Introduction of the RPA-Systems Biology

The Research Priority Area Systems Biology (SysBA) is one of the twenty research areas at the University of Amsterdam that are regarded as the very best the UvA has to offer in terms of research. SysBA bridges two institutes at the Faculty of Science, i.e. the Swammerdam Institute for Life Sciences (SILS) and the Institute for Biodiversity and Ecosystem Dynamics (IBED) and is financed by a core grant from the University of Amsterdam, the Faculty of Science, the participating institutes and by grants to its PIs. SysBA was initiated in 2012 and directed by Hans Westerhoff (SILS) and Gerard Muyzer (IBED); since 2019 SysBA is directed by Age Smilde (SILS) and Gerard Muyzer (IBED).

The research focus of SysBA is on Host-Microbe Interactions in humans, plants and various other organisms, such as sponges and macroalgae. For this SysBA makes use of both bottom-up and top-down System Biology approaches.

Systems biology has become an intrinsic part of contemporary life-science research. It is based on the notion that to better understand the complexity of biological systems, these should be considered as a whole. Hence, the different intricate components of any living system ought to be studied and contextualized with a combination of experimental and theoretical approaches. This type of research, given its multidisciplinary nature, needs to be executed in collaborative efforts, integrating many scientific disciplines, such as biology, mathematics, physics, biochemistry, bioinformatics, computer science and so on. The main focus is to acquire a (quantitative) understanding of how biological systems change over time and respond to changing conditions.

The systems biology approach is of particular importance when tackling problems that occur at multiple scales, be it of time, space, and/or cellular organization level. Models capture their interconnectedness in a much more accurate, reliable and tangible fashion as compared to our intuition. As such, systems biology plays a pivotal role in most current health and environmental research.