Systems biology strives to understand biological processes and functions at the level of whole systems. A systems approach to biology merges concepts and technologies from the biological, physical, and computational sciences to enable simultaneous explorations of complex interactions at many levels of biological function. This strategy will one day allow us to predict how cells behave and respond to changes in their environment.
Systems biology promises rich societal benefits in better drug design, accelerated contaminant remediation, energy production, and more effective responses to biological pathogens. The greatest benefit will be a profound understanding of the cycle of life, from the origins of bacteria to the galaxies of molecular interactions that comprise human life.
Systems biology in the Physical Biosciences Division
The multi-disciplinary, integrated approach to large biological challenges is the foundation of the Physical Biosciences Division. This concept is formally reflected in our Systems Biology Department and its primary research program, the Virtual Institute for Microbial Stress and Survival (VIMSS).
The inaugural project for VIMSS is a $36.6 million study for Genomes to Life, a national initiative in systems-level biology from the Department of Energy's Office of Science/Biological and Environmental Research. VIMSS supports an integrated program to understand and predict the ability of micro-organisms to respond to and survive in highly contaminated environments. This research aims to provide scientific breakthroughs that will greatly reduce the time and expense of remediating the nation's waste sites. In doing so, scientists will better understand the structure and action of these microbes and how they can be redesigned for exciting new purposes. VIMSS investigators are also developing projects to investigate microbial systems with possible applications to detection, remediation, disease therapy, nanotechnology and fundamental research applicable to counter-terrorism.