on March 3rd, 2015 No Comments
“Innovation in the Biosphere,” a recent symposium organized to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the Beckman Center for Molecular and Genetic Medicine, attracted a standing-room-only crowd eager to listen to leading researchers in the biosciences. The February 23 gathering was so packed at the Li Ka Shing Center for Learning and Knowledge that live streaming had to be set up to accommodate the many faculty, PhDs and guests that arrived to hear from the impressive list of multidisciplinary presenters.
The symposium was designed to celebrate the concept of information transfer, while acknowledging the many innovations and breakthroughs in immunology, stem cell science, chemical biology, and imaging technology through the years.
The event was conceived by National Medal of Science winner Lucy Shapiro, PhD, the Virginia and D.K. Ludwig Professor of Cancer Research and director of the Beckman Center. “I cannot believe 25 years have gone by,” said Shapiro. “We thought we knew so much.”
Shapiro, the co-organizer of the event, credited Paul Berg, PhD, Nobel Prize-winning professor emeritus in biochemistry, and others with starting the center. The Beckman Center was founded in 1989 “at a time of great expectation” to promote the exchange of ideas across diverse scientific disciplines, based on the notion that innovation transcends traditional academic boundaries. Here’s Shapiro:
What has changed so dramatically is our understanding of how the biological world codes, decodes, and uses information in time and space to create and maintain life on this planet. And almost everything we do comes down to mining information and dealing with not only vast amounts of data but very small molecules and small circuitry.
The bedrock of what it means to be a living entity is an understanding of how a cell or tissue functions as an integrated system. No longer is it enough to study the biochemistry of specific reactions. Or a specific event. Or an overall function that happens when a tissue turns into something else. We now have to understand all these parts as an integrated, logical process.
Investigators from Stanford, UC-Berkeley, UCSF, and other institutions shared their research on the design principles of cellular networks, the manipulation of genetic circuitry to re-engineer life, and the genetic circuitry that establishes the blueprint of a living cell. They explored the deep reading of the genome to mine the information in living things and in creating life from scratch.