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About us

Biological complexity
bi•o•log•i•cal com•plex•i•ty
Research to understand how biological components work together to create the emergent processes of life

Systems biology
sys•tems bi•ol•o•gy
Quantitative and systematic study of the interactions between parts of a biological system

The mission of the Center for the Study of Biological Complexity at Virginia Commonwealth University is to build an academic community centered on integrative discovery science, systems biology and the principles of complexity to address the challenges of the life sciences revolution of the 21st century.

The center develops and supports critical infrastructure and core capabilities at VCU in genomics, proteomics, and computational systems biology and bioinformatics. Center faculty and fellows apply the mathematical and computational principles of complexity to research, instructional and other scholarly activities in the life sciences.

The center was established in 2001 in response to dramatic advances in the life sciences from genomic research best known for the federally funded $3 billion Human Genome Project that identified the estimated 20,000 human genes — that is, the total human genetic parts list. Since then, genomic data has accumulated at rates that defy Moore’s Law, which predicts exponential growth in the capacity of computer chips.

Fortunately, information technologies as applied to biological problems, or bioinformatics, have advanced in parallel with genomics, and bioinformaticists have developed new technologies to process, compare and analyze the colossal new genomic data sets.

These new technologies have driven a paradigm shift in life science research and now permit us to apply the computational and mathematical principles of systems biology and complexity science in the study of complex living systems. The Center for the Study of Biological Complexity combines the expertise of prominent scientists from multiple disciplines to study biological systems, with the goal of globally elucidating and understanding the functional roles of molecular interactions and biological processes that vary both temporally and spatially in cells, tissues, organs and organisms.

Systems biologists use an integrative approach to “put the parts together” to define the intricate networks and interactions that comprise biological processes. Complexity scientists apply mathematical and computational principles to interpret and model these systems and their emergent properties.

Our fellows, senior fellows and external fellows build on the nationally and internationally recognized research capabilities at VCU and associated institutions and focus their research in areas that reflect systems biology and complexity science.


Virginia Commonwealth University | VCU Life Sciences | Center for the Study of Biological Complexity
Grace E. Harris Hall, Room 3102 | Box 842537 | Richmond, Virginia 23284 | Phone: (804) 827-0026
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