Following last week’s theme that focussed on elements of our European activities, one of my (pleasurable) tasks this week involved speaking at the ‘kick-off’ symposium at Noordwijkerhout of the Netherlands Consortium for Systems Biology, a virtual (i.e. geographically distributed) grouping of Dutch scientists interested in developing the Systems Biology Agenda. Some of their plans, e.g. for Systems Biology Centres, mirror quite closely our own activities, as originally set out in 2003 in our 10-year vision. There is also a recognition of the need to embed systems biology thinking in the scientific mainstream. An initiative that will be most helpful to all involves the production of Web-based materials to assist the multi-disciplinary learning required by those seeking to develop the necessary skills. I gave two talks, one on BBSRC’s activities in Systems Biology, including our contributions to European activities such as SysMO, ERASysBio and a bilateral joint funding programme with the French ANR, and a scientific or ‘academic’ one on the Systems Biology of transporters of pharmaceutical drugs, their role in the process of ‘attrition’, and how we need to embed them in the human metabolic network. The speaker just before me was Denis Noble, who had taught me at Oxford, and who gave, as usual, an insightful and deeply intellectual exposition of his thinking on the relationship between molecular genetics and systems biology, partly encapsulated in his splendid book The Music of Life, and pointing up a couple of recent reviews I had missed, one on the combinatorial properties of the interactions of gene products (one of my own pertains) and one on causation in Phil. Trans.

Following an electronic reprint request, I also discovered that an article I had written for Mathematics Today on ‘The importance of mathematics in systems biology’ had been published in its August issue, the first to use my BBSRC affiliation. At the current rate, this will be the year in which I will have published more scientific papers than in any previous year, partly the consequences of folk writing up as projects end.

I have now finished my international travel until (well) after Christmas (I gather that the Eurostar will soon be extending its range to Amsterdam should another visit loom), but next week sees me out of the Office pretty well entirely, and includes our Institute Directors’ meeting at the JIC (another Obituary of Chris Lamb appeared this week) and my first visit to IBERS.

Biology is complex, and data visualisation remains an important area for helping us understand this complexity. To this end, Merico and colleagues provide a nice little briefing of some up-to-date methods.

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