NIGMS Funds Complex Biomedical Systems Research Centers

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To encourage computational approaches that will deepen understanding of biological processes, the National Institute of General Medical Sciences has established Centers of Excellence in Complex Biomedical Systems Research. NIGMS anticipates spending a total of $25.5 million over the course of five years to support the centers.

After decades of research, scientists have amassed a wealth of data on the characteristics and functions of individual biological molecules. The focus now is on investigating how these molecules interact. Central to this effort is modeling and predicting the behavior of complex biological systems, which draws on the expertise and approaches of quantitative scientists--including mathematicians, physicists, computer scientists, and engineers--as well as those of biologists.

"NIGMS is excited about the opportunity to nurture the growth of this important new area of biomedicine," said Dr. Judith H. Greenberg, acting director of NIGMS. "We anticipate that the new centers will develop creative approaches to address significant biomedical problems by combining the expertise of outstanding scientists working across disciplinary boundaries. We also expect these centers to lead the way in training the next generation of researchers in computational biology."

The new NIGMS centers are designed to support the development of multi-investigator teams that can address biomedical complexity through research, training, workshops, symposia and other forms of outreach. The awards promote innovation and permit a larger scope of activity than would be possible via research grants to individual investigators.

Two new center awards, totaling $4.5 million for the first year of funding, were made to:

  • University of Washington, Friday Harbor Laboratories in Friday Harbor, San Juan Island, Wash. (Garrett M. Odell, Ph.D., principal investigator)--$2.1 million to investigate how groups of genes control a variety of key biological processes, including the development of embryos and the functional and mechanical organization of cell structure and motion. Outreach activities will include creating and disseminating to the scientific community software to visualize and model data, hosting guest researchers and teaching yearly apprenticeship courses to recruit undergraduate biology students to careers in computational biology.
  • Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio (Gerald M. Saidel, Ph.D., principal investigator)--$2.4 million to create the Center for Modeling Integrated Metabolic Systems (MIMS), an effort to mathematically model and simulate metabolism in skeletal muscle, brain and liver tissue in response to stresses associated with exercise, diet and oxygen supply. MIMS will extend its reach beyond Case Western Reserve by establishing a partnership with Cleveland State University, which has a substantial population of undergraduate students who are members of minority groups that are underrepresented in biomedical research careers.

In addition, NIGMS will support three planning grants to lay the groundwork for future centers of excellence at:

  • Boston University (Charles DeLisi, Ph.D., principal investigator)--to conduct a pilot study of the interactions between two signaling pathways controlling cell growth and death in human cells. The effort will also organize a large group of faculty members representing computer science, experimental and clinical science, and statistics to begin planning a cross-disciplinary educational program for undergraduates.
  • University of California, Irvine (Arthur Lander, Ph.D., principal investigator)--to foster collaborations between research faculty members in cell biology, developmental biology, physiology and medicine. The group plans to devise software engineering principles to simulate large biological systems.
  • University of New Mexico in Albuquerque (Janet Oliver, Ph.D., principal investigator)--to develop plans to establish the Center for Spatiotemporal Modeling of Cell Signaling Networks. The project's goals are to use computational modeling to understand complex cell signaling circuits and to disseminate knowledge and tools to the broader research community. The center will recruit new faculty to conduct computational biology research and provide training programs for undergraduate, graduate and postdoctoral students to learn how to conduct interdisciplinary research to analyze complex biological systems.

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NIGMS has recently developed several programs and initiatives in the area of complex biological systems.

For more information about NIGMS' Center for Bioinformatics and Computational Biology, see /news/releases/pages/cbcb.aspx

For more information on NIH's Biomedical Information Science and Technology Initiative (BISTI), see

To schedule an interview with an NIGMS scientist involved in the Centers of Excellence in Complex Biomedical Systems Research Initiative, call the Office of Communications and Public Liaison at (301) 496-7301.

Please fax clips to (301) 402-0224.