New National Centers for Systems Biology to Study Microbial Communities and RNA

National Institute of General Medical Sciences

October 11, 2012

The National Institute of General Medical Sciences (NIGMS) has funded two new National Centers for Systems Biology (NCSB). They join 13 existing centers that are developing strategies and tools for studying complex biological systems and how they function in health and disease.
The new centers are led by Karen J. Guillemin, Ph.D., at the University of Oregon; and Jamie H. Cate, Ph.D., at the University of California, Berkeley, under grants 1P50GM098911 and 1P50GM102706, respectively.

Guillemin's Microbial Ecology and Theory of Animals Center for Systems Biology (META CSB), which will receive up to $10.3 million over 5 years, brings together a multidisciplinary team of researchers to investigate how animal-associated microbial communities assemble, interact, evolve and influence human health and disease. The center will use two fish systems, zebrafish and stickleback, to model host-microbe interactions in humans. The center will also partner with the University of Alaska to develop training opportunities for groups underrepresented in systems biology. Findings from the center could aid understanding of inflammatory bowel diseases, cancers, autoimmune disorders and other diseases associated with perturbed host-microbe interactions.

Cate's Center for RNA Systems Biology, which will receive up to $10 million over 5 years, takes a new approach to understanding the role that RNA plays in the regulation of gene expression. The center will use systems biology methods to explore the relationship between the structure and fate of messenger RNA and its precursors in living cells. This knowledge will provide insights on human biology, particularly the mechanisms underlying gene variation, as well as on diseases ranging from inherited disorders to cancer.

NIGMS has also renewed funding for the NCSBs led by Arthur D. Lander, M.D., Ph.D., at the University of California, Irvine; and John D. Aitchison, Ph.D., at the Institute for Systems Biology under grants 2P50GM076516 and 2P50GM076547, respectively. The centers are exploring spatial dynamics and design principles in biology as well as the collective behavior of cells, cell differentiation and cellular responses to environmental changes. In addition, both centers offer educational and outreach opportunities, with a particular focus on new investigators interested in systems biology.

For more information about the NIGMS National Centers for Systems Biology, including descriptions of the existing centers, see /Research/FeaturedPrograms/SysBio.