NIGMS Announces New Systems Biology Centers


Two new multidisciplinary centers have joined an ongoing effort supported by the National Institute of General Medical Sciences to develop new strategies and tools for studying the complexity of biological systems. The centers will integrate experimental and computational approaches into research, technology development, and outreach programs.  The findings from these projects will advance our understanding of basic biological processes and the role they play in human health.

The centers are led by Leroy Hood, M.D., Ph.D., president of the Institute for Systems Biology in Seattle; and Gary Churchill, Ph.D., a statistical geneticist at the Jackson Laboratory in Bar Harbor, Maine. They join five other National Centers for Systems Biology  awarded in the last 4 years. 

Hood’s Center for Systems Biology, which will receive about $16.3 million over 5 years, brings together a diverse group of collaborators to create a multidisciplinary research environment that will foster the development of new technologies and educational approaches. Specifically, the center will design and develop novel tools for microfluidic measurement, molecular imaging, and computational modeling to better understand how cells differentiate and respond to environmental changes; to identify diagnostic markers of prostate cancer; and to model cell dynamics and signaling networks. The center will offer numerous educational programs for students and science teachers as well as training opportunities for the research community, particularly new investigators.

Churchill’s Genome Dynamics center, which will receive about $15.1 million over 5 years, focuses on how patterns of genetic variation emerge and persist over time. By creating a collection of genetic information from a set of more than 200 inbred strains of mice, the research team will study expression patterns to identify co-expressed genes, examine how these patterns evolved, and investigate how the overall genome organization affects phenotype. The Churchill center brings with it the vast resources of the Jackson Laboratory, the world’s source for nearly 3,000 strains of genetically defined mice and an international hub for scientific courses, conferences, and educational opportunities.