Sarah-Maria Fendt (VIB/KU Leuven) guest editor of Current Opinion in Biotechnology (vol34)

19 October 2015

Sarah-Maria Fendt: “As a guest editor for the Systems Biology edition of Current Opinion in Biotechnology Costas and I had the fantastic opportunity to invite a comprehensive set of reviews that represent the advances in systems biology spanning from bioengineering to biomedicine and from cross disciplinary tools to multi layered concepts.”

Systems biology advances diseases understanding and metabolic engineering
Systems biology provides a unifying framework for biological data collection, analysis and informed intervention. In both biotechnology and biomedicine the ultimate goal is to understand and redirect or repair biological processes. For example, the goal could be the design of a production strain that converts a cheap, renewable, and ecological worthwhile substrate with the theoretical maximum possible yield into a desired product or a drug that reverts the aberrant cellular processes in diseased cells back to normal with no side effects and no resistance mechanism.

In contrast to other systems, biological processes are characterized by irreducible complexity at multiple time and spatial scales which hinders our ability to reliably predict, test, learn and redesign. Nevertheless, our understanding of select cellular processes has advanced dramatically over the past decade and their complex interactions are unveiled at an ever accelerated pace. However, our ability to functionally and rationally control these highly connected cellular processes and to predict as well as counter regulate non-anticipated consequences is still limited.

Therefore, a number of overarching themes are emerging across systems biology that could serve as stepping stones to the ideal drug or production strain developmental pipeline. For example, we would like to know how a cell reacts to multiple and partially contradicting cellular inputs; or why some inputs are in one condition of dominance while the same input is rather of no consequence in another condition. Systems biology provides the appropriate framework for conceptualizing the integration of multiple regulatory layers with downstream cellular responses, the formalization of event hierarchies in computational models, and the integration of information and tools into actionable interventions.

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Sarah-Maria Fendt (VIB/KU Leuven)