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Keynote Presentation: Academic Perspectives

01/09/2004 10:15 AM Wong Auditorium
Leroy Hood, President, Institute for Systems Biology

Description: Very simply stated, systems biology attempts to "capture the dynamic nature of living systems." To accomplish this, says Hood, you "have to bring together the flavors of biology, chemistry, computer science, engineering and physics," among others. It's a vast area to tackle. But with tools like the internet and digital DNA and protein sequencers on hand, it's now possible to perform research aimed at unraveling the complex interaction of genes and environment in simple organisms.

Hood describes knocking out yeast cell genes, and turning off the machinery that metabolizes simple sugars. This sort of microscopic tampering allows scientists to build models of increasing complexity. A blueprint of gene regulation in sea urchins helped one scientist figure out a way to redesign the organism with two guts. But the ultimate prize is a deep understanding of human biology. Hood foresees a database built with the help of nanotechnology that categorizes and quantifies all proteins in the human genome. Scientists will be able to predict disease by detecting defective genes in blood samples, and then manipulate the genes to prevent the disease. "The integration of biology and medicine," says Hood, "is where the rubber meets the road."

About the Speaker(s): Dr. Hood has published more than 500 peer-reviewed papers, received 12 patents, and co-authored textbooks in biochemistry, immunology, molecular biology, and genetics, and is a member of the National Academy of Sciences, the American Philosophical Society and the American Association of Arts and Sciences. He earned an M.D. from Johns Hopkins University in 1964 and a Ph.D. in biochemistry from the California Institute of Technology in 1968. His professional career began at Caltech where he and his colleagues pioneered four instruments--the DNA gene sequence and synthesizer, and the protein synthesizer and sequencer--which comprise the technological foundation for contemporary molecular biology. Dr. Hood was also one of the key players in the Human Genome Project. In 1992, Dr. Hood moved to the University of Washington to create the cross-disciplinary Department of Molecular Biotechnology. In his role as the William Gates III Professor of Biomedical Science, Dr. Hood applied his laboratory expertise in DNA sequencing to the analysis of human and mouse immune receptors and initiated studies in prostate cancer, autoimmunity, and hematopoietic stem cell development. In 2000, Dr. Hood co-founded the Institute for Systems Biology in Seattle.

Host(s): School of Science, Computational and Systems Biology

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