Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Systems biology brings hope of speeding up drug development

19.11.2008
Almost every day brings news of an apparent breakthrough against cancer, infectious diseases, or metabolic conditions like diabetes, but these rarely translate into effective therapies or drugs, and even if they do clinical development usually takes well over a decade.

One reason is that medical research is conducted in highly fragmented groups focusing on specific pathways or components leading to drugs that turn out not to work properly or to have dangerous side effects after cycles of animal and then clinical testing in humans.

This process is expensive and wasteful, resulting from the fact that at present researchers lack tools to assess in advance how candidate drugs work across the human's whole biological system. The discipline of systems biology represents an attempt to unite the medical research community behind a common approach to understanding and modelling the complex interactions of the human, leading to more effective and faster drug development.

Europe is now at the forefront of this growing movement that brings together a number of disciplines including mathematics, physics, statistics, bioinformatics, genetics and all the "omics" technologies dealing with genes, proteins, and biological pathways. Earlier this year leading specialists in systems biology met at an important conference organised jointly by the European Science Foundation and the University of Barcelona, providing a snapshot of current progress and a roadmap for future research.

The conference provided a platform to direct and accelerate other ongoing programmes in which the emerging tools of systems biology are being applied to specific areas of medicine, notably the SBMS (Systems Biology to combat Metabolic Syndrome) initiative. Metabolic syndrome is the term for various conditions that can lead to diseases such as type 2 diabetes where cells of the body develop resistance against insulin, impairing the regulation of blood glucose levels. The aim of SBMS is to understand the molecular and cellular systems that underlie risk factors associated with various diseases resulting from metabolic syndrome, by studying them at a systems wide level rather than focusing on individual specific components even when these appear to play a central role.

Yet the challenge of system biology as a whole is to integrate different components of the body at widely different scales of time and size, without being swamped by immense quantities of data, or computational models that are impossibly complex to handle, according to Roel van Driel, systems biology specialist at the University of Amsterdam, who was co-convenor of the ESF conference as well as head of the SBMS initiative. A big problem in medical research lies in duplication of effort and in particular creation of large sets of data that are difficult to share between projects, according to van Driel, who said that biology as a whole needed to become a big science, based on a stronger more analytical framework, more like physics. "The problem is not shortage of funding in medical research, but fragmentation into too many small projects," said van Driel. "We need a large-scale programme."

In fact biology has already had one large-scale programme involving focused collaboration between many projects across the world, the Human Genome Project of the 1990s. This led to a basic map of the genetic code common to all humans, although not of all the variations, or alleles, that give rise to individual differences. In fact the genome project yielded only limited information about the underlying genes and what they do, let alone how they are regulated and interact in different organs and metabolic pathways.

That is the much greater challenge of systems biology, requiring the whole organism to be broken down into manageable systems that can be linked together to make predictions such as the effect of a particular candidate drug. These systems were discussed at the ESF conference, which also highlighted progress in the important related field of synthetic biology, involving engineering of organisms such as bacteria to create novel "systems" capable of manufacturing effective drugs.

Thomas Lau | alfa
Further information:
http://www.esf.org
http://www.esf.org/activities/esf-conferences/details/2008/confdetail234.html?conf=234&year=2008

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht Modern genetic sequencing tools give clearer picture of how corals are related
17.08.2017 | University of Washington

nachricht The irresistible fragrance of dying vinegar flies
16.08.2017 | Max-Planck-Institut für chemische Ökologie

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Fizzy soda water could be key to clean manufacture of flat wonder material: Graphene

Whether you call it effervescent, fizzy, or sparkling, carbonated water is making a comeback as a beverage. Aside from quenching thirst, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have discovered a new use for these "bubbly" concoctions that will have major impact on the manufacturer of the world's thinnest, flattest, and one most useful materials -- graphene.

As graphene's popularity grows as an advanced "wonder" material, the speed and quality at which it can be manufactured will be paramount. With that in mind,...

Im Focus: Exotic quantum states made from light: Physicists create optical “wells” for a super-photon

Physicists at the University of Bonn have managed to create optical hollows and more complex patterns into which the light of a Bose-Einstein condensate flows. The creation of such highly low-loss structures for light is a prerequisite for complex light circuits, such as for quantum information processing for a new generation of computers. The researchers are now presenting their results in the journal Nature Photonics.

Light particles (photons) occur as tiny, indivisible portions. Many thousands of these light portions can be merged to form a single super-photon if they are...

Im Focus: Circular RNA linked to brain function

For the first time, scientists have shown that circular RNA is linked to brain function. When a RNA molecule called Cdr1as was deleted from the genome of mice, the animals had problems filtering out unnecessary information – like patients suffering from neuropsychiatric disorders.

While hundreds of circular RNAs (circRNAs) are abundant in mammalian brains, one big question has remained unanswered: What are they actually good for? In the...

Im Focus: RAVAN CubeSat measures Earth's outgoing energy

An experimental small satellite has successfully collected and delivered data on a key measurement for predicting changes in Earth's climate.

The Radiometer Assessment using Vertically Aligned Nanotubes (RAVAN) CubeSat was launched into low-Earth orbit on Nov. 11, 2016, in order to test new...

Im Focus: Scientists shine new light on the “other high temperature superconductor”

A study led by scientists of the Max Planck Institute for the Structure and Dynamics of Matter (MPSD) at the Center for Free-Electron Laser Science in Hamburg presents evidence of the coexistence of superconductivity and “charge-density-waves” in compounds of the poorly-studied family of bismuthates. This observation opens up new perspectives for a deeper understanding of the phenomenon of high-temperature superconductivity, a topic which is at the core of condensed matter research since more than 30 years. The paper by Nicoletti et al has been published in the PNAS.

Since the beginning of the 20th century, superconductivity had been observed in some metals at temperatures only a few degrees above the absolute zero (minus...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Call for Papers – ICNFT 2018, 5th International Conference on New Forming Technology

16.08.2017 | Event News

Sustainability is the business model of tomorrow

04.08.2017 | Event News

Clash of Realities 2017: Registration now open. International Conference at TH Köln

26.07.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Gold shines through properties of nano biosensors

17.08.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

Greenland ice flow likely to speed up: New data assert glaciers move over sediment, which gets more slippery as it gets wetter

17.08.2017 | Earth Sciences

Mars 2020 mission to use smart methods to seek signs of past life

17.08.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>