Much of the remarkable progress in the life sciences can be attributed to molecular biology —  largely a reductionist approach — which has helped to create a detailed, mechanistic understanding of the function and regulation of many biological components. More recently, large-scale, global approaches have driven many advances. For example, our ability to rapidly sequence DNA has generated for many organisms a nearly complete catalog of the genes, and also the RNAs and proteins that can be produced. A major challenge now is to synthesize this information into a description of biology as a system of interacting parts, and to define the ‘design principles’ that explain how the interactions of these components give rise to complex behavior in cells and organisms.

Addressing this challenge will require:

  1. studying the emergent properties of natural systems to reveal principles governing their function and evolution;
  2. testing our understanding by using these principles to predict the behavior of altered systems and to design new ones;
  3. developing new tools to probe the internal state of living cells and organisms; and
  4. applying theory and analysis tools from physics, computer science, and engineering to biological systems.

Members of the FAS Center for Systems Biology work in all the above areas; for more information about their work, see our Faculty and Bauer Fellows Program pages.

The center is also the home of the NIGMS-funded Center for Modular Biology, one of a dozen National Centers for Systems Biology.


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