The Grammar of Life
Systems biology could be defined as the effort to learn the language of life. And this means more than just spelling a phrase or compiling a book. Only those who know the words can understand phrases, and only those who understand phrases can fully imbibe the contents of a book.
Translated into linguistic terminology systems biology explores the semantics, syntax and grammar of the biological language. Loosely applied to our book metaphor, proteins correspond to words, metabolic pathways to phrases, and the meaning of the book comprehends all metabolic interactions in a cell or organism.
Interdisciplinarity as a crucial requirement
The desire to learn the language of life is an ambitious one, and not one that biologists can fulfill for or by themselves. Systems biology depends on the cooperation of scientists from various disciplines, just as when, a half a century ago, physicist Francis Crick, and biologist James Watson worked together to ascertain the structure of DNA.
From modeling to reality
The mathematical modeling of biological activities and processes will play a key role in this endeavor. In this way, an interactive flux is established between theory, observation and experiment.
Biological functions and processes always have an origin, namely, evolution. This means the systems biologists will only be able to understand the language of life and, therefore, living organisms if they look at and study both as the result of evolution.