Developmental Biology

Research in the Developmental Biology Unit is focused on understanding the origin, development, and evolution of organisms and their communities.

Our goal is to explore the rich diversity and complexity of living systems, taking into account their natural context.

Using a highly interdisciplinary approach, we study a wide range of organisms, including collectives of bacteria, unicellular and multicellular eukaryotes. We integrate cutting-edge experimental tools, such as quantitative live imaging, -omics technologies, and functional genetic perturbations. Combined with computational analysis, modelling, and conceptual theory this allows us to address the mechanisms and principles that underlie the complexity of living systems.

Research topics in the unit include:

Developmental plasticity

Living systems are characterised by their ability to respond to internal and external cues with changes in form, function, and/or behaviour. A dynamic balance between plasticity and robustness underpins this responsiveness in the ecological context. To analyse response strategies across temporal and spatial levels of organisation we use and establish model organisms that enable molecular and mechanistic investigations.

Time, timing, and transitions

For a holistic understanding of living systems, we also focus on the role of time, the temporal coordination (timing), and transitions between developmental processes. A temporal perspective on organisms is critical at multiple scales – development, the organisms’ entire life cycle, and its evolution.

Metabolism in time and space

Living systems can only exist as open, far-from-equilibrium processes that consume energy. We need to study how metabolic activities are organised, in time and space, and functionally linked to cellular and developmental programmes for a better understanding of ‘life in context’.

Unit support

Groups in this unit

Ephrussi group

RNA localisation and localised translation in development

Vu Group

Control principles of animal body size

Unit resources

Drosophila transgenesis service

Provides EMBL scientists with the expertise necessary to micro-inject Drosophila embryos for generating transgenic lines.

Developmental biology

Research jobs

See more jobs

The 74 research groups at EMBL are organised into nine units spanning six European sites.