We hear much these days about “a new biology”. What is meant by new biology and what are the major challenges that need to be addressed by scientists in the field of biology? Some define new biology as the intersection of biology and genomics, the study of genes and their function. Others suggest that a new biology is synonymous with systems biology, the study and integration of information gathered about the relationships and interactions among the various parts of biological entities. Another definition states new biology involves understanding the whole organism including the soul and spirit. Whatever your perspective, biology and technology in the 21st century have the potential to provide answers and troubleshoot the many problems facing our world.
A New Biology for the 21st Century, a paperback published in 2009 by The National Academies summarizes the conclusions of a committee within the National Research Council, delineating how the U.S. can best capitalize on recent advances in biological research. The committee of experts from the fields of biology, engineering, and computational science outlined four fundamental challenges requiring the large-scale efforts of all biologists and moreover, the scientific community. These are the following:
• Generate food plants to adapt and grow sustainably in changing environments
• Understand and sustain ecosystem function and biodiversity in the face of rapid
• Expand sustainable alternatives to fossil fuels
• Understand individual health.
Within each of these broad categories, lie finer points such as aging, infectious diseases, personalized medicine, conservation, soil science, and drug design, just to name a few. Biology is not, and really never has been, an isolated science. But, now more than ever, the difficulties of the age require interdisciplinary cooperation, worldwide communication, and critical thinking. A new biology is a means to making a better world.
‘For, in the final analysis, our most basic common link is that we all inhabit this small planet. We all breathe the same air. We all cherish our children's future. And we are all mortal.’
President John F. Kennedy,
From the commencement address at American University, June 10, 1963.
References and Read-More-About-It:
1. A New Biology for the 21st Century: Ensuring the United States Leads the Coming Biology Revolution; Committee on a New Biology for the 21st Century: Ensuring the United States Leads the Coming Biology Revolution; National Research Council. ISBN: 978-0-309-14488-9, 112 pages, 6 x 9, paperback (2009).
2. Yang JY, Yang MQ, Zhu MM, Arabnia HR, Deng Y. Promoting synergistic research and education in genomics and bioinformatics. BMC Genomics. 2008;9 Suppl 1:I1.
3. Eckardt NA. The new biology. Genomics fosters a "systems approach" and collaborations between academic, government, and industry scientists. Plant Cell. 2001 Apr;13(4):725-32.