Iain Mattaj

Iain William Mattaj (born 5 October 1952 in St Andrews, Scotland)[1] FRS[5] FRSE[3] is a British scientist and Honorary Professor at Heidelberg University in Germany. In 2018, he stepped down from Director General of the European Molecular Biology Laboratory (EMBL), a position he has held since 2005.[6] He is currently the Director of the Human Technopole (Milano, Italy).[7]

Iain Mattaj

Mattaj in 2010
Born (1952-10-05) 5 October 1952[1]
St Andrews, Scotland
Alma mater
AwardsLouis-Jeantet Prize for Medicine (2001)[2]
Scientific career
InstitutionsEuropean Molecular Biology Laboratory
ThesisStudies on cloned GDH genes (1980)
Doctoral advisorJohn Wooton[3]
Notable studentsElisa Izaurralde, postdoctoral researcher (1990-1996)$
InfluencesLennart Philipson[4]


Mattaj was educated at the University of Edinburgh (BSc) and the University of Leeds[1] where he was awarded a PhD in 1980 for research on cloned Glutamate dehydrogenase (GDH) genes supervised by John Wooton. Iain was awarded an Honorary Doctor of Sciences from the University of Leeds in 2018.[3]


Mattaj has made a number of important contributions to our knowledge concerning how RNA and proteins are transported between the cell nucleus and cytoplasm. These findings stemmed from his early work on the import and export of ribonucleoproteins particles — RNA–protein complexes — at the cell nucleus.[5]

Iain subsequently uncovered the role of enzymes known as GTPases in the regulation of mitosis — the division of the cell nucleus into two daughter nuclei. Under the influence of Ran, a GTPase signalling protein, the cell cytoskeleton remodels to form the mitotic spindle — a crucial structure in mitosis. By dissecting Ran's role in facilitating mitosis, Iain is enabling researchers to create improved cell-regeneration therapies.[5][8][9]

He serves on the Advisory Editorial Board of The EMBO Journal.[5]

Awards and honours

Mattaj was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society (FRS) in 1999[5] and was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh.


  1. "MATTAJ, Iain William". Who's Who. ukwhoswho.com. 2016 (online Oxford University Press ed.). A & C Black, an imprint of Bloomsbury Publishing plc. (subscription or UK public library membership required) (subscription required)
  2. Louis-Jeantet Prize
  3. "Curriculum Vitae Professor Dr. Iain W. Mattaj" (PDF). leopoldina.org. Academy of Sciences Leopoldina. Archived from the original (PDF) on 18 April 2016.
  4. Simons, K.; Mattaj, I. W. (2011). "Lennart Philipson (1929-2011)". Science. 333 (6043): 711–711. doi:10.1126/science.1210990. PMID 21817041.
  5. Anon (1999). "Professor Iain Mattaj FRS". royalsociety.org. London: Royal Society. Archived from the original on 17 November 2015. One or more of the preceding sentences incorporates text from the royalsociety.org website where:
    “All text published under the heading 'Biography' on Fellow profile pages is available under Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.” --"Royal Society Terms, conditions and policies". Archived from the original on 25 September 2015. Retrieved 9 March 2016.CS1 maint: BOT: original-url status unknown (link)
  6. "EMBL Leadership: Director General". embl.de. Heidelberg: European Molecular Biology Laboratory. Archived from the original on 15 June 2016.
  7. "News Viewer - HumanTechnopole". www.htechnopole.it. Retrieved 21 December 2018.
  8. Fornerod, Maarten; Ohno, Mutsuhito; Yoshida, Minoru; Mattaj, Iain W. (1997). "CRM1 Is an Export Receptor for Leucine-Rich Nuclear Export Signals". Cell. 90 (6): 1051–1060. doi:10.1016/S0092-8674(00)80371-2. PMID 9323133.
  9. Mattaj, Iain W.; Englmeier, Ludwig (1998). "NUCLEOCYTOPLASMIC TRANSPORT: The Soluble Phase". Annual Review of Biochemistry. 67 (1): 265–306. doi:10.1146/annurev.biochem.67.1.265. PMID 9759490.

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