Systems Biology 101: Prediction, Control and Design in Biology

March 09, 2006 12:00pm - 1:30pm

Adam Paul Arkin: Systems biology is a new field that is a melding of biology, chemistry, physics and engineering. This session explores the basics of the systems biology approach.

It is often said that the genome is a blueprint for an animal, but it turns out to be much more complicated than that. The genome presumes a cellular computer to read its program. The whole, complex network of information processing chemical reactions can sense the environment, compute strategies and implement behaviors. These behaviors allow organisms to survive, cooperate, compete and evolve. Better designed strategies lead to more successful organisms. Failures in strategies lead to extinction or disease.

In a larger sense, organisms are playing a game against each other and nature. The molecular networks that control this game are honed by evolution toward robust, flexible and effective designs for survival. Systems biology seeks to understand the designs that evolution has arrived at by uncovering these networks and observing their dynamic operation and evolution. By understanding these designs we hope to be able to predict the behavior of cells from their genomes and thereby predict how they operate in and change their environments, to control how they behave for our technology and health, and to design modifications of these organisms for missions such as bioremediation, the production of alternative energy, and health.