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Research Units for Systems Biology

In 2001, the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) has started to support systems biology research on a nation-wide level in Germany. Since then, the BMBF has continued its policy of supporting systems biology research, setting up further national and international systems biology research consortiums.

In 2006, there has been the call of the BMBF for "FORSYS – Research Units for Systems Biology" , an initiative being embedded within the national BMBF research support program "Biotechnology".

A major objective of the "FORSYS-Research Units for Systems Biology" initiative, funded by the BMBF is the development of interdisciplinary and collaborative research units for systems biology at German universities, non-profit research institutions, and industrial companies that will have a high impact on systems biology research in Germany.

Systems biology emerged as an independent field during the late nineties in the U.S., in Europe and in Japan. The term ‘systems biology’ describes the study of biological systems at a so called systems level. Although this approach is not an entirely new concept in life sciences, it has regained strong interest, since many scientists have realized that an organism may represent more than the sum of its parts. Another major reason for the rapid emergence of systems biology is that the opportunities and research tools for scientists have tremendously developed within the last years to reach a novel and by far more powerful level than ever before.

To be at the international forefront of systems biology research, the BMBF initiated an orchestrated program on systems biology in 2001. This program was to fund medium to long-term research initiatives. In 2006/7, the BMBF continued its policy and initiated ‘FORSYS – Research Units for Systems Biology’, an initiative being embedded in the national BMBF support program ‘Biotechnology- Chancen nutzen und gestalten’.

As a result of the FORSYS call, four FORSYS Centers located in Freiburg, Heidelberg, Magdeburg, and Potsdam, received financial support of € 45 millions from the BMBF. The funding period has started on January 1st, 2007 and will last till December 31st, 2011.
The BMBF defined FORSYS’s major objective in the development of interdisciplinary and work-sharing research units at German universities, non-profit research institutions, and private companies. Since 2007, the FORSYS Centers have contributed to a fast growing and increasingly successful systems biology research community in Germany. The FORSYS initiative accounts for already existing research activities of the participating institutions on the local, regional, national, and international level. Existing personnel and equipment have been integrated into FORSYS to accomplish a maximum of synergy. In order to achieve the BMBF’s explicit demand for sustainability of systems biology research, FORSYS will attain support by contributions of local and state facilities enabling a switch from a federal to a regional/local/institutional sponsorship once the five year funding period comes to an end. Concomitantly, industrial companies have joined FORSYS and contribute to a sophisticated system biology research in Germany.

Besides the development of systems biology research units, FORSYS has boosted teaching activities in the FORSYS Centers. The importance of this goal is reflected by the fact that all FORSYS Centers have set up novel systems biology educational programs for master and bachelor students in the life sciences. Moreover, dedicated PhD programs have been established. These activities strongly account for BMBF’s support of selected teaching and student exchange programs.

Major Goals of FORSYS

  1. Establishment of systems biology-related interdisciplinary and work-sharing scientific research groups at German universities, non-profit research institutions, and industrial companies
  2. Explicit support and recruitment of young investigator groups for systems biology research topics
  3. Boost of teaching activities in systems biology
  4. Development of novel bachelor and master programs for system biology
  5. Sustainability of systems biology research in Germany

A Short History of FORSYS and FORSYS Partner

  1. March 1st 2006: Announcement of guidelines for FORSYS initiative
  2. June 30th, 2006: Declaration on the four FORSYS Centers
  3. January 1st, 2007: Official funding of FORSYS starts
  4. June 25th, 2007: Announcement of guidelines for the FORSYS Partner initiative
  5. January 1st, 2008: Official start of the FORSYS Partner Initiative
  6. June 19th-20th, 2008: 1st FORSYS Symposium, Ernst-Reuter-Haus, Berlin, Germany
  7. May 12th-15th, 2009: International German Symposium on Systems Biology, Heidelberg Convention Center, Heidelberg, Germany
  8. October 6th-7th, 2009: Evaluation and Status Seminar FORSYS 2009, BioQuant, Heidelberg, Germany
  9. October 7th, 2010: Parlamentarischer Abend zur Systembiologie, Parlamentarische Gesellschaft, Berlin, Germany
  10. February 14th-15th, 2011: FORSYS Young Investigator Seminar 2011, BioQuant, Heidelberg, Germany
  11. February 15th-16th, 2011: FORSYS/FORSYS Partner Status Seminar, German Cancer Research Center Heidelberg, Germany
  12. August 28th - September 1st, 2011: 12th International Conference on Systems Biology 2011, Rosengarten Conference Center, Mannheim, Germany


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