History of the School

The École Supérieure de Biotechnologie de Strasbourg (ESBS) was founded in 1982 by Professor Pierre Chambon and Professor Jean-Pierre Ebel. It became tri-national in 1988 at the instigation of Professor Werner Arber (University of Basel) and Professor Pierre Chambon.

Professor Christoph Beck and Professor Ernst Wagner of the University of Freiburg and Professor Werner Stahl of the University of Karlsruhe also played a decisive role in its establishment. The efforts of Professor Jean-François Lefèvre, then Director of ESBS, were also crucial; the project was strongly supported by Professor Gilbert Laustriat, then President of the Louis Pasteur University (ULP) of Strasbourg.

ESBS is both an engineering school within the University of Strasbourg and a genuine European school, initially bringing together the four universities of Basel, Freiburg, Karlsruhe and Strasbourg. Since the agreement between these four universities was signed (November 1988), recruitment has been tri-national (German, French and Swiss) and qualifications are recognised in the three countries. ESBS also awards the Diplôme d’Ingénieur in Biotechnology (equivalent to a master’s degree), accredited in France by the Commission des Titres d’Ingénieur.

ESBS’ objective is to produce engineers who are skilled in the various fields of modern biotechnology, able to adapt and enter the health and environment sectors in research, R&D and production.

The education of “bio-engineers” is based on a solid culture of basic and engineering sciences, combined with elements of the economic, social and human disciplines as well as fluency in the languages of the partnership.

The multi-disciplinary course is based on the complementarity of three centres: Basel (microbiology), Freiburg (molecular biology and plant physiology) and Strasbourg (other subjects).

The Illkirch campus is the principal site for most of the teaching, but the students also reside with the other partners for periods of two to six weeks (currently for a cumulative duration of 11 to 17 weeks). 

The international nature of the course is further reinforced by work placements, largely outside the student’s country of origin. Work placements take place primarily in Europe and North America, but also extend to Asia (China, Japan) and Oceania (Australia, New Zealand).

The maximum size of each year group was originally set at 40 students, in accordance with the agreement signed in 1988 by the contracting universities and under the auspices of EUCOR.

At the start of the new academic year in 2014, ESBS and ECPM created the “ChemBiotech” course which aims to train competent engineers on the border between biotechnology and chemistry. This course is the result of an innovative partnership, relying on the educational resources of two schools, and will eventually produce 20 engineers per year.

The school currently has 196 students in total.

All graduates have found jobs in sectors relating to biotechnology, pharmacy and medical research.

Almost two thirds of these jobs are based abroad (including 24% in Switzerland and 12.5% in Germany) and a third in France. It is interesting to note that 18% of jobs are based in Alsace.  

The private sector forms the largest category of employers (69%).  

We have also observed very rapid career development amongst graduates towards positions in specialist management and higher intellectual professions, as well as the liberal professions.


Pr. Georges Orfanoudakis

Directeur de l’ESBS