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European Science Foundation Proposes 'Massive' Systems Biology Program; Aebersold's on Board

NEW YORK (GenomeWeb News) — Members of the European Science Foundation are trying to encourage European nations to create an aggressive and interdependent human systems biology program.
The nine-member ESF Task Force has challenged European governments to pump funds into multi-center systems biology research programs and create research hubs that share technology and work on the same larger projects from various disciplinary approaches.
“For Europe to take its lead in the research of systems biology, the continent needs to establish an interactive network itself, meaning that nations should not independently address their own parts of the 'grand challenge' of systems biology,” the Task Force said in a statement. “A paradigm shift is needed therefore, away from isolated, country-based, molecular biology and physiology, to extensive and intensive networks of excellent scientists across Europe.”
Rudi Aebersold, of the Institute of Molecular Systems Biology in Zurich and a Task Force member, agreed, saying that "we cannot move forward in systems biology in Europe unless we have the technology to back up our vision. He said Europe needs “new, powerful, user-friendly technologies not only to process and integrate large amounts of data, enhance data sharing and visualize models of biological systems, but also to collect that data in the first place.”
The Task Force’s recommendations are based on a report, called "Systems Biology: A Grand Challenge for Europe," in which its authors point to initial steps that can be taken to pursue integrative systems biology research across Europe.
The Task Force proposed that the ESF’s 75 member organization and other groups may first open discussions about developing a multi-center systems biology program that initially would tackle one or two diseases or research areas, such as obesity or cancer.
Eventually, a “massive initiative” would be needed to develop “the kinds of technology that can look at networks in cells, clusters of cells, organs and bodies,” the group said.
"We need scientists that can understand both sides of the Systems Biology coin,” said Hans Westerhoff, a professor at the Manchester Centre for Integrative Systems Biology and a member of the Task Force. The program will require “biologists that can handle equations and physical scientists that know their way around experimental biology."
Among the Task Force’s recommendations:
* Create a task force of representatives from organizations “investing in, or soon
to invest, in systems biology” supported by a European Systems Biology Office.

* Such a group would “initiate, coordinate, and fund a single Grand Action on Systems Biology, called GRASB, consisting of activities working towards the integral 'Networks for Life' project and become the world's largest, best integrated, hence most effective systems biology program."

* The group would also “call for applications and expressions of interest in developing technology for and in carrying out world-leading systems biology research; a network of research on systems biotechnology; a network of research on multifactorial disease; a network of training activities; a network of European Reference Laboratories; and one or two Centers for Advanced Studies.”

* It would also “organize workshops to ensure activities are kept up to date; develop a program for GRASB, including funding mechanisms; and define ways of disseminating strategies for all GRASB activities.”

Additional information can be found here.

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