NIGMS Funds Center for Quantitative Biology|
Broad Collaboration, Advanced Computing Join in Study of Biocomplexity
To probe the complexities of living systems, the National Institute
of General Medical Sciences (NIGMS), part of the National Institutes
of Health (NIH), has established its fifth Center of Excellence
in Complex Biomedical Systems Research. The new center, headed by
David Botstein, Ph.D., at Princeton University in Princeton, N.J.,
will explore how biological molecules interact with each other and
their environment to create dynamic systems.
NIGMS will award $3 million to the center this year and expects
the project to total $14.8 million over 5 years.
Central to the effort is the integration of multidisciplinary research
and teaching. In addition to bringing together 40 scientists from
physical, computational and biological science fields, the center
will establish a new undergraduate and graduate curriculum at Princeton
that focuses on quantitative biology and collaborative research.
“The most challenging problems in biology are best tackled
by combining the expertise of researchers from diverse backgrounds,”
said Elias A. Zerhouni, M.D., NIH director. “Through its multidisciplinary
collaboration and curriculum, this center will not only yield new
insights about complex biological processes, it will also train
the research leaders of tomorrow.”
Called the Center for Quantitative Biology, the effort will focus
on three key biological questions: how body patterns are established
during an organism's early development, how cells control their
internal functions and communicate with each other, and how viruses
interact with host cells. The researchers will use state-of-the-art
microscopes and imaging tools to examine molecules in living cells
and tissues. They will also create gene chips to study the activities
of genes from viruses, bacteria, yeast, mice, rats and humans.
A key feature of the project is the use of advanced computational
methods to model complex biological systems based on large quantities
of experimental data, a systems biology approach. To help spur further
biomedical discoveries, the center will make all its data and analysis
tools freely available to the scientific community.
The goals and approaches of the center fit squarely with the NIGMS
mission, according to Jeremy M. Berg, Ph.D., NIGMS director.
“The Princeton center advances NIGMS efforts to move into
new areas of science, foster multidisciplinary collaboration, and
enhance research training. It also joins ongoing NIGMS initiatives
to recruit quantitative scientists and harness computer modeling
approaches for biological research. By bringing together computational
and experimental scientists, the center promises to accelerate the
pace of scientific discovery and serve as a model for an important
new way of doing biomedical research and education,” said
The Princeton center joins other Centers of Excellence in Complex
Biomedical Systems Research at the University of Washington Friday
Harbor Laboratories (http://www.csuohio.edu/mims/contact.htm),
Case Western Reserve University (http://raven.zoology.washington.edu/celldynamics/),
Harvard University (http://www.cgr.harvard.edu/)
and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (http://csbi.mit.edu/research/projects/celldecision).
NIGMS is one of the 27 components of NIH, the premier federal
agency for biomedical research. The NIGMS mission is to support
basic biomedical research that lays the foundation for advances
in disease diagnosis, treatment and prevention.
Additional information about NIGMS’ efforts in supporting
complex biomedical systems research can be found on the Complex
Biological Systems Initiatives page on the Institute’s Web