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Virginia Tech Lands NIH Funds for Systems Biology

By a GenomeWeb staff reporter

NEW YORK (GenomeWeb News) –Virginia Tech researchers will use a $2.1 million federal grant to develop systems biology approaches to studying cellular responses, the university said Wednesday.

The National Institutes of Health grant will fund interdisciplinary and collaborative approaches to studying cell cycle control in budding yeast.

Virginia Tech Associate Professor of Computer Science T.M. Murali said the researchers will use both 'top-down' and 'bottom-up' approaches to studying complex cellular systems.

"The first, top-down approach automatically analyzes large-scale datasets for correlations between genes and proteins. However, it is often difficult to design experiments from these results," Murali said.

"The second, bottom-up approach painstakingly crafts detailed models that can be simulated computationally. Although such simulations can suggest wet lab experiments, developing the models is a manual process that can take many years," he said. "Our project will meld the strengths of these two approaches into a single framework, thereby allowing efficient and automated data-driven analysis to augment models that can be simulated."

The researchers will develop a framework for generating hypotheses from top-down models, testing hypotheses by integrating them into bottom-up models, and validating them using experiments.

While the research will focus on yeast, Murali said that the methods they develop should be "relevant to the study of any complex cellular system, including the development of cancer and the spread of infectious diseases.

"If we are successful, our project will result in significant advances in computationally driven experimental biology," he said.