BioWorld International Correspondent

MUNICH, Germany - The German Ministry of Science and Education (BMBF) will invest €50 million to promote research in systems biology.

The ministry defines systems biology as an interdisciplinary combination of biology, mathematics, systems theory and information theory, and the program in this field follows a series of government initiatives that have played an important role in building the biotechnology industry in Germany. (See BioWorld International, July 3, 2002, and June 19, 2002.)

The new program will work toward modeling complete cells at a level of detail that could simulate cellular components, molecular interactions and the effects of external events. The ministry hopes that the initiative will spur an integrated understanding of basic functions and the mechanisms behind disease.

Gisela Miczka, of the BMBF's office in Juelich, Germany, told BioWorld International that in an initial round of competition for funding, three interdisciplinary consortia and seven individual projects had been vetted by an international review committee. "Barring major unforeseen problems with the final applications," Miczka said that all would be funded by the initiative. She declined to name any of the winners, but said that they came from both industry and academia.

"I hope that the German biotechnology industry will be very interested in this program," she added.

The BMBF initiative will run for five years and has no specific constraints on the size of the investment that it can make in projects that meet its criteria. The initiative is, however, designed to assist German projects, Miczka said. "This is a national promotion program."

The next selection round will be in two years. The projects funded in the first round will be announced this quarter.