Where does biology go from here? Making sense of global, genome-based information


Andrew Murray

Director, Harvard Center for Genomics Research

Harvard University

Thursday, March 15, 2001


Talk at 4:30 p.m. in Science Center D

Tea at 4:00 p.m. in the Math Lounge


Abstract:   Genomics is the comprehensive study of biological systems. In principle it extends to all three classes of informational macromolecules found in cells: DNA, RNA, and protein. Methods are in hand for determining the complete DNA sequence for an organism, monitoring the relative abundance of different RNA molecules in cells exposed to different perturbations, determining which proteins touch with each other, and which genes interact with each other. Methods are being developed to determine the abundance and chemical modifications of proteins. These approaches will produce a flood of data that poses important questions for a science that has until now concentrated on collecting as little data as possible. What data should we be trying to collect? How can we synthesize data from genome-wide analysis with the conventional biological literature? Can new analysis tools induce such a fusion to reveal general principles that help us understand how cells and organisms develop, survive, reproduce and evolve? Can global measurements explain how proteins, nucleic acids, and small molecules interact with each other to form networks or modules that carry out specific functions? How are these modules connected to and insulated from each other to allow cells to produce integrated and adaptive responses to a wide variety of genetic, physiological and environmental perturbations? How can the properties and connectivities of modules be robust to short term perturbations but evolvable in the face of long term ones? I will discuss these general questions and outline our foray into experimental evolution as a way of attempting to answer some of them.


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Created: March 5, 2001    URL: