It is expected the participation of the following guest speakers: Peer Bork, from EMBL in Heidelberg (Germany); Timothy Gardner, from the Boston University (USA); Mads Kaern, from the University of Ottawa (Canada); Nadav Kashtan, from the Weizmann Institute of Science in Rehovot (Israel); Patrick Lemaire, from the Developmental Biology Institute of Marseilles-Luminy (France); Martin Lercher, from the University of Bath (United Kingdom); Alfonso Martínez-Arias, from the University of Cambridge (United Kingdom); Uwe Sauer, from the Institute for Molecular Systems Biology-ETH in Zurich (Switzerland); Ricard V. Solé, from the Universitat Pompeu Fabra in Barcelona (Spain); Marc Vidal, from the Dana-Farber Institute in Boston (USA); Ron Weiss, from Princeton University (USA); Mark Isalan and James Sharpe, both from the Centre for Genomic Regulation in Barcelona (Spain).
Systems Biology is an emerging discipline that aims at a quantitative understanding of biological systems to an extent that one is able to predict its response to external (drugs) or internal (mutations) disturbances and, in the future, even to modify them rationally (Synthetic Biology). The most obvious applications of Systems Biology are in the field of medicine. At the moment, the way medicine works is by using very similar drugs and treatments for everyone. We are all aware of the multibillion losses that pharmaceutical companies have suffered in the last years due to the commercialization of drugs that, although beneficial for a large part of the population are harmful for certain groups of people. Treatment of diseases today remains still to a large extent the same as when aspirin was discovered. Essentially either serendipitously or through the identification of putative targets in basic research a massive screening is done helped or lead by design software, and candidate drugs are then tested on different systems to assess their toxicity and potency. Drugs that pass this stage are then validated by very costly medical trails involving thousands of patients.
All this procedure is very costly and inefficient and it is based on the assumption that human diseases can be cured with a single drug. However, it is quite obvious that the majority of us will not die because of a single faulty gene, but because of the combination of many small alterations on different genes (multifactorial diseases) combined with our life style. Multifactorial diseases are hard to treat since they involve more than one gene product in an organism, often working in different cellular pathways. Thus we need first to be able to understand in a global and quantitative way how a complex biological system as the human being operates, to be able to tackle in a rational way the treatment of complex diseases. This is precisely one of the aims of Systems Biology.
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