Wednesday 26 November, 2014

New institute fuses science and engineering with medical research

Published On: Mon, Apr 30th, 2007 | Systems Biology | By BioNews

A new, multi-disciplinary Institute focused on developing novel approaches to medical and biological challenges is launched today at Imperial College London. The Institute of Systems Biology brings together the expertise of engineers, mathematicians and physical scientists and will focus on areas including combating malaria, understanding the interactions between pathogens and host cells, and treating inflammatory diseases.

The Institute will also include a team of researchers working in synthetic biology, an emerging field in which engineers work with molecular bioscientists to produce biologically-based engineering parts, by modifying bacterial DNA. This research, which is in its early stages,
represents the first steps towards building a biologically-based computer.

The main strength of the Institute of Systems Biology will be in how it applies engineering, physical sciences and mathematical or computer modelling techniques to biological problems. This will range from the molecular level – with the study of proteins and genes – up to the body
and population levels, providing medical clinicians with information on the mechanisms of disease. The team behind the Institute is confident that the scope of the work taking place at Imperial in these areas, coupled with established partnerships with leading pharmaceutical firms, will lead to new scientific breakthroughs being quickly translated into new drugs and treatments for disease.

Professor Richard Kitney from Imperial’s Department of Bioengineering, and Chairman of the Board of the new Institute of Systems Biology, explained their way of working, saying: “Traditionally there have been definite boundaries between different disciplines like medicine and engineering. However, we find increasingly that tools engineers use, such as systems and signal theories, and mathematical and computer modelling, are invaluable for understanding the complex systems in the body at the molecular level.

“Our new institute at Imperial will bring together our world-leading scientists working in medicine, biology, engineering and physical sciences, to lead these new and exciting branches of research. Work such as the synthetic biology I’m involved with, using biological parts to
engineer systems, prove that the old boundaries between the sciences have broken down, and setting up this new Institute clearly shows Imperial’s commitment to this new way of working. I’m looking forward to seeing many exciting results coming out of the research groups involved,
in the coming years.”

The Institute for Systems Biology is launched today (Monday 30 April 2007) at Imperial College London with a special symposium of speakers, featuring a keynote lecture by Professor Denis Noble FRS of the University of Oxford, a pioneer in the field of systems biology.

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