Informations about FRISYS

1. FORSYS Centers
2. Goals
3. Research Environment
4. Program
5. Teaching Platform

1. FORSYS Centers:

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2. Goals:

Research in Systems Biology requires the integration of both theoretical and practical efforts in order to define the behaviour of an intact biological system.

The Freiburg Initiative for Systems Biology (FRISYS) is an initiative under the umbrella of the Freiburg Centre for Systems Biology (ZBSA, Zentrum für Biosystemanalyse)

FRISYS continues and expands the long-term commitment of the University of Freiburg to shape the integrative Systems Biology focus in the Life Sciences.

The programmatic focus of FRISYS is modelling and systems’ analysis of signalling processes in growth and differentiation of well developed model organisms at phylogenetic key positions.

FRISYS receives funding from the German Department for Education and Research – BMBF – from 2007-2011.

3. Research Environment:



4. Systems Biology and the FRISYS program:

Today, we witness a revolution in biological research. For years, research has been focused on investigating the molecular components of biological systems in isolation. Though in many cases this approach has been successful, it has become clear that for many processes biological function is not determined by single genes or proteins, but by dynamic interacting networks. On the other hand, the recent development of numerous new experimental and theoretical concepts has propelled the life sciences forward. So far, it has been typical that a single research group was only capable of investigating a defined, usually small, number of genes and their functions. Even widely-recognized gene and protein networks demand more complex research initiatives if we are to truly understand them. Such networks include the regulation of gene expression, the incorporation, transmission, processing and integration of external and internal stimuli, and are crucial for differentiation and function of entire, multicellular organisms. It is now possible to study such complex regulatory networks with unprecedented precision. New inventions and accomplishments involving data acquisition and management technologies, ultra-sensitive nano-sensors, quantitative phosphor-proteomics and high-throughput techniques now facilitate a systemic perspective of life. Typically, these quantitative methods are currently applied to our understanding of intracellular or unicellular systems. It will be a challenge for the life sciences and theoretical sciences in the coming years to develop and apply appropriate methods for the understanding of complex systems. For the first time, this will allow to aim at understanding the principles and dynamic performances of complex living systems.

The understanding of the regulatory principles of these networks is not possible by intuitive reasoning, but requires mathematical models. These mathematical models must be tightly linked to experimental data. Within FRISYS the Systems Biology approach will be applied to networks relevant for signalling in growth and differentiation. Initially, the mathematical models will be based on existing qualitative knowledge about the biological processes. Based on these models, experiments will be designed that will quantitatively measure the dynamic behaviour of the biological system.

Based on these data, parameters will be estimated and the models tested. In close collaboration between the modelling and experimental groups, in an iterative cycle, new hypotheses will be derived and corresponding experiments performed in order to challenge and finally validate the models. From the validated models the systems properties of the underlying biological systems will be derived. These systems properties include efficient targets for intervention, regulatory hierarchies, modularity, and other mechanisms of robustness. Within FRISYS, we have chosen three interconnected topics for which extensive biological research has been accomplished at the University of Freiburg.

The time is ripe to apply Systems Biology approaches to these projects because

  • sufficient qualitative biological knowledge is available to enter the modelling cycle of Systems Biology.
  • these systems allow to generate quantitative data under standardized conditions.
  • they are accessible to manipulations, allowing for perturbations and tests of hypotheses
  • they allow a comparison of regulatory principles in the different kingdoms of life.

In these projects generic approaches to Systems Biology will be exemplified by specific projects.

Research in Systems Biology requires the integration of both theoretical and experimental efforts in order to define the behaviour of an intact biological system. FRISYS aims at providing an optimal platform for intensive collaborations between theoretical and experimental groups. These interactions generate a synergy absolutely essential in modern life sciences to combine hypotheses-driven and technology-driven large-scale approaches. Strong interactions can be accomplished through:

  • joint work of scientists at all levels in shared laboratories in a shared research building. This is established in Freiburg through the Centre for Systems Biology (Zentrum für Biosystemanalyse, ZBSA).
  • focus on specific model organisms at phylogenetic key positions that are amenable to Systems Biology research. In FRISYS, these include cyanobacteria, plants (the moss Physcomitrella, the angiosperm Arabidopsis), and animals (C. elegans for invertebrates, and for vertebrates the zebrafish model as well as mammalian cell and organ cultures).
  • the study of a common scientific question. In the case of FRISYS, the principles of regulatory mechanisms allows the combination of prokaryotic with eukaryotic models and is perfectly suitable for the Systems Biology approach.
  • strong cooperation with leading Systems Biology institutes worldwide. Such interactions are currently being established with the Swiss SystemsX initiative (Basel/Zurich), Joint Genome Institute (Walnut Creek, California), CPIB (University of Nottingham), and CISBIC Imperial College London

The University of Freiburg has been awarded a substantial grant from the State of Baden-Württemberg for a new Centre for Systems Biology. With this grant a state-of-the-art research building has been constructed. The new 3000 sqm of lab and office space dedicated to Systems Biology opened its doors in Summer 2008. This new Centre for Systems Biology is located centrally between the Life Sciences Institutes of the University of Freiburg and hosts Systems Biology projects comprising 'dry' and 'wet' lab groups under one roof. The interaction between theoretical and experimental groups is facilitated by a highly communicative architecture of the new institute.

Apart from the three specific research projects (WPs 1-3, chapter 5.1 – 5.3), the long term intention of FRISYS is to change the culture of research in the Life Sciences from a qualitative, static, and descriptive into one that is quantitative, dynamic, and predictive.

For FRISYS, we expect five major outcomes:

  • understanding basic control principles of life in model organisms at phylogenetic key positions
  • optimizing existing and developing innovative mathematical methods for systems analysis
  • establishing Systems Biology for analysis and modelling of signalling processes in growth and differentiation.
  • developing perspectives on the application of Systems Biology to biomedical and biotechnology applications
  • establishing a highly interdisciplinary, tri-national curriculum in Systems Biology together with the Universities of Strasbourg (F) and Basel (CH) in close co-operation with industry.

    5. Teaching Platform:

    Within the newly implemented international M.Sc. Bioinformatics and Systems Biology, bilingual students are educated in small groups. Topics besides Systems Biology include Biology, Bioinformatics, Mathematics and Computer Science. The parallel Ph.D. program enables post-graduate students from different disciplines to grasp the underlying concept of Systems Biology and to learn methodology from different disciplines. Within the B.Sc. Biology and the B.Sc. Computer Science at the University of Freiburg, students are offered compulsory voting courses that will enable them to meet the requirements to enter the above-mentioned M.Sc. programme. Taken together, the FRISYS teaching platform aims at bridging the gap betweent he discilpines, generating the next generation offspring to perform state-of-the-art Systems Biology research.