Systems Biology


Europe has a long scientific tradition in cell physiology. Through a combination with molecular biology and thanks to enabling technologies, such as integrative genomics and bioinformatics, this now metamorphoses to what can be described as ’molecular systems biology’. Molecular Systems Biology delineates complex biological systems quantitatively in terms of chemical conversions and physical interactions. The ultimate aim of Systems Biology is to incorporate all processes of the living cell in a dynamic description of these processes. This should provide a basis for the true understanding of the complex network of processes that we call ‘Life’.

Europe also has a thorough tradition in mathematics and mathematical biology. The latter has provided early foundations for Systems Biology ranging from the Zhabotinsky reaction, through Turing patterns, and Prigogine’s non-equilibrium thermodynamics to the Metabolic Control Analysis of Kacser & Heinrich and much, much more.

European engineers and geologists, who deal with large systems in terms of system science, recognize much of the paradigm of Systems Biology. They have come to realize that Biology now poses a challenge also to engineering, in view of the unique, recent and complete definition of its systems through genomics, its special types of non-linearity and its bounds of functionality. Systems Biology, in the molecular and cellular context that is addressed here, may well build and extend on achievements in the fields of earth sciences and ecology.

The integration of molecular and cell biology, mathematics and physics, and engineering and systems sciences approaches will provide an impetus for 21st century life science.