World-class engineers and scientists from Washington University in St. Louis, other research institutions and industry come together Friday, Sept. 7, to focus on new ways to use systems engineering to better understand complex diseases such as cancer and neurodegenerative diseases.
Researchers from the new interdisciplinary Center for Biological Systems Engineering at Washington University will host its inaugural symposium from 8 a.m.-3:45 p.m. in Whitaker Hall, Room 100, on the Danforth Campus. The symposium is sponsored by Lockheed Martin.
The symposium, titled Biological Networks and Cellular Phenotypes, begins with an overview of the new center, which is directed by Rohit V. Pappu, PhD, professor of biomedical engineering.
“The Center for Biological Systems Engineering has been designed to be the research home of network biology and complex diseases at Washington University,” Pappu says.
“Complex diseases, such as cancers and neurodegenerative disorders, can require integrative approaches to understand how pathways and networks work in synergy and give rise to chronic or catastrophic failures. Such problems don’t readily lend themselves to a single molecular target for which a drug can be developed, but instead require an integrative systems approach. The way we get ahead is by working to take on this systems challenge, rather than shying away from it.”
Faculty from the university’s School of Engineering & Applied Science and School of Medicine will speak at the symposium, as well as world leaders in their fields from the University of Cambridge, Princeton University, University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, Northwestern University and Lockheed Martin.
Ralph S. Quatrano, PhD, the Spencer T. Olin Professor and dean of the School of Engineering & Applied Science, will provide the vision for the school and the center.
“The Center for Biological Systems Engineering will allow faculty and students from different disciplines to build on their strengths and come together to study the basic sciences of protein structure, models of complex living systems and genetic regulatory networks,” Quatrano says. “We anticipate the work from this center to revolutionize the way human diseases are diagnosed and treated, using the basic tools of systems and computational science. This approach symbolizes the vision for our future, one of ‘convergence’ of disciplines.”
By leveraging systems science approaches to understand and control bimolecular and cellular networks, the researchers in the center will focus on new approaches that will enable a new understanding of how cellular processes and decisions are controlled by structures and dynamics of bimolecular networks.
Over the last year, Pappu has worked closely with leaders of biomedical engineering and pathology and immunology to assemble a group of eight researchers devoted to different areas of biomedical science with the common goal of understanding the essence of biomolecular and cellular networks.
This team was recruited from institutions nationwide. In addition to Pappu, whose research focuses on the biophysics of intrinsically disordered proteomes, members include:
- Mark Anastasio, PhD, professor of biomedical engineering with a research focus on computational and theoretical image science;
- Maxim Artyomov, PhD, assistant professor of pathology and immunology with a research focus on systems immunology;
- Jan Bieschke, PhD, assistant professor of biomedical engineering with a research focus on age-related protein misfolding;
- John Cunningham, PhD, assistant professor of biomedical engineering with a research focus on system analysis and computation;
- Kristen Naegle, PhD, assistant professor of biomedical engineering with a research focus on post-translational modifications in cell signaling networks;
- Barani Raman, PhD, assistant professor of biomedical engineering with a research focus in systems neuroscience and neuromorphic engineering;
- Joshua Swamidass, MD, PhD, assistant professor of pathology and immunology with a research focus in pharmacology informatics.
Lockheed Martin, which is sponsoring the symposium, also has agreed to initiate a pilot program to sponsor the Lockheed Martin CBSE Scholars program. This pilot will support one graduate student this academic year with plans to grow the program in the future, Pappu says.
“Lockheed Martin is extremely proud to sponsor the inaugural symposium and to be teamed with Washington University in St. Louis, one of the nation’s leading academic and research institutions studying Systems Biology,” says Jim Wrightson, vice president for engineering and technology concepts at Lockheed Martin.
“Systems biology is an exciting and challenging field, and part of a growing trend in the integration of science and technical disciplines to investigate complex problems with new methodologies and technical approaches. We look forward to having an ongoing relationship with Washington University through the Lockheed Martin CBSE Scholars program,” Wrightson says.
The inaugural event is free and open to the public.
For more information, go to cbse.wustl.edu or contact Lori Parrett at (314) 935-6350.