The IBF research laboratory located in Genoa began operating in 1969, when it was set up as the Institute of Cybernetics and Biophysics (ICB) of Italy’s National Research Council. Its mission was to complement and expand scientific investigation which was then gaining momentum at Genoa University’s Physics Department in the emerging fields of cybernetics and biophysics.

At the time, the Institute's base was in Camogli, a coastal town near Genoa. This choice of location reflected the Institute's special focus on the neurosciences: major studies which were being conducted at the time utilized the giant axon in squid, which represented the main basis for exploring the electrophysiology of the nervous system.

By 1969, the study of ion transport through biological membranes had already become one of ICB's leading research topics. The late sixties marked the beginning of a cultural revolution which in the 80s was to lead to the introduction of new basic concepts in biology. Nowadays it is commonly recognized that knowledge of ion transport mechanisms is fundamental to the comprehension of the cell processes that determine the existence, perpetuation and evolution of all biological systems.

In 1984, the Institute moved to the Physics Department at Genoa University and in 1994 to the new premises of the National Research Council in via De Marini.

The present staff at IBF Genoa includes physicists, chemists, molecular biologists and physiologists who study a wide variety of biological systems, with the aim of advancing our understanding of biological processes beyond a mere qualitative description.

In 2003, the Institute became the head-office of the newly-established Biophysics Institute (IBF), whose purpose was to achieve synergy with other research laboratories respectively based in Milan, Pisa, Palermo and Trento.