From atoms to ecosystems – a new era in life sciences – Course and Conference Office

EMBL 50th Anniversary Scientific Symposium

From atoms to ecosystems – a new era in life sciences


The symposium will take place at EMBL Heidelberg. Registration for the onsite event is now closed. EMBL staff and alumni can join a waiting list via the link being circulated internally and in EMBL’s alumni network.

Late virtual registration are still open to all by 3 July 2024. To take part in the symposium virtually please register via the button on this page. Registration is free of charge.

Conference overview

In 2024, EMBL will celebrate its 50th anniversary with a historic two-day scientific symposium. This colloquium, ‘From atoms to ecosystems – a new era in life sciences’, will be held both virtually and in-person at Heidelberg on Thursday 4 – Friday 5 July 2024. The event will celebrate EMBL from the moment of its inception, in 1974 when the proposal to bring a world-class life sciences laboratory to Europe was ratified, through to the exciting and vibrant organisation that EMBL represents today.

The symposium will explore the foundational scientific research,service, technology and innovation that EMBL has fostered over the past 50 years. It will showcase EMBL’s inspiring and pioneering scientific contributions and highlight how these still continue to evolve to address topics of global importance. The programme will encompass both a historic perspective and a forward look to the cutting edge science that EMBL is bringing to the life sciences of the future. 

The symposium sessions will include presentations from current and former EMBL group leaders, as well as former EMBL pre- and postdoctoral fellows. The first day will be focused on research from cells to tissues, spanning genome biology, developmental biology, as well as protein structures and complexes. The second day will focus on digital biology and the current EMBL research programme, ‘Molecules to Ecosystems’, as well as technological advances past and present. The symposium will conclude with a panel on “The past, the present and the future. A discussion with EMBL’s global community”. 

Session topics

  • Genome biology
  • Protein structures and complexes
  • From cells to tissues
  • Developmental biology
  • Molecules to ecosystems
  • Bioinformatics
  • EMBL’s technology highlights
  • Alumni: celebrating EMBL and its community



Martin Beck

Max Planck Institute of Biophysics


Miki Ebisuya

Physics of Life TU Dresden, Germany

EMBL Barcelona, Spain

Thomas Graf

Centre for Genomic Regulation (CRG)


Valérie Hilgers

Max Planck Institute of Immunobiology and Epigenetics


Jan Huisken

Georg-August-University Göttingen, Germany

Anthony Hyman

Max Planck Institute of Molecular Cell Biology and Genetics


Pavel Tomancak

Max Planck Institute of Molecular Cell Biology and Genetics


Lara Urban

Helmholtz AI & Helmholtz Pioneer Campus



Scientific organisers

Elena Conti

Max Planck Institute of Biochemistry


Pavel Tomancak

Max Planck Institute of Molecular Cell Biology and Genetics


Conference organisers

Catherine Casas

Catherine Casas

EMBL Heidelberg


Jürgen Deka

EMBL Heidelberg


Lea Hohmann

EMBL Heidelberg



  • Please note that the programme is subject to change. Some speakers may need to join virtually to give their talk.
  • For registered participants, recorded talks will be accessible on demand for 2 weeks after the end of the event, unless indicated otherwise.
Day 1 – Thursday 4 July 2024
Times (Berlin/ Europe)Speakers
08:00 – 09:30Registration and coffeeEMBL conference shuttle bus schedule
09:30 – 09:45Opening remarks – Prof. Edith Heard
With a video message from Federal Minister Bettina Stark-Watzinger, German Federal Minister of Education and Research
09:45 – 11:15Session 1: Genome biology
Chairs: Eileen Furlong, Ewan Birney
09:45 – 10:15Former EMBL group leader
Male-specific lethality in flies: from phenomenon to mechanism
Peter Becker – Ludwig-Maximilians-University, Germany
at EMBL from 1991-1999
10:15 – 10:45Former EMBL pre- or postdoc
The unique RNA landscape of the nervous system: regulation and function
Valerie Hilgers – Max Planck Institute of Immunobiology and Epigenetics, Germany
at EMBL from 2006-2010
10:45 – 11:15Current EMBL group leader:
Phenotypic variation: why your father’s microbes matter
Jamie Hackett – EMBL Rome, Italy
11:15 – 11:45Coffee Break
kindly sponsored by Zeiss
11:45 – 13:15Session 2: From cells to tissues
Chairs: Jan Ellenberg
11:45 – 12:15Former EMBL group leader:
Phase separation and its implications in cell biology and disease 
Anthony Hyman – Max Planck Institute of Molecular Cell Biology and Genetics, Germany
at EMBL from 1992-2000
12:15 – 12:45Former EMBL pre- or postdoc
Principles of tissue dynamics and function captured by imaging live mice: the power of multiple lenses
Valentina Greco – Yale University, USA
at EMBL from 1998-2002
Not available on demand
12:45 – 13:15Current EMBL group leader:
The stem cell zoo to uncover species-specific developmental time
Miki Ebisuya – Physics of Life TU Dresden, Germany; EMBL Barcelona, Spain
Not available on demand
13:15 – 14:45Lunch
14:45 – 16:15Session 3: Developmental biology
Chairs: Alexander Aulehla, Anne Ephrussi
14:45 – 15:15Former EMBL group leader:
Cell conversions: a bit of history and late-career work
Thomas Graf – Centre for Genomic Regulation (CRG), Spain
at EMBL from 1983-1998
Not available on demand
15:15 – 15:45Former EMBL pre- or postdoc:
Brain evolution: reconstructing the origins of the cerebral cortex
Maria Tosches – Columbia University, USA (Virtual speaker)
at EMBL from 2007-2012
15:45 – 16:15Current EMBL group leader:
Cross-species biomechanical determinants of shape diversity
Aissam Ikmi – EMBL Heidelberg
Not available on demand
16:15 – 16:45Coffee Break
kindly sponsored by Zeiss
16:45 – 18:15Session 4: Protein structures and complexes
Chairs: Kristina Djinovic Carugo, Matthias Wilmanns
16:45 – 17:15Former EMBL group leader:
Fifty years of protein structures (@ EMBL)
Janet Thornton – EMBL-EBI, UK
at EMBL from 2001-2023
17:15 – 17:45Current EMBL group leader:
Enabling discovery by in-cell structural biology
Julia Mahamid – EMBL Heidelberg, Germany
Not available on demand
17:45 – 18:15Former EMBL pre- or postdoc:
Transcription of the genome
Patrick Cramer – President of the Max Planck Society, Germany
at EMBL from 1995-1998
18:15 – 19:15Pre-Dinner Drinks and Networking in the ATC Foyer
Option during this time to have photos by the EMBL 50th Photowall with our professional photographers
19:15 – 21:15Dinner in Canteen
21:00 – 22:30‘Celebrating EMBL’ Themed Pub Quiz in canteen (Parallel social option)
21:15 – 23:00After dinner drinks in the ATC Foyer and Terrace (Parallel social option)
21:00Conference shuttle bus – From EMBL to all stops downtown including Exzellenz and ISG
22:00Conference shuttle bus – From EMBL to all stops downtown including Exzellenz and ISG
23:00Conference shuttle bus – From EMBL to all stops downtown including Exzellenz and ISG
Day 2 – Friday 5 July 2024
Times (Berlin/ Europe)Speakers
8:30 – 9:00Arrival and coffee EMBL conference shuttle bus schedule
09:00 – 11:00Session 5: Molecules to ecosystems
Chairs: Peer Bork, Nassos Typas
09:00 – 09:30Former EMBL group leader:
From cell to planetary biology
Eric Karsenti
at EMBL from 1985-2013
09:30 – 10:00Former EMBL pre- or postdoc:
Genomics and AI for One Health
Lara Urban – Helmholtz Munich, Germany
at EMBL from 2015-2019
10:00 – 10:30Current EMBL group leader:
Exploring microbial predator-prey interactions in the soil
Jordi van Gestel – EMBL Heidelberg, Germany
Not available on demand
10:30 – 11:00Coffee Break
kindly sponsored by Zeiss
11:00 – 12:30Session 6: Bioinformatics
Chairs: Rolf Apweiler, Jan Korbel
11:00 – 11:30Former EMBL group leader:
Digital twins and synthetic data in biomedicine
Alfonso Valencia – Barcelona Supercomputing Center, Spain
at EMBL from 1988-1994
11:30 – 12:00Former EMBL pre- or postdoc:
Bioimage informatics – Fiji and beyond
Pavel Tomancak – Max Planck Institute of Molecular Cell Biology and Genetics, Germany
at EMBL from 1995-1999
12:00 – 12:30Current EMBL group leader:
Computational cancer genome analysis at a national scale: insights into cancer onset and evolution
Isidro Cortes – EMBL-EBI, UK
Not available on demand
12:30 – 14:00Lunch
14:00 – 15:30Session 7: EMBL’s technology highlights
Chairs: Rainer Pepperkok, Anna Kreshuk
14:00 – 14:30Former EMBL group leader:
How human immunodeficiency virus enters the nucleus
Martin Beck – Max Planck Institute of Biophysics, Germany
at EMBL from 2010-2020
14:30 – 15:00Former EMBL pre- or postdoc:
Light sheet microscopy: past and future of interdisciplinary technology development
Jan Huisken – Georg-August-University Göttingen, Germany
at EMBL from 2000-2004
15:00 – 15:30Current EMBL group leader:
X-rays for Biology
Thomas Schneider – EMBL Hamburg, Germany
Not available on demand
15:30 – 16:00Coffee Break
kindly sponsored by Zeiss
16:00 – 18:30Session 8: Alumni: Celebrating EMBL and its community
Chair: Pavel Tomancak – Chair of the Alumni Association
16:00 – 16:30Address to alumni community: Pavel Tomancak
16:30 – 17:00The John Kendrew Award Ceremony
Presentation of 2024 John Kendrew Award by Pavel Tomancak
Talk by 2024 John Kendrew Award recipient Thibaut Brunet
17:00 – 17:30The Lennart Philipson Award Ceremony
Presentation of 2024 Lennart Philipson Award by Maria Leptin
Talk by 2024 Lennart Philipson Award recipient Giulio Superti-Furga
17:30 – 18:30Panel discussion
EMBL and Molecular biology: The past, the present and the future

Edith Heard, EMBL Director General
Flora Vincent, Group Leader EMBL Heidelberg

– Ana Boskovic, Group Leader EMBL Rome
– Jan Kosinski, Group Leader EMBL Hamburg
– Paul Nurse, Director of The Francis Crick institute
– Christiane Nüsslein-Volhard, Max Planck Institute for Biology Tübingen, Germany
– Oliver Stegle, EMBL Heidelberg / DKFZ, Germany
18:30 – 18:45Closing remarks – Edith Heard
19:00 – 21:00Dinner
Please take a seat in the canteen or on the terrace outside the canteen after the symposium from 18:45 and help yourself to a drink to start the celebrations. 

To ensure a smooth process without long queues, at 19:00 our CCO colleagues will escort you to the buffet in groups. 

Please note: In order to join the dinner and party, you will need to show your wristband or a conference badge.
20:45 – 21:00Happy 50th Anniversary EMBL cake moment
Please gather by the stage on the terrace
21:00 – 00:00Party on the terrace with live band The Wright Thing and DJ Lucas Ustick
22:00Conference shuttle bus – From EMBL to all stops downtown including Exzellenz and ISG
23:00Conference shuttle bus – From EMBL to all stops downtown including Exzellenz and ISG
00:00Conference shuttle bus – From EMBL to all stops downtown including Exzellenz and ISG

Practical information


Virtual registration is open to all, free of charge and includes access to all of the talks (livestreamed and on demand) and facility to submit questions.

On-site registration is open to EMBL staff and alumni and is free of charge . All staff and alumni will receive an email from the Director General containing a link to register. Registration includes admission, conference materials, meals and coffee breaks. Participants are expected to book and pay their own accommodation and travel expenses.

Registration for the onsite symposium is on a first come, first served basis and capacity is limited. If you are added to our waiting list, please consider taking advantage of the option to participate virtually instead.

Accredited journalists may be eligible to register for press registration. Registrants may be required to provide accreditation or equivalent proof of press membership after registration. Please contact the Events Office for more information.

Abstract submission

There will be no abstract submissions or posters for this conference.

Accommodation and travel

Accommodation is not included in the conference registration.

As changes to events are possible, you are advised to consider booking flights, trains and hotels with flexible options and favourable cancellation conditions.

The hotels below have rooms on hold for participants until 6 June 2024, in some cases at special rates. Please email the hotel directly, quoting the booking code LAB24-01 to confirm the exact price of the room.

Hotel AnlageHotel ibis HeidelbergHotel Bayrischer Hof 

Travel information

For travel information, please see here.

If you are travelling to the conference within Germany then you are eligible for the Deutsche Bahn ‘Event Ticket’ (called the ‘Veranstaltungsticket’ in German). This will result in a lower ticket price if your travel distance to Heidelberg is more than 100 km. You need to provide proof of your event attendance when purchasing the ticket.

For more information in English see here or in German see here.

You can book your ticket here.

Conference shuttle buses

The conference shuttle bus timetable can be found here.

Conference shuttle buses are free of charge for participants, and depart from designated bus stops near the hotels to EMBL and back, mornings and evenings.

The bus stops for this conference are:

  • Hotel Staycity (Speyerer Str. 7)
  • Kurfürsten-Anlage (Opposite Main Train Station)
  • Hotel Premier (Kurfürsten-Anlage 23)
  • Leonardo Hotel Heidelberg City Center (Bergheimer Str. 63)
  • Neckarmuenzplatz (Heidelberg Tourist Information)
  • Peterskirche (Bus stop)
  • Heidelberg Exzellenz hotel
  • ISG Hotel

View Conference shuttle bus stops and hotels in a larger map. Please note that not every bus stop will be used for every event.

Further details

Address: EMBL, Meyerhofstraße 1, 69117 Heidelberg, Germany.

For more information about accommodation and travel, please refer to the FAQ page.

Onsite information


All meals and coffee breaks are included in the registration. Our catering staff will prepare a wide variety of vegetarian meals, meat and fish dishes, soups, pasta, fresh fruit and vegetables, as well as a variety of desserts.

Please wear your badge at all times when serving yourself.

No food or drinks are allowed in the auditorium.

Charging lockers

There are lockers available next to the stairs leading down into the Auditorium. You will find some of those equipped with sockets to charge your smartphone/tablet etc.

Electricity and charging station

In most places the electricity is 220 volts AC (50 cycles). An adaptor and a plug that fits the German socket may be needed for your appliances/laptop (i.e. American, Japanese, etc.). A USB charging station for electronic devices is available at the registration desk.

EMBL merchandise

If you are interested in purchasing EMBL merchandise (products presented in the glass display in the registration area), please email the EMBL shop to place an order or get in contact with your Course Organiser.

Kindly note the EMBL shop is only open upon request and all purchases must be made in cash (Euros only).

Health and safety notes

Please read EMBL’s COVID-19 safety policy for on-site events.
Do not smoke in any EMBL building.
Eating and drinking is prohibited in the Auditorium and all laboratories.
Do not enter any restricted areas or the laboratories unless instructed to do so.

If first aid is required …

  • The first aid room is located next to the ATC Registration Desk (room 10- 205).
  • Dial the Emergency number 222 from any EMBL internal phone only.
  • Where is the accident? What happened? How many injured?
  • Emergency number 06221-387 7821 from mobile phones.
  • Please report all accidents to the conference officer at the registration desk.

In case of fire …

  • Press the nearest fire alarm button or the Emergency number 222 from any internal phone.
  • A loud fire alarm will go off if an evacuation is required. On hearing the alarm leave the building immediately following the escape route and fire wardens and head to one of the meeting points
  • Do not use the lifts.

Beyond first aid…

Please remember to bring your own medication, if needed, to the conference. Note that the next pharmacy is a 4-minute drive from the EMBL, but for many medications you will be required to see a doctor to get a prescription.

Ensure in advance that your medical insurance will cover you during your visit in the event that you do need to see a doctor while in Heidelberg. In any case, the EMBL Course and Conference Office will assist you to get to the pharmacy and a doctor of your choice if necessary.


Wi-Fi is available on campus using the EMBL-Events network and the event specific password, which will be provided on site. The eduroam network (secure, worldwide roaming access service developed for the international research and education community) is also available.

Lost and found

‘’Lost and Found’’ items are kept at the registration desk until the end of the conference.


There are lockers available on-site to store your luggage, which require a 2 EURO coin to operate. There is another luggage room on level E0, which is free to use but remains unlocked during the conference.

Nursing room

There is a nursing room available in the ATC Rooftop Lounge on level A29.


During the conference, an EMBL Photographer may be taking photos. If you would not like to appear in these, please inform the photographer or a member of the Course and Conference Office.


We can help to print your boarding pass/train ticket. Please send it to events@embl.de and collect your print-outs at the registration desk.

Room for prayer, yoga and meditation

There is a room for prayer, meditation, and yoga located on level E0 behind the Auditorium. Please be respectful of others using the room.


A variety of activities in Heidelberg can be found on the website of Heidelberg Marketing.

Travel to and from the venue

During the event, we provide conference shuttle buses to and from EMBL. In addition, there is the public bus 39A that serves the EMBL campus and taxis can be easily booked at any time. Information on the conference shuttle buses can be found on the individual event website and more detailed information on travelling to EMBL can be found on our Travel Information page.

Useful German expressions

GoodbyeAuf Wiedersehen (formal)
Tschüss (informal)
Good morningGuten Morgen
Good afternoonGuten Tag
Good eveningGuten Abend
Good nightGute Nacht
I’m sorryEs tut mir leid
Excuse me…Entschuldigen Sie…
How are you?Wie gehts?
I’m fine thanks. And you?Mir geht es gut, danke. Und dir/Ihnen?
What is your nameWie heißen Sie? (formal)
Wie heißt du? (informal)
My name is…Ich heiße…
Do you speak English?Sprechen Sie Englisch?
I don’t understandIch verstehe nicht
Please speak more slowlyKönnen Sie bitte langsamer sprechen
Thank youDankeschön
Where is the toilet?Wo ist die Toilette?
Please call me a taxiBitte rufen Sie mir ein Taxi
How do I get to…?Wie komme ich zum/zur…?
A beer/two beers pleaseEin Bier/zwei Bier bitte
A glass of red/white wine pleaseEin Glas Rot/Weißwein bitte
The menu, pleaseDie Speisekarte, bitte
Is there a local speciality?Gibt es eine Spezialität aus dieser Gegend?
I’m vegetarianIch bin Vegetarier
It was deliciousEs war hervorragend
The bill, pleaseDie Rechnung, bitte
I have a headacheIch habe Kopfschmerzen
I have a sore throatIch habe Halsschmerzen
My stomach hurtsIch habe Magenschmerzen
I’m allergic toIch bin allergisch gegen
I need a doctor who speaks English.Ich brauche einen Arzt, der Englisch spricht.
Virtual participation

What’s included?

  • Access to all the livestreamed talks
  • Video library of the recorded talks during the event and for two weeks afterwards. Please note: at the request of individual speakers, some talks are not recorded.
  • Facility to submit questions

Event platform

We are using an event platform for this conference. More information about the platform will be sent to you by email just ahead of the conference.


  • Do not broadcast the conference to unregistered participants.
  • You are encouraged to tweet and post about the event. Tweet unless the speaker specifically says otherwise, but be mindful of unpublished data. 
  • Please do not capture, transmit or redistribute data presented at the meeting.

Additional information can be found in our Code of Conduct.

Health and well-being

It is important to stay healthy and move around, especially when you are attending an event virtually. We have put together a few coffee break stretches and yoga videos in the conference platform for you to enjoy during the event.

How to ask questions

Please use the Q&A function in the event platform.

If you have any other questions, you can go to the Help Desk in the event platform. Click on ‘more’ on the top menu and click Help Desk. 

Time zone

The programme is planned based on the Europe/Berlin time zone, unless otherwise stated. Please take your time zone into consideration when planning your attendance.

Additional information

Please find additional information including FAQs, terms and conditions, COVID-19 safety policy and travelling to EMBL on our Information for participants page.


Event sponsors

Sponsorship opportunities
We offer a variety of event sponsorship possibilities, with the flexibility to select a set sponsorship package or combine individual sponsorship options to suit your budget. Contact sponsorship@embl.org for further information on sponsoring possibilities.

If you are interested in becoming a media partner of this event, please visit our media partnerships webpage.


EMBL wishes to warn sponsors of EMBL conferences and courses of fraudulent schemes purporting to offer sponsorship opportunities on behalf of EMBL or affiliated with EMBL officials. One current scam campaign of which we are aware is conducted using the name ‘Judy Eastman’ (judy@gopcontact.a2hosted.com) and entails approaches to sponsors offering sponsorship opportunities on EMBL’s behalf. Please be kindly advised that all relevant communication regarding sponsorship of EMBL conferences, symposia and courses is handled by EMBL directly and is sent from an official EMBL account. EMBL does not work with any external providers on sponsorship acquisition.

Please also note that:

  • EMBL never provides attendee lists for purchase. Any offers of such are fraudulent.
  • EMBL will never call or email you to ask for your credit card details or to request a payment.
  • All payments are on invoice.

Suspicious communications purportedly from, for or on behalf of EMBL should be reported to EMBL at the following email address sponsorship@embl.de.

Media kit

Want to let others know you’re attending this event? Take a look at our shareable media and feel free to use them in your social media channels or presentations.

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Date: 4 - 5 Jul 2024

Location: EMBL Heidelberg and Virtual

Venue: EMBL Advanced Training Centre


Registration: Closed


  • Rolf Apweiler
    • Elena Conti
      Max Planck Institute of Biochemistry, Germany
      • Anne Ephrussi
        EMBL Heidelberg, Germany
        • Eileen Furlong
          EMBL Heidelberg, Germany
          • Cornelius Gross
            EMBL Rome, Italy
            • Rainer Pepperkok
              EMBL Heidelberg, Germany

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