Innovating research, policy and education in synthetic and systems biology

Systems Biology in Edinburgh

We were one of six centres for integrative systems biology founded by the UK government in 2006-2007, starting life as the Centre for Systems Biology at Edinburgh (CSBE; BBSRC/EPSRC award D019621 to A.J. Millar and others). As a research Centre, we link staff and students from across at least eight Schools, representing all three Colleges of the University (Science & Engineering; Medicine & Veterinary Medicine; Arts, Humanities & Social Sciences). Formally, our staff are employed by the University, via the various Schools. The School of Biological Sciences is the Centre’s host in the University. The creation of the Centre also led to the construction of the Waddington Building, which became the Centre's HQ. The building is named at CH Waddington, an eminent geneticist at the University of Edinburgh and the 'father of epigenetics'. You can read more about him here.

Systems biology aims to understand how genes and prWoteins interact and endow cells with the characteristics associated with life, such as the abilities to sense, move, grow and divide. A focus is to study biochemistry in terms of its relevance to the goals of the organism being studied. We are interested in why genetic and protein networks have the structure they do, and, as such, our work underpins that in synthetic biology.

We now have an extensive program of interdisciplinary research across all biological systems (microbes, plants and animals) and specialize in:

  • Single-cell assays: light and fluorescence microscopy and the novel use of microfluidics for quantitative phenotyping and for generating fluctuating extracellular environments

  • Multi-scale and rule-based mathematical modeling: from genetic networks to predictions of growth rates in microbes or flowering times in plants

  • Stochastic gene expression: mathematical modeling, statistical inference, and single-cell measurements

  • Spatial mathematical modeling: pattern formation, macromolecular crowding, stochastic simulation algorithms for diffusion, and the analysis of high-resolution capture (Hi-C) data

  • Anti-microbial resistance: the response of bacteria to different temporal and spatial regimens of antibiotics

  • Infection: the interaction between the human immune system and metabolism during infection, particularly early in life

  • Plant systems biology: signalling networks that sense light and temperature, circadian rhythms, and biomechanics

We have close links with the MRC Centre for Regenerative Medicine, the Scottish Microelectronics Centre, and the Kinetic Parameter Facility.