The emerging interdisciplinary field of systems biology is pursuing a completely new approach, namely the description of the dynamic interplay of all the components of a biological system using mathematical models with the aim of obtaining a holistic view of the system under consideration. This new approach is expected to lead to new approaches for the treatment of diseases and for the industrial production of enzymes. With its three systems biology centres, Baden-Württemberg is a pioneer in the field in Germany. The research, equipment and study and doctorate options offered by the three centres are presented in the new “Systems Biology in Baden-Württemberg” brochure published by BIOPRO Baden-Württemberg.
Innovative high-throughput technologies and modern data processing involving high-performance computers with huge storage capacities have over the last few years led to completely new holistic approaches in the investigation of biological phenomena: systems biology takes into account the interplay between all the components of a particular system. The objective of systems biology research is to develop as accurate as possible mathematical models of biological processes. In order to do this, data are created in laboratory experiments and subsequently used for in silico modelling. The new models are then tested in laboratory experiments and the newly obtained data used to verify and optimize the mathematical models. Numerous cycles of laboratory experiments and mathematical modelling thus generate a highly accurate model of biological processes.
The models not only lead to a better understanding of biological processes in basic research. The detailed understanding of how a healthy organism functions, and knowing which changes occur as a result of disease leads to new therapeutic approaches. The models are also excellent tools for improving the prediction of drug effects.In the field of industrial biotechnology, systems biology opens up new ways to optimize microorganisms by manipulating their metabolisms so that the microbes produce sought-after products (either enzymes used in detergents or butanol used as solvent or biofuel).
The numerous different parts of the working process in the field of systems biology require expert knowledge from a broad range of disciplines, which goes way beyond the capacity of an individual researcher. Therefore, systems biology is particularly focused on interdisciplinary cooperation between scientists from a broad range of different disciplines. In order to facilitate this cooperation and in particular the exchange of knowledge and information between bioscientists, mathematicians, physicists, engineers and computer scientists who, due their different professional backgrounds, usually speak different “professional languages”, systems biology centres have been established over the last few years.
The Baden-Württemberg government recognised the huge potential of systems biology at a very early stage and implemented specific funding programmes. Supported with funds from the Baden-Württemberg and German governments, three systems biology centres have been established in Baden-Württemberg over the last few years, each focusing on different research priorities. The Baden-Württemberg research location therefore plays a predominant role in this field in Europe.
The Center Systems Biology (CSB) at the University of Stuttgart was established back in 2005, making it one of the first interfaculty systems biology centres in Germany. The particularity of systems biology research in Stuttgart is its close cooperation between the systems-, engineering and biosciences as well as the close cooperation with other universities.
One of the BioQuant’s major research priorities is the investigation of complex cellular systems, which combines biomedical research with mathematical and physical approaches. The BioQuant building, which was specifically built as a systems biology research centre with funds from the Baden-Württemberg and German governments, was officially opened in April 2007 and offers an optimal environment for close cooperation between theoreticians and experimental researchers.
In the Freiburg Center for Biological Systems Analysis (ZBSA), scientists from all natural science faculties and the medical faculty work together on the interdisciplinary clarification of systems biology issues. Models of biological systems are being developed, verified and optimized, with modellers and laboratory researchers working closely together. The ZBSA has four specific core competences and offers state-of-the-art platform technologies that enable the high-throughput generation of data in the fields of genomics, proteomics, metabolomics and life imaging. The building, which was opened in 2008, was also built with funds provided by the Baden-Württemberg and German governments.
These three centres are presented in the new “Systems Biology in Baden-Württemberg” brochure published by BIOPRO Baden-Württemberg. The brochure provides an overview of the research priorities, the specific techniques and equipment offered by the respective centres as well as an overview of study and doctorate programmes.
The brochure can be downloaded free of charge from here.