Conference explores how computer science can advance understanding of biology

27 October 2014
Linking computer science and biology

In a field where our ability to collect data is quickly overtaking our ability to make sense of it, systems biologists are uniquely placed to spearhead the next great leap forward in scientific discovery. To explore how computer science can advance biomedical research, health care, and drug development scientists from a broad range of disciplines met in Melbourne at the International Conference on Systems Biology (ICSB 2014).

The ICSB is an annual event for the global systems biology field, bringing together top scientists from around the world to explore how we can integrate biology with computer science. The week-long conference program covered the applications of systems biology in a diverse range of areas including human health, environmental science, stem cells, and explored a range of new technologies. Six tutorials and hands-on workshops focused on important aspects or research life, such as how to get published, the need for open access databases, and of course, how to use systems biology platforms to model complex biological networks.

This year’s ICSB maintained a relaxed feel, beginning the proceedings with drinks along Melbourne’s south wharf promenade and culminating with an extensive tour of some of Melbourne’s key scientific and tourist destinations including the Synchrotron, the Royal Botanic Gardens and Bio21. Between these two events, there was a flurry of lively scientific presentations from world renowned systems biologists such as Professor Hiroaki Kitano, who spoke about the future integration of systems biology with new software platforms, engineering and artificial intelligence. Professor Huck Hui Ng from the Genome Institute of Singapore spoke about how his lab’s whole genome screening analysis is shedding new light on the reprogramming process. Presentations from such eminent figures in the systems biology field showcased the critical role that computer science has to play in both basic and clinical research.

Stem Cells Australia members Kevin Lau and Jarmon Lees attended the conference in support of our presenters Professor Martin Pera, Professor Christine Wells and PhD student Elizabeth Mason. Elizabeth presented her recently published work on networks which model stem cell behaviour, Christine discussed how the Stemformatics collaborative platform is mining data on mesenchymal stem cells and Martin spoke about human stem cell neural specification.

The 2014 ICSB proved a venue for dynamic intellectual exchange, bringing together systems biologists from around the world. The 2015 ICSB in Shanghai promises to be just as exciting and innovative and we hope see you there!

Stem Cells Australia was delighted to be a sponsor of ICSB 2014. Thanks to Jarmon for this conference report.