuticals introduces a high load of artificial hormones into the wastewater and the environment, which is harmful to fish and local ecosystems. However, it is currently a major hurdle to be able to detect and identify these hormones. EMBL will develop a new approach that combines computer simulations and mass spectrometry to improve detection and identification and find efficient ways to remove them from the environment.

For more information, please visit the Zimmermann group and Amber Brauer, principal investigator of this project.

These catalyst projects were only made possible by donations from generous private citizens. With additional financial support, EMBL can enable even more large-scale innovative research that can help find solutions for the planet. These environmental research projects are just the beginning: there is still a goldmine of potential solutions to be discovered.

Join us to make an impact for a healthier planet

We are looking for partners to engage with us on this journey and provide financial support for this vital, exciting initiative. Your donations would make it possible to support new creative approaches to identify potential solutions to restore our planet.

With your support, ERI can create unique new opportunities to empower the world’s most brilliant young scientists to realise their ground-breaking ideas of how to address environmental problems using any aspect of modern molecular biology − similar to the catalyst projects that were enabled by the generous donations of Friends of EMBL and other supporters.

Let’s make it our joint responsibility, as citizens of planet Earth, to mitigate the damage done to our environment and invest in finding solutions for our planet.

Your donation and the investments we make today in life science research will help us secure a healthier planet and home for your children, grandchildren and future generations to come.

Please join us and make a donation and/or get in touch if you would like to find out more:

Joana Witkowski
Head of Resource Development
+49 – 6221 387 8628