For the third consecutive year the workshop entitled “Winter School in Systems Biology” was held at Instituto Superior Técnico (IST), within the scope of the ERASMUS MUNDUS EuSysBio Master’s program in Systems Biology. This prestigious program, under the coordination of Prof. Isabel Sá-Correia at IST, is sponsored by the European Commission and results from a consortium between the Royal Institute of Technology (KTH), in Stockholm, the Aalto University, in Helsinki, and IST, in Lisbon. The pioneer euSYSBIO Masters´program trains top rank students, selected from around the world, in the new exciting field of Systems Biology. The combination of cutting-edge genome-wide technologies with computer sciences and computational biology is expected to answer key biological questions with relevance in the fields of Life Sciences, Health Sciences and Biotechnology.
Present in the Winter School 2013 edition were several renowned scientists such as Prof. Erik Aurell, the Director of the EuSysBio program, Prof. Juho Rouso, the coordinator of the course at Aalto University, Prof. André Ribeiro and Prof. Olli Yli-Harja, heads of the Biosystems Dynamics Lab and of the Computational Systems Biology research group, respectively, of Tampere University of Technology (TUT), Finland, and Prof. Alfonso Valencia, leader of the Structural Computational Biology Group of the Spanish National Cancer Research Centre (CNIO) and director of the Spanish National Bioinformatics Institute. Their lectures provided key insights into the progresses made in biological network modeling, from Graph-based and stoichiometric modeling of biochemical networks to stochastic modeling of gene transcription dynamics.
Sessions devoted to research in Functional Genomics, Computational Biology, Nanobiotechnology and Stem Cell Bioengineering and Entrepreneurship were also included, counting with the support from researchers of three Associated Laboratories linked to IST: IBB (Institute for Biotechnology and Bioengineering), INESC-ID (Instituto de Engenharia de Sistemas e Computadores – Investigação e Desenvolvimento) and INESC-MN (Instituto de Engenharia de Sistemas e Computadores – Microssistemas e Nanotechnologias).
The new field of Systems Biology was highlighted as an interdisciplinary area of science, which demands close interaction between scientists working in both life and computer sciences. This interaction is not always easy, since the languages spoken in these two fields of research are different. Therefore, the effort to build the bridge between them is both mandatory and rewarding. Indeed, the absolute requirement to use state-of-the-art informatics tools to deal with the ever-growing wealth of biological data, coming from genome-wide experimental approaches, together with the possibility to draw strong, quantitative and statistically significant conclusions as well as reliable predictions, that may guide the design of specific experiments, is turning Systems Biology into an unavoidable approach for all those working in life sciences. This is what students embarking in the EuSysBio ERASMUS MUNDUS master program learnt during the “Winter School in Systems Biology” course with the expectation that every life sciences lab will need in the near future to include biology-prone computer sciences experts, and that computational biology groups will be drawn to installing their own wet-labs, harboring computer-prone biologists.
by Miguel Cacho Teixeira, Omics and Integrative and Systems Microbiology SPM Thematic Group