RIKEN–University of Edinburgh Joint Workshop for Computational and Systems Biology

A two-day joint workshop organized by RIKEN and the University of Edinburgh was held at the British Embassy in Tokyo on 14–15 May, featuring presentations by leading researchers in the fields of Systems Biology, Computational Biology and Metagenomics.

In an opening speech, Igor Goryanin, Director of the Edinburgh Centre for Bioinformatics, described collaboration between Japan and the UK in the area of systems biology as among the strongest in the world. “Systems biology is recognized as a science of the future, and in the UK and Europe there is huge investment,” he said. “Nowadays high-speed, high-performance computing is essential for simulations, and RIKEN is a leader in this area.”

In the area of metagenomics, Masahira Hattori of the University of Tokyo’s Department of Computational Biology outlined findings on gut microbiota. “The challenge is to analyze genetic and biological features of gut microbiology,” Hattori explained, “and identify molecules and genes involved in important interactions.”

Todd Taylor, leader of the MetaSystems Research Team at the RIKEN Advanced Science Institute (ASI), highlighted the difficulty of “trying to catch up with the deluge of metagenomic data” being produced by metagenomic analyses. One solution is the comprehensive Metagenomic BioMining Engine (MetaBioME), a search engine for mining metagenomic data under development at ASI. MetaBioME will allow users to explore categorized data sets and potentially discover useful enzymes.

David Harrison, head of the Division of Pathology at University of Edinburgh, stressed in a presentation on the 'moving target' of pathology that current “protocol-driven, static treatments” to cancer must be replaced by a focus on temporal and spatial change. “The major problem,” he said, “is how to predict what will happen after we have taken the static step of removing the tumor.”

In a presentation on the systems biology approach to breast and ovarian cancer prognosis, Simon Langdon of the Edinburgh Cancer Research Centre’s Cell Biology Group provided one potential solution to this problem in the form of cancer xenograft models, which are used to study cell signaling and response prediction.

The two-day workshop ended with closing remarks by Taiji Makoto of ASI, who spoke about the application of molecular dynamics simulations in molecular biology.

Published: 19 Jun 2009


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