The University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas
Scientists have spent the past 50 years taking apart biological systems piece by piece. Now the future of biological research depends on putting those pieces back together in an effort to understand how the building blocks of cells work together to create complex organisms.
At the Cecil H. and Ida Green Comprehensive Center for Molecular, Computational and Systems Biology at The University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas, scientists are using the latest technology to link basic research on molecules and cells with analysis of the function of entire biological systems.
Overseen by Dr. Alfred Gilman, Chairman of Pharmacology and one of UT Southwestern's four Nobel laureates, the center was established in February 2004 with the final distribution by the trustees of the Cecil and Ida Green Foundation's assets and a bequest from the late Mr. Green. The funds, totaling $12.8 million, were the last of an extraordinary legacy of support for UT Southwestern by Mr. and Mrs. Green that spanned decades. The Cecil H. and Ida Green Endowed Center for Molecular, Computational, and Systems Biology Endowment is invested in the Long Term Fund.
Mr. Green and his wife long ago announced their intention to ultimately distribute all of their wealth to philanthropic organizations. Bryan Smith, president of the Green Foundation, says the board of trustees decided that the major part of the foundation's assets should go toward one program.
"We always felt there ought to be a donation for one specific program of high impact, to perpetuate Cecil Green's name and to have important significance for many, many years to come," said Mr. Smith, a friend of Mr. Green for more than 50 years. "Our plan is consistent with Mr. Green's desires, with the beneficiary being an institution with which he had a long relationship. This is a big expression of faith in these fields of interest and in the ability of UT Southwestern to carry out these plans in the Green tradition."
To continue advances in biomedical research, scientists must have the latest tools in computer science, engineering and imaging technology, and the Green Comprehensive Center is greatly enhancing UT Southwestern's capacities in these areas. Of equal significance, the foundation's support provides new avenues for research and collaboration among scientists, enabling researchers to build on the remarkable scientific developments made during the 20th century and profoundly impacting UT Southwestern's program in basic research and systems biology, and biomedical science worldwide.
The emerging field of systems biology focuses on how individual parts of an organism - from small-scale molecules and proteins to larger-scale cells and tissues - work in concert to produce a functioning - or in the case of disease, malfunctioning - life form. Recent advances in technology make such tough problems in biology ripe for a comprehensive and coordinated scientific attack.
In systems biology, experts in scientific disciplines - including biology, physics, mathematics and computer science - come together to create models of biological systems that consider not only the individual parts but also how they react to each other and to changes in their environment. New scientists are being recruited to join the outstanding cadre of biomedical researchers in the Green Comprehensive Center, investigators who will bring the computational expertise needed to analyze the enormous amount of information gathered in the lab.
A better understanding of how the human body functions both in health and in sickness will hasten new medical discoveries and improve health care on the whole. Among the goals of systems biology is to revolutionize drug development, for example, allowing the most promising drugs to be identified more quickly and in a more rational, informed way. At the Green Comprehensive Center, integrating the power of computational science and advanced imaging technologies with basic molecular and cellular research will allow remarkable insights to be gained about how living systems function.