Sequences and consequences

Sydney Brenner

Abstract

The conversion of data into knowledge constitutes a great challenge for future biological research. The new science of Systems Biology claims to be able to solve the problem but I contend that this approach will fail because deducing models of function from the behaviour of a complex system is an inverse problem that is impossible to solve. In addition, one cannot easily escape into high-level holistic approaches, since the essence of all biological systems is that they are encoded as molecular descriptions in their genes and since genes are molecules and exert their functions through other molecules, the molecular explanation must constitute the core of understanding biological systems. We then solve the forward problem of computing the behaviour of the system from its components and their interactions. I propose that the correct level of abstraction is the cell and provide an outline of Cellmap, a design for a system to organize biological information.

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