Systems biology is the study of emergent properties in biology. Emergent properties arise from the interactions of component parts. The parts list can include genes, proteins, cells, and even whole organisms. Interactions between these parts lead to “the whole being greater than the sum of its parts.” Emergent properties are challenging to understand without a rational framework for interrogation. Systems biology provides this framework. It melds comprehensive high throughput, quantitative experimentation with rigorous analysis and mathematical modeling.
We use systems biology to gain a comprehensive understanding of the many interactions between pathogen and host. In practice, we use high throughput genomics, proteomics, and other ‘omics technologies. This has helped us reveal molecular and cellular networks involved in many aspects of infectious disease. We use this foundation of knowledge to build predictive, multi-scale models of how pathogens and their hosts interact. This knowledge, in turn, provides an opportunity for rational drug and vaccine design.