The aim is to revolutionise the way medical research is conducted by taking an engineering-led approach under the umbrella of systems biology, in which rigorous mathematical models are derived from experimental data and used to make predictions, about disease for example, that can be tested and then refined.
Ultimately such methods will be applied to all major problems in biology, but for the upcoming EuroBioForum, the focus will be on one field, metabolic syndrome, as a proving ground for the new approach, according to Professor Roel van Driel from the University of Amsterdam and Netherlands Institute for Systems Biology and co-chair of the ESF Forward Look on Systems Biology. He is also the proposer of the Systems Biology to combat Metabolic Syndrome (SBMS) initiative.
The SBMS plan is to establish a coordinated €175 million 10-year European programme with the ultimate ambition of developing effective therapies, including diet and lifestyle as well as drugs, that both reduce the risk of acquiring metabolic syndrome conditions, and bring significant relief for existing sufferers. Metabolic syndrome embraces a range of serious inter-related conditions including obesity and diabetes. The programme would adopt an engineering-led data-driven approach to systematically unravel the combined molecular, cellular, and organismal basis of the individual metabolic syndrome components, according to van Driel. These components include insulin resistance, associated with Type II diabetes, the most common form of diabetes in the western word; weight gain; glucose intolerance; high blood pressure; and high blood cholesterol (dyslipedemia), which can cause atherosclerosis, a disease of the blood vessels.
The radical departure of SBMS from the traditional ad hoc approach to medical research was motivated by a growing appreciation of how complex all important biological problems are, according to van Driel. This realisation has developed since completion of major genome sequencing projects, which created huge amounts of data, but as yet little more understanding of how biology works at a fundamental level.
The key to success of SBMS will lie in creating a coordinated framework of world class projects. Some of these will draw from existing national and Europe-wide programmes that are concentrating at present on specific aspects of metabolic syndrome. “We will select those that are fit for a systems biology approach and create a strong and well-focused consortium of European research groups,” said van Driel, who conceded that this was far from trivial.
Indeed the challenge posed by systems biology was more organisational than scientific, van Driel insisted. “It’s not primarily a science problem. We are good at doing the science itself, but very poor at getting organised.”
However, EuroBioForum’s role is to tackle this organisational challenge with a new approach. EuroBioForum is the annual conference of EuroBioFund, which was launched in 2006 by the European Science Foundation with support from the EU through the Sixth Framework Programme, to bring together public and private sources of funding to catalyse the development of large scale pan-European life science research programmes.
The SBMS project will be a testing ground both for both EuroBioFund’s approach to research funding, and the new methods driven by systems biology, aiming to make research more clearly defined and based on computational models that make testable predictions and are capable of continuous refinement in the light of emerging data. “We aim to change the way biomedical research is done,” said van Driel.
Thomas Lau | alfa
A promising target for kidney fibrosis
21.04.2017 | Brigham and Women's Hospital
Stem cell transplants: activating signal paths may protect from graft-versus-host disease
20.04.2017 | Technische Universität München
The nearby, giant radio galaxy M87 hosts a supermassive black hole (BH) and is well-known for its bright jet dominating the spectrum over ten orders of magnitude in frequency. Due to its proximity, jet prominence, and the large black hole mass, M87 is the best laboratory for investigating the formation, acceleration, and collimation of relativistic jets. A research team led by Silke Britzen from the Max Planck Institute for Radio Astronomy in Bonn, Germany, has found strong indication for turbulent processes connecting the accretion disk and the jet of that galaxy providing insights into the longstanding problem of the origin of astrophysical jets.
Supermassive black holes form some of the most enigmatic phenomena in astrophysics. Their enormous energy output is supposed to be generated by the...
The probability to find a certain number of photons inside a laser pulse usually corresponds to a classical distribution of independent events, the so-called...
Microprocessors based on atomically thin materials hold the promise of the evolution of traditional processors as well as new applications in the field of flexible electronics. Now, a TU Wien research team led by Thomas Müller has made a breakthrough in this field as part of an ongoing research project.
Two-dimensional materials, or 2D materials for short, are extremely versatile, although – or often more precisely because – they are made up of just one or a...
Two researchers at Heidelberg University have developed a model system that enables a better understanding of the processes in a quantum-physical experiment...
Glaciers might seem rather inhospitable environments. However, they are home to a diverse and vibrant microbial community. It’s becoming increasingly clear that they play a bigger role in the carbon cycle than previously thought.
A new study, now published in the journal Nature Geoscience, shows how microbial communities in melting glaciers contribute to the Earth’s carbon cycle, a...
20.04.2017 | Event News
18.04.2017 | Event News
03.04.2017 | Event News
21.04.2017 | Physics and Astronomy
21.04.2017 | Health and Medicine
21.04.2017 | Physics and Astronomy