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Isaac Newton Institute - Abstracts
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SMCW01 Workshop

The Roles of the Chemical Sciences in Predictive Biology -- (undated)
Rodney P Townsend, (RSC London)
In 2001, the RSC launched a major initiative, the first of several, concerned with the central issues and challenges in the realm of modern chemical biology. A key component of these initiatives is the thesis that the theme that links together in a multidisciplinary sense the life sciences, physics and mathematics is quintessentially the molecular properties of a system, together with a proper understanding of how the ensembles of molecules self assemble, interact and react. This is the essence of chemical biology, viz., the application of the rigour of physical chemistry and chemical physics to the study of biological systems. Examples of key issues, related to gaps in our current knowledge, are: Developing tools, intended to interrogate and investigate at the nanoscale level the molecular processes taking place within the living cell; Acquiring accurate and comprehensive descriptions of the dynamical properties of molecules rather than seeking to understand processes using time-averaged descriptions of gross structure; Understanding the key significance of topological properties and transformations in addition to structural ones in gene expression and synthesis within the living cell; Elucidating the mechanisms that underpin the spontaneous ordering processes which occur within domains within the open multicellular system; Understanding the autocatalytic mechanisms that facilitate reproductive and replicative processes within a living organism; Determining the recognition and transport mechanisms that underpin transduction and signalling processes, both intracellular and intercellular. In this talk, these and/or related issues will be illustrated with some examples, which will also seek to identify what are the prime needs that must be met to achieve robust predictive biological frameworks.