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University of Chicago Gets $18M to Start Center for Systems Biology

NEW YORK (GenomeWeb News) – The University of Chicago has reeled in $18 million through two new grants that it will use to start a center that will study systems biology, genomics, genetics and environmental change, the University said today.
Specifically, the Chicago Center for Systems Biology will study how gene networks respond to environmental pressures and to genetic change.
CCSB will receive $15 million over five years from the National Institute of General Medical Sciences, and $3 million over three years from the Searle Funds at the Chicago Community Trust and the Chicago Biomedical Consortium. The funding makes the CCSB one of a total of ten National Centers for Systems Biology funded through NIGMS.
CCSB will aim to find out how multiple genes for proteins work together as networks to regulate the basic processes of life. The center will concentrate on transcriptional networks and how the clusters of master genes regulate the activities of others by turning them on or off.
“Our goal is to understand the principles that transcriptional regulatory networks share as they respond to different types of environmental and genetic variation," CCSB Director Kevin White, who also directs the Institute for Genomics and Systems Biology, said in a statement.
White said the center will turn to “more than a dozen experts in genomics, developmental biology, evolutionary biology, stress and physiology, chemistry and physics,” and other computational specialists.
The researchers will study five core areas. They will look into how a single bacterial cell turns on or off various genes as responses to environmental stress, and they will use yeast, worms, and fruit flies to identify ancient stress-response circuits and learn how they have evolved differently in each system. CCSB scientists also will research fruit fly genetic networks related to anatomical development, and how gene transcription guides cell development into one of two types of cells in the fly’s eye. The fifth are of study will look into how chemical and genetic signals guide stem cells in bone marrow as they mature to become different kinds of blood cells.
NIGMS Program Director Peter Lyster said that the center “will make great strides in uniting systems biologists across the Chicago area and revealing the organizing principles behind transcriptional properties that persist across multiple organisms and cell types.”

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