UC Irvine has been awarded $11.5 million over five years to further support the biologists, mathematicians, physicists, engineers and computer scientists who collaborate in pursuit of a more comprehensive and accurate understanding of complex biological systems.
The funding for the UCI Center for Complex Biological Systems comes from the National Institute of General Medical Sciences, one of the National Institutes of Health, which gave the facility initial grants of $450,000 in 2002 and $14.5 million in 2007.
At the time, the UCI center was the first of its kind in California dedicated to systems biology, an emerging field of study that employs the latest technology and computational methods to examine how networks of molecules, cells, tissues and organs interact in complex, dynamic ways to produce reliable biological functions.
“Over the past decade, we’ve tried to take a teamwork approach to really hard biological problems, encouraging researchers from all over the sciences and engineering to work together. This award is a clear endorsement of that strategy, especially given the current funding environment,” said Dr. Arthur Lander, center director and professor of developmental & cell biology and biomedical engineering.
UCI’s efforts focus on “spatial dynamics,” or how biological systems have evolved to control what happens not just over time, but over space (in different locations within cells, tissues and organs, for instance). In researching this, the center takes advantage of the campus’s considerable strengths in computation, applied mathematics and optical biology, in which microscopes, lasers and fluorescence are used to probe cells and tissues.
Additionally, the facility regularly hosts scientific seminars and symposia; offers short courses in systems biology; provides visiting scholar and research support; and administers undergraduate, graduate and postdoctoral training programs.
Founded in 2001, the center has helped UCI garner more than $36 million in federal and private aid for research, education and outreach by teams of biologists, mathematicians, physical scientists and engineers. It’s currently one of 13 National Centers for Systems Biology funded by the NIGMS.