Europe takes aim at major metabolic disease with systems biology

A European initiative against major metabolic disorders such as obesity is to be launched at the EuroBioForum conference at Lisbon in December 2007. The aim of the initiative is to take advantage of techniques commonly found in engineering to understand the disorders.

The approach, called systems biology, uses mathematical models derived from experimental data to make predictions about the behaviour of cells when they are under attack from disease. These methods have already answered a number of questions different fields in biology, and the initiative will now focus on understanding problems with the body’s metabolism.

The Systems Biology to combat Metabolic Syndrome (SBMS) initiative is a €175m, 10-year European programme with the ultimate ambition of developing effective therapies to treat the diseases. Currently, the initiative plans to study insulin resistance, glucose intolerance, high blood pressure and high blood cholesterol.

According to Professor Roel van Driel, who is helping to coordinate the project, the key to the success of SBMS will lie in creating a coordinated framework of succesful projects. ‘It’s not primarily a science problem,’ he says. ‘We are good at doing the science itself, but very poor at getting organised.’

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