BioSB Course: Discovering Systems Biology Principles

The BioSB course: Discovering Systems Biology Principles will be held on 23-27 November 2015 in Amsterdam.

This course enables the student to discover biological principles that underlie biological networks. The course will first acquaint the student with the concepts of concentrations, rates, fluxes, steady state, production and transport. Several phenomena will be explained based on these biological principles:

1. production and transport are correlated,
2. fluxes in a network may be correlated at steady state,
3. control of function tends to be distributed (no rate-limiting step), (iv) networks may engage in energy waste through futile cycling,
4. cell function may be regulated at the level of transcription, translation, signalling and metabolism at the same time to different extents,
5. networks may have multiple steady states and lead to pattern formation, (viii) drug targets may not be where they are traditionally expected,
6. networks enhance robustness and engage in (near) prefect adaptation.

Course description

A large part of systems biology is concerned with studying how the molecular networks inside living cells function. What they do. How their molecular interactions, including feedback circuitry, give rise to cellular properties, such as sensing, adaptation, division and death, that transcend those of single molecules. This includes figuring out how gene mutations, causing changes in proteins, cause networks, and their cellular hosts, to malfunction. In order to do this, systems biology focusses on the dynamics of molecular networks, using quantitative experiments and mathematical modeling. Mathematical models help systems biologists to figure out: i. how molecular properties relate to the functional, systemic properties of molecular networks, and ii. how molecular networks assist in the survival and functioning of cells.
This 1-week course serves as an introduction to mathematical modeling as it is used in systems biology.

Course Programme

We start from physical and chemical principles of molecules, cells and reactions. Next, you will learn how you can relate the changes in the concentrations of molecules over time to the activity of reactions and the underlying molecular properties. You will be introduced to enzyme kinetics and the dynamics of small enzyme systems, in metabolism and signal transduction. We also briefly deal with models of genetic circuits. We will illustrate a number of unexpected, functional properties of molecular networks that can be studied with simple mathematical models. You will make and analyse models yourself, on paper and with software. We will close the week with a short overview of some more advanced topics, to introduce you to approaches and concepts that you will often hear about in systems biology.
The course material concerns a syllabus (with exercises and answers), handouts, and computer exercises. At the end of this 1-week course, you will have a good understanding how mathematical models are made, what biology they require and how you can use them in systems-biology research.

Target audience

This course does not require any introductory reading or courses, it should be accessible to students with diverse backgrounds.

Further information

You are encouraged to bring your own laptop to be able to do the computer exercises

More information about BioSB can be found at

Date 23-27 Nov, 2015
Location VU University Amsterdam, the Netherlands
Course Coordinators Evert Bosdriesz (NKI, Amsterdam), Jacky Snoep (Stellenbosch, SA) and Frank Bruggeman (VU, Amsterdam)
Website Website link
Registration Website link