The past few decades have seen great technical advances in molecular and cell biology that have led to the development of new therapeutics and diagnostics which will have a profound impact on medicine for years to come. With the Human Genome Project complete, a massive effort is ongoing to build from the molecular level in a step-wise fashion all the way to complex behavior and function. This effort requires continual discovery and analysis of biological systems, integrated with high throughput and genetic manipulation technologies for experimental biology; sophisticated data management, and statistical analysis techniques from mathematics and computer science; and systems modeling and design & fabrication tools from engineering.
A primary goal is to develop novel methods for biomedical investigators to analyze the multi-source and multi-level data so that they can predict and optimize cellular processes, gain improved understanding of the evolution of disease processes, and identify targets for new drugs and therapies. Systems biology enables the integration of the knowledge base at these various levels, from the genetic to the cellular operations level. Physiological processes involve the interplay of combinations of genes and their products that may act in concert, or in opposition, in the regulation of secreted proteins, metabolic enzymes, and signaling pathways at the cellular and tissue level. Current mechanistic understanding of cellular function and metabolism is limited due to the lack of this integrated information at the cellular level. High-throughput technologies have given rise to a wealth of information but require new paradigms for analysis to gain insight into biological processes. A systems biology and bioengineering approach enables one to evaluate information derived from multiple levels, in ways that reveal a biological system’s behavior and that more clearly identify complex pathways involved in disease mechanisms.