News Release

CRG coordinates launch of first European-wide PhD program for medical doctors

The Centre for Genomic Regulation (CRG) in Barcelona has today launched Europe’s first continent-wide PhD training programme for medical doctors.

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Center for Genomic Regulation

Emerald host institutes

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Credit: CRG

The Centre for Genomic Regulation (CRG) in Barcelona has today launched Europe’s first continent-wide PhD training programme for medical doctors. The 4.5-million-euro programme will help bridge the gap between laboratory research and clinical practice by providing doctors with biomedical research training at one of seven research institutes across Europe. The call for applications opens today.


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 placed 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 Michela Bertero, Head of International and Scientific Affairs at the Centre for Genomic Regulation (CRG), which is coordinating the training programme. “However, the fragmentation of healthcare systems in Europe means that the development of European MDPhD programmes have been historically isolated, often lacking in collaboration and cross-border mobility.”


Now seven biomedical research institutes will overcome this challenge by joining efforts to create EMERALD, the first European-wide physician-scientist training programme of its kind. Funded by the European Union’s Horizon 2020 programme, 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 new programme is based on the previous success of PhD4MD, an innovative programme that trained 9 medical doctors in Catalonia, launched jointly by the CRG, the Institute for Research in Biomedicine (IRB Barcelona), the August Pi i Sunyer Biomedical Research Institute (IDIBAPS) and the Vall d'Hebron Research Institute (VHIR) in Barcelona. In 2018, the PhD4MD programme also inspired a similar programme promoted by the Catalan Health Department.

Moreover, EMERALD will receive support from a highly prestigious Advisory Board, including international experts from academia and pharma, as well as the recently nominated Secretary General for Research, in the Spanish Ministry of Science and Innovation, Dr. Raquel Yotti.


The first EMERALD call, for a total of 12 positions, opens today. Each position will be based at one of the seven host institutes, each with strong experience in research training programmes 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 10 European countries, including universities, hospitals, patient associations, pharmaceutical companies and publishers, with each partner offering internship opportunities, collaborations and bespoke training for the medical doctors.


The host institutions are:


  • 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.

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