EMBL Council

Scientific Advisory Committee


Council establishes the Scientific Advisory Committee, which gives advice to Council, in particular with regard to proposals from the Director General on the realisation of the programme of the Laboratory.

SAC is composed of distinguished scientists appointed in their own right, not as representatives of member states. Membership of the committee is drawn from scientists in a wide range of relevant fields of science in order to cover as far as possible both the field of molecular biology and other appropriate scientific disciplines.

After due consultation with, in particular the EMBO Council and appropriate national institutions, the Director General and the Chair of EMBO Council propose to the Council a list of candidates which the Council considers in appointing the members of SAC.

SAC members

Brenda Andrews

(Membership term 2019-2021)
Director of the Donnelly Centre for Cellular and Biomolecular Research and Professor of Molecular Genetics at the University of Toronto (CA)
Research: analysis of genetic interaction networks in budding yeast and mammalian cells, high through-put genetics platforms, high content microscopy for systematic analysis of cell biological phenotypes.

James Briscoe

(Membership 2018-2020, 2021-2023)
Senior Group Leader at the Developmental Dynamics Laboratory, Francis Crick Institute (UK)
Research: Studies how the central nervous system (CNS) is formed in embryos, with the goal of identifying the genes involved in spinal cord development and determine how they work to produce and organize different types of nerve cells.

Susan Gasser

(Membership 2016-2018, 2019-2021)*
Director, ISREC Foundation at the Agora Cancer  Research Center, Lausanne (CH)
Reseach: Focuses on the mechanisms that spatially organize and silence heterochromatin during development and the mechanisms that ensure genomic stability during replication and repair of the genome, primarily pursued in yeast.

Frank Jülicher

(Membership term 2021-2023)
Director of the Max Planck Institute for the Physics of Complex Systems and Professor of Biophysics at the Technical University of Dresden (DE)
Research: study of cellular oscillations, cellular signaling and the cytoskeletal dynamics during cell division and cell motility, the biophysical basis of hearing, the biophysical properties and dynamics of tissues and epithelia.

Jan Löwe

(Membership 2017-2019, 2020-2022)
Group Leader, MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology (UK)
Research: Prokaryotic Cell Biology. His group investigates with fluorescence light microscopy and electron cryotomography, with electron cryomicroscopy and X-ray crystallography.

Edward Marcotte

(Membership 2016-2018, 2019-2021)*
Vice Chair of EMBL Scientific Advisory Committee
Professor of Biochemistry, Institute for Cellular and Molecular Biology, University of Texas (US)
Research: Studies the large-scale organization of proteins, trying to reconstruct the ‘wiring diagrams’ of cells by learning how all of the proteins encoded by a genome are associated into functional pathways, systems, and networks.

Poul Nissen

(Membership 2017-2019, 2020-2022)
Professor and scientific director – Danish Research Institute of Translational Neuroscience (DANDRITE), Nordic EMBL Partnership for Molecular Medicine, Department of Molecular Biology and Genetics, Aarhus University (DK)
Research: Investigates mechanisms of membrane transporters and systems involved with neurological and psychiatric disorders, using different methods such as cryo-electron microscopy and X-ray crystallography.

Paul Nurse

(Membership 2016-2018, 2019-2021)*
Chair of EMBL Scientific Advisory Committee
Director and Chief Executive, The Francis Crick Institute (UK)
Research: global cellular networks which regulate the eukaryotic cell cycle, cell form and cell growth.

Dana Pe’er

(Membership 2018-2020, 2021-2023)
Scientific Director, GMTEC; Chair, Computational and Systems Biology Program, Sloan Kettering Institute, New York (US)
Research: Single cell technologies, genomic datasets and machine learning techniques to address fundamental questions including regulatory cell circuits, cellular development, tumor immune eco-system, genotype to phenotype relations and precision medicine.

Félix Rey

(Membership 2019-2021)
Head of Structural Virology Unit, Institut Pasteur, Paris (FR)
Research: Structural virology, functional studies of RNA-dependent RNA polymerases and associated replication enzymes, viral capsids and nucleocapsids, cryo-microscopy, crystallography.

Fabian Theis

(Membership 2020-2022)
Head of Institute Helmholtz Zentrum München, Institute of Computational Biology (DE)
Research: Find hidden patterns in biomedical data sets and use those to predict and understand future behavior of these systems. For this together, with his team, he develops and adapts methods from machine learning as well as from dynamic modeling, and apply them to molecular read outs, in particular in single cell genomics and microscopy. With their experimental partners, he thus solves complex biological and medical questions such as stem cell decision making or risk prediction in systems medicine.

Fiona Watt

(Membership 2016-2018, 2019-2021)*
Director, Centre for Stem Cells & Regenerative Medicine, King’s College London, Executive Chair of the MRC (UK)
Research: Intrinsic and extrinsic control of stem cell fate, the role of stem cells in adult tissue maintenance, epidermal tumors, and oncogenic mutations.

Mihaela Zavolan

(Membership 2018-2020, 2021-2023)
Professor, Biozentrum of the University of Basel (CH)
Research: Investigates which regulators of gene expression are crucial for establishing and maintaining cell identity, looks into gene expression regulatory programs with the help of high-throughput sequencing technologies.

* Turning over 31 December 2021

Incoming SAC Members 2022

Adrian Bird

(Membership 2022-2024)
Buchanan Professor of Genetics, University of Edinburgh (UK)
Research: Studies how the genomic landscape of mammals influences gene expression. His laboratory identified CpG islands as gene markers and discovered proteins that read DNA methylation to influence chromatin structure. Mutations in one such protein, MeCP2, cause the neurological disorder Rett Syndrome, which he found to be reversible. His recent work indicates that DNA base composition can be read as a signal to influence cell fate.

Ruth Lehmann

(Membership 2022-2024)
Director, Whitehead Institute and Professor of Biology at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) (US)

Research: Using Drosophila melanogaster as a model organism, the Lehmann lab studies how germ cells are set apart from somatic cells during embryogenesis, how early germ cells are guided to the gonad and how germ cell fate is maintained and protected throughout life in order to generate egg and sperm.

Dianne K. Newman

(Membership 2022-2024)
Gordon M. Binder/Amgen Professor of Biology and Geobiology; Executive Officer for Biology & Biological Engineering, Division of Biology and Biological Engineering, California Institute of Technology (Caltech) (US)

Research: Bioenergetics and survival physiology of metabolically diverse, genetically-tractable bacteria involving redox-active metabolites. Biofilm biology principles and applications in the context of human chronic infections and crop rhizospheres.

Caroline Relton

(Membership 2022-2024)
Director of Bristol Population Health Science Institute, Professor of Epigenetic Epidemiology, MRC Investigator and Programme Lead at the MRC Integrative Epidemiology Unit, University of Bristol (UK)
Research: The application of molecular epidemiology to understand the causes and consequences of common complex diseases, including the development and application of causal inference methods in molecular epidemiology. The use of omic technologies in the prediction of exposures, disease incidence, prognosis and treatment response.


image of Michael Thompson

Michael Thompson

Assistant to the Director General / Head of Council Secretariat

Council Secretariat



Email: council@embl.org

Fax: +49 6221 387-8211