This meeting is focused on the application of theoretical physics - from first-principles to classical simulations, as well as statistical approaches - to understanding biological processes. The complexity of living systems, and the wide spectrum of time and length scales involved, demand a truly interdisciplinary cooperation. Recent progress in biology and in physics has opened up many opportunities in both fields. The human genome is now technically complete. We can, in principle, determine all human protein sequences. We cannot yet, however, predict the native morphology of a protein from its amino acid sequence, let alone identify the active sites and calculate binding energies. This is essential for screening new drugs synthesized in the hundreds of thousands by combinatorial chemistry methods, and is the most pressing issue in biology today.
Many other biological processes of current interest can benefit from the application of physics, such as the binding of oxygen by transition metals for the design of artificial blood. Recent advances in theoretical physics have begun to impact biology, and the continuing development of new computers and algorithms is expanding the range of structures and time scales which can be treated to an extent that becomes relevant to biochemistry.
Reflecting these themes, the objectives of the meeting include:
- Bringing together international experts, both theoreticians and experimentalists, from the physics and biology communities;
- Encouraging participation by industrial researchers;
- Giving young researchers access to these experts;
- Defining the state of the art of physical methods applied to biology, and to identify weaknesses and opportunities;
- Identifying the combination of methods, skills and cross-disciplinary expertise that are in highest demand;
- Transferring academic science to industry, and communicating industrial problems to academia.