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NIGMS Provides $13M Grant for MCW Systems Biology Center

NEW YORK (GenomeWeb News) – The Medical College of Wisconsin has won a $13 million National Institute of General Medical Sciences grant to establish a National Center for Systems Biology that will develop computational models for studying the genetic, molecular, and environmental factors involved in diseases.

The center's primary goal will be to create the Virtual Physiological Rat, a computational model that will aid scientists seeking to discover how genetics and environment interact to cause diseases such as hypertension, renal disease, heart failure, and metabolic syndromes.

"The Virtual Physiological Rat allows us to create a model for disease that takes into account the many genes and environmental factors believed to be associated," Daniel Beard, principal investigator on the grant and a member of MCW's Biotechnology and Bioengineering Center, said in a statement. "This proposal targets the grand challenge of understanding complex multi-faced diseases through experiments and simulations that capture that hugely complex relationship."

"Understanding the mechanisms of disease could lead to better preventative and interventional interactions with patients who are at risk for developing these diseases," added Joseph Kerschner, MCW's interim dean and executive vice president.

The center will use findings from the VPR in real animal models, and will derive new transgenic and knock-out strains of rats to be used to test, validate, and refine researchers' findings.

The systems biology center also will contain an education component that will be focused on developing courses and workshops, training and recruiting scientists from underserved communities, and holding an annual meeting to present its findings.

The center's research team will collaborate with other scientists at The University of Wisconsin - Madison; the University of Washington; the University of California, San Diego; North Carolina State University; King's College London; the Norwegian Life Sciences University; and the University of Auckland.

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