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Systems Biology

Scientific case

Systems biology requires tight cooperation be­tween biologists, biomedi­cal researchers, mathe­mati­cians, physicists, chemists and (bio)informaticians. Their input is essential to integrate the available data and translate it to biological knowledge.

To bring together this ex­pertise the Netherlands Institute of Systems Biology (NISB) was founded in 2007. In NISB SILS and IBED have bundled their forces with those of the Faculties of Earth & Life Sciences and of Sciences of VU University Amsterdam (VUA) and the Centre for Mathematics and Informat­ics (CWI).

Strategically NISB has had a great im­pact:

  • it obtained a start-up grant from NWO;
  • it is the initiator of the Netherlands Consor­tium for Systems Biology (NCSB; www.ncsb.nl) that funds within NISB a core modeling group;
  • it is one of the initiators of the European Strategy Forum on Research Infrastructures (ESFRI) proposal that focuses on large investments in systems biology infrastructure;
  • it is participating in two large sys­tems biololgy projects in the framework of ‘Biosolar Cells’ (www.biosolar.cells), and;
  • NISB is an important participant in three European research projects on systwems biology: SysMO (www.sysmo.net), EraSysBio-Plus (www.erasysbio.net) and FINSysB (http://www.finsysb.eu/).

Examples of SILS and IBED research projects that are expected to result in important break­throughs are:

  • analysis of gene expression, epi­genetic regulation of gene expression and folding of chromatin in relation to the function­ing of the genome. This project is aimed at targeted modifica­tion of eukaryotic cells, tissues and organs;
  • insight in mechanisms that counter­act disorders related to aging resulting in healthy aging;
  • sustainable production of biofu­els by cyanobacteria through a process that is economi­cally viable compared to fossil fuels;
  • adaptation of plants to cope with (a)biotic stress for sustainable food production;
  • gain­ing insight in the symbioses between the microbial gut flora and the human metabolism related to healthy food;
  • understanding of the anticipa­tion of complex ecosystems to tempera­ture and CO2 changes related to the conservation of biodiversity, and;
  • the develop­ment of vaccines against life threatening fungal infection by Can­dida.

The Academic Medical Centre of the University of Amsterdam has decided to join this initia­tive through its research that focuses on a systems biology approach of the Meta­bolic Syn­drome, a combination of disorders that are related to obesity and the linked resis­tance to insulin.