Bridging the gap between the lab and the clinic

The MDC has joined six other biomedical research institutes to nurture Europe’s next generation of physician-scientists. “Emerald”, the first European-wide PhD program for medical doctors will provide state-of-the-art training and help to bridge the gap between lab research and clinical practice.

Despite rapid advances in biomedical research, new discoveries do not always find their way to clinical practice, which would improve diagnostics or result in new and better treatments. Bridging this gap, known as the “valley of death”, is key to tackling global health challenges such as diabetes, Alzheimer’s disease and cancer.

Physician-scientists – medical doctors with a PhD in biomedical research – are uniquely positioned to overcome this gap through their clinical insights, scientific knowledge and academic experience, helping identify where innovative research is most urgently needed and expand that knowledge for the benefit of patients.

“We urgently require scientists with a medical background who will play a crucial role in applying advances in omics, big data, artificial intelligence or high-resolution microscopy to address patient needs in the 21st century”, says Dr Michela Bertero, Head of International and Scientific Affairs at the Centre for Genomic Regulation (CRG), which is coordinating the training program. “However, the fragmentation of healthcare systems in Europe means that the development of European MD PhD programs have been historically isolated, often lacking in collaboration and cross-border mobility.”

The first call is open

Now seven biomedical research institutes will overcome this challenge by joining efforts to create “Emerald”, the first European-wide physician-scientist training program of its kind. Funded by the European Union’s Horizon 2020 program, Emerald will provide medical doctors with unique opportunities to move to a different country to conduct a cutting-edge PhD research project, participate in tailored summer schools, benefit from peer-mentoring and explore and establish new collaborations.

The first call, for a total of twelve positions, is already open. Each position will be based at one of the seven host institutes each with strong experience in research training programs and with most of them having previously run training programmes specifically for physician-scientists. Alongside the host institutions, there are more than 30 partners from ten European countries, including universities, hospitals, patient associations, pharmaceutical companies and publishers, with each partner offering secondment opportunities, collaborations and bespoke training for the medical doctors.

The host institutions

  • The Centre for Genomic Regulation (CRG) in Barcelona, Spain
  • The Institut Curie in Paris, France
  • The Biotech Research & Innovation Centre (BRIC) at the University of Copenhagen, Denmark
  • The Fundação Calouste Gulbenkian - Instituto Gulbenkian de Ciência (IGC) in Lisbon, Portugal
  • The Max Delbrück Center for Molecular Medicine in the Helmholtz Association (MDC) in Berlin, Germany
  • The Netherlands Cancer Institute (NKI) in Amsterdam, The Netherlands
  • The Flanders Institute for Biotechnology (VIB) in Ghent, Belgium

Further details on the application process can be found on the Emerald project’s website. The initial deadline for applications is 14th November 2021.


Further information





The “International PhD Program for Medical Doctors”, EMERALD, will train and nurture excellent physician-scientists. The program will recruit medical doctors to carry out a PhD in cutting-edge research in European centres of excellence in life sciences and biomedicine. Coordinated by the Centre for Genomic Regulation (CRG) in Barcelona, Emerald brings together seven biomedical research institutes and 37 partner organizations across ten European countries to deliver its international training program.


The European Union’s Horizon 2020 program + MSCA


Emerald has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation program under the Marie Skłodowska-Curie grant agreement No 101034290. The COFUND scheme aims to stimulate regional, national or international programs to foster excellence in researchers' training, mobility and career development. The Emerald project received 4,5 million Euros of funding to deliver the training program over the next five years.


Max Delbrück Center for Molecular Medicine (MDC)


The Max Delbrück Center for Molecular Medicine in the Helmholtz Association (MDC) is one of the world’s leading biomedical research institutions. Max Delbrück, a Berlin native, was a Nobel laureate and one of the founders of molecular biology. At the MDC’s locations in Berlin-Buch and Mitte, researchers from some 60 countries analyze the human system – investigating the biological foundations of life from its most elementary building blocks to systems-wide mechanisms. By understanding what regulates or disrupts the dynamic equilibrium in a cell, an organ, or the entire body, we can prevent diseases, diagnose them earlier, and stop their progression with tailored therapies. Patients should benefit as soon as possible from basic research discoveries. The MDC therefore supports spin-off creation and participates in collaborative networks. It works in close partnership with Charité – Universitätsmedizin Berlin in the jointly run Experimental and Clinical Research Center (ECRC), the Berlin Institute of Health (BIH) at Charité, and the German Center for Cardiovascular Research (DZHK). Founded in 1992, the MDC today employs 1,600 people and is funded 90 percent by the German federal government and 10 percent by the State of Berlin.