Iain Mattaj has a B. Sc. Honours degree from the University of Edinburgh and a PhD from the University of Leeds, England. Following postdoctoral research at the Friedrich Miescher Institute and the University Biocentre, both in Basel, Switzerland he joined EMBL as a Group Leader in 1985. He became Head of the Gene Expression Unit at EMBL in 1990, EMBL Scientific Director in 1999 and Director General of EMBL in 2005. Iain has received the Louis-Jeantet prize for medicine, FEBS Anniversary Prize, Caledonian Research Foundation – Royal Society of Edinburgh Award, Italian Chemical Society Award and Feldberg Foundation Prize. He is Honorary Professor of Heidelberg University, and has Honorary Doctorates from the Universities of Edinburgh, Dundee and Umea. He is a Fellow of the Royal Society, of the Royal Society of Edinburgh, the German Life Science Academy Leopoldina, Academia Europaea, Foreign Honorary Member of the American Academy of Arts and Science, chair of the board of Trustees of the Darwin Trust and President of the RNA Society. He has been Curator of the Lautenschläger Research Prize and member of the Life Sciences search committee for the Körber Prize and the Louis-Jeantet Prize for Medicine.

Research Interests

Iain's research achievements have been considerable and varied. His early work centred on the U small nuclear ribonucleoproteins (U snRNPs) that function in pre-mRNA processing. His analyses spanned transcription of the RNAs, RNA-protein interactions, RNP assembly and function in vivo. This led to study of transport of RNA and proteins between the cell nucleus and cytoplasm and identification of the factors and mechanisms involved. Iain's more recent work demonstrated the critical role of the Ran GTPase in regulating mitotic events including spindle assembly, nuclear pore complex formation and nuclear envelope assembly. He is a member of the European Molecular Biology Organisation (EMBO) and was Executive Editor of The EMBO Journal 1990 to 2004.

Membership Type

International Member

Election Year


Primary Section

Section 22: Cellular and Developmental Biology