Systems biology center connects UC and Peking University

A research collaboration between the University of California (UC) and Peking University will integrate the biological data acquisition strengths of the former with the physical and theoretical strengths of the latter, a move which scientists anticipate will ultimately lead to more effective, safer medications for populations and individuals.

"The old approach looked at single potential drug targets. The new, systems biology approach considers potential drug targets holistically by looking at several targets at the same time," says Chao Tang, PhD, professor, department of biopharmaceutical sciences, School of Pharmacy, University of California, San Francisco, who will direct the research collaboration.

"By asking health questions from the joint perspectives of the biological sciences and the 'hard' sciences, such as physics, engineering, and computation, we ask questions in ways that more closely resemble how biological processes actually work.

One of the projects the new center will address is the regulation of cell proliferation. "If we can better understand the complex and interconnected systems that control cell division, we can better understand what goes wrong when cell division spins out of control, such as in cancers. This knowledge, in turn, will help lead to the development of more effective therapies to treat and prevent cancers," explains Tang.

An important component of this new collaboration is the training of new leaders in the systems biology field. "We will cross train at Peking University and UC exceptional doctoral students who we hope will become leaders in an era of science that flourishes without boundaries," says Tang.

The agreement is between UC's California Institute for Quantitative Biomedical Research (QB3) and the Center for Theoretical Biology at Peking University. Signing ceremonies are scheduled for November 27, 2005 in Beijing, China. United States Senator from California Dianne Feinstein and San Francisco, California Mayor Gavin Newsom will lead a delegation at the ceremony. Tang will sign the agreement on behalf of QB3.

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About the School: The UCSF School of Pharmacy aims to solve the most pressing health care problems and strives to ensure that each patient receives the safest, most effective treatments. Our discoveries seed the development of novel therapies, and our researchers consistently lead the nation in NIH funding. The School’s doctor of pharmacy (PharmD) degree program, with its unique emphasis on scientific thinking, prepares students to be critical thinkers and leaders in their field.