The Wistar Institute Opens Center for Systems and Computational Biology

The Wistar Institute Opens Center for Systems and Computational Biology

April 17, 2008

(PHILADELPHIA—April 14, 2008) – The Wistar Institute dedicated its new Center for Systems and Computational Biology on March 27. The center will support Wistar scientists in developing new tests for the early diagnosis of cancers and other diseases, as well developing new treatments. The center is located at the Institute at 36th and Spruce streets.

The Center for Systems and Computational Biology will help Wistar scientists to develop lifesaving tests for the early diagnosis of lung, colon, and ovarian cancer; cardiovascular disease; and HIV. It will also aid in the development of tests for monitoring disease progression and guiding treatment. The center will allow scientists to process vast amounts of data at an unprecedented rate—an increasingly important capability for today’s researcher.

“The Center for Systems and Computational Biology represents Wistar’s commitment to leading-edge biomedical research,” said Russel E. Kaufman, M.D., president and CEO of Wistar. “The center will give Wistar the tools it needs—the focused expertise, computational power, and technological resources—to stay at the forefront of lifesaving scientific advances.”

The center is supported by a $5 million grant from the Philadelphia Health Care Trust. The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania also provided a $200,000 Keystone Innovation Starter Kit grant.

Systems biology is a new approach to biomedical research in which scientists focus on the large-scale analysis of biological systems, such as the regulation of a genome or a set of metabolic pathways. Systems biology uses the tools of genomics and proteomics – the study of gene and protein activity, respectively – to understand biology at a higher level of complexity.

Computational biology is a critical component of systems biology. It involves the use of computer science, mathematics, and statistics to process and interpret very complex data sets. It gives scientists the tools to better understand the genetic basis of disease.

Center leadership includes Wistar faculty members David W. Speicher, Ph.D., director; Louise C. Showe, Ph.D., associate director and director of genomics; and Ramana Davuluri, Ph.D., associate director and director of computational biology.

The Wistar Institute is an international leader in biomedical research, with special expertise in cancer research and vaccine development. Founded in 1892 as the first independent nonprofit biomedical research institute in the country, Wistar has long held the prestigious Cancer Center designation from the National Cancer Institute. Discoveries at Wistar have led to the creation of the rubella vaccine that eradicated the disease in the U.S., rabies vaccines used worldwide, and a new rotavirus vaccine approved in 2006. Wistar scientists have also identified many cancer genes and developed monoclonal antibodies and other important research tools. Today, Wistar is home to eminent melanoma researchers and pioneering scientists working on experimental vaccines against influenza, HIV, and other diseases threatening global health. Wistar works actively to transfer its inventions to the commercial sector to ensure that research advances move from the laboratory to the clinic as quickly as possible. The Wistar Institute: Today’s Discoveries – Tomorrow’s Cures. On the web at