Much of the remarkable progress in the life sciences can be attributed to molecular biology — largely a reductionist approach — which has helped to create a detailed, mechanistic understanding of the function and regulation of many biological components. More recently, large-scale, global approaches have driven many advances. For example, our ability to rapidly sequence DNA has generated for many organisms a nearly complete catalog of the genes, and also the RNAs and proteins that can be produced. A major challenge now is to synthesize this information into a description of biology as a system of interacting parts, and to define the ‘design principles’ that explain how the interactions of these components give rise to complex behavior in cells and organisms.
Addressing this challenge will require: