The Council of the European Molecular Biology Laboratory (EMBL) has named leading German molecular biologist Professor Dr Peter B. Becker as the next chair of the governing body. Prof Becker will assume his duties as Chair from January 2023.
Prof Becker will be the second EMBL alumnus to chair Europe’s leading life sciences research organisation in its 48-year history, having served as a vice-Chair since 2020. He replaces Iceland’s Eirikur Steingrimsson, who, from 2020, steered the organisation through the development and endorsement of its five-year (2022-2026) scientific programme ‘Molecules to Ecosystems’ and an historic funding settlement from EMBL member states.
“I am honoured to have been selected as Chair of EMBL Council. The organisation has an ambitious science programme to take molecular biology from the laboratory to study life in its natural context, and the next few years promise significant scientific progress,” Prof Becker said. “I will work closely with Council and management to ensure EMBL is best placed to navigate the difficult period we all face across the member states due to rising inflation and energy costs.”
EMBL Director General Edith Heard welcomed Prof Becker’s appointment.
“Peter’s advice and oversight as a Council delegate since 2016, and as a vice-chair from 2020, have been of enormous value to EMBL, especially during the period of development of our new scientific programme ‘Molecules to Ecosystems’,” she said.
“This programme ushers in a new era in life sciences research in Europe, and will be a game changer for molecular biology as we seek to understand life in its natural context. Peter’s research brilliance and organisational experience make him an excellent choice as chair. I very much look forward to working with him.”
Prof Becker is Chair of the Biomedical Center (BMC) Munich, at the Ludwig-Maximillians-University (LMU) in Munich. He studied biology at the Ruprecht Karl University of Heidelberg, and obtained his PhD from the German Cancer Research Center (DKFZ) and the Ruprecht Karl University of Heidelberg in 1987.
He held a group leader position at EMBL from 1991 until 1999, before being appointed Chair of the Molecular Biology division at the LMU. He was instrumental in establishing the Biomedical Center Munich in 2015, an institute dedicated to studying the fundamentals of cell fate and plasticity. He has served as the Chairman of the BMC Board since 2015.
Elected a member of the European Molecular Biology Organization (EMBO) in 2000, Prof Becker received Germany’s highest research honour in 2005 – the Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz Prize of the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft. He was elected a member of the German Academy of Sciences Leopoldina and the Academia Europaea in 2007 and the Bavarian Academy of Sciences in 2016.
His research is primarily focused on the organisation of DNA in the cells of eukaryotic organisms. He investigates the extent to which the organisation of chromatin influences the function of DNA and thus of genes.
In addition to electing Prof Becker as its new Chair, the EMBL council also re-elected Professor Angela Nieto of Spain’s Instituto de Neurociencias CSIC-UMH a vice-chair and elected Dr Amanda Collis of the UK as the second vice-chair. The Swedish Research Council’s Dr Maria Thuveson was re-elected chair of Finance Committee and Dr Lovorka Barac Lauc of the Croatian Science Foundation was re-elected vice-chair.
The Council also thanked French delegate Dr Anne Paoletti, who is stepping down after nearly seven years of service, including as vice-chair from 2019 to 2021, and Swedish delegate Professor Björn Andersson for his seven years of service.