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Researching Life - New Center Transgresses Boundaries between Natural Sciences and Humanities

Official opening of the Center for Systems Biology (ZBSA) of the University of Freiburg – New Center Transgresses Boundaries between Natural Sciences and Humanities

17 June 2009

The Albert-Ludwig University marks the opening of the new Center for Systems Biology (ZBSA), located next to the Department of Biology, with a major scientific symposium on 17 June 2009. In a press conference today the university’s rector Prof. Dr. Hans-Jochen Schiewer presented the ZBSA to the public together with Prof. Dr. Ralf Baumeister and Prof. Dr. Wolfgang Driever, the executive and founding directors of the center, respectively. The center is a dynamic research institution with around 100 employees and is equipped with top-notch laboratory, communication, and computer technology.

Systems biology is a field which unites various scientific disciplines to create a new form of science. Its main objectives include gaining new insight into the functioning of nature through innovative technological methods and finding answers to fundamental biomedical and biotechnological questions. Freiburg’s international reputation as an innovator in this promising new field was a motivating factor in the state and federal governments’ decision to provide over 20 million euros to support the conception and establishment of the ZBSA.

The interdisciplinary character of systems biology is reflected in the fact that the disciplines represented in the ZBSA come from all faculties of the university associated with the life sciences – Biology; Medicine; Forest and Environmental Sciences; and Chemistry, Pharmacy, and Earth Sciences – as well as from the Faculty of Mathematics and Physics and the Technical Faculty. In this respect, the ZBSA is a prime example of the „new universitas,” in which various disciplines unite to contribute to a common goal which no faculty is capable of reaching alone.

The integrative principle of the ZBSA and the new horizons for research it opens up have contributed greatly to the establishment of Freiburg as an excellence university. The interaction at the center between the so-called „wet” life sciences and the „dry“ theoretical sciences like mathematics, physics, engineering, and computer science will also lead to new theoretical developments. Mathematics, for instance, will help to optimize the experiments of the life sciences, interpret their results, and place them in a global context.

The combined efforts of the various excellent disciplines of the University of Freiburg contributing to the center will result in scientific work which will not only lead to a more profound understanding of biology but also to the emergence of new technologies – ranging from „applied biology” for the medical industry to biotechnological applications which can potentially influence the production of energy and food. Two of the highest hopes for the field of systems biology concern an improved diagnostics for analyzing processes which cause illnesses and the development of a patient-specific rational therapy for illnesses.
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