Computational disease modeling - Fact or fiction?

Jesper N. Tegnér*, Albert Compte, Charles Auffray, Gary An, Gunnar Cedersund, Gilles Clermont, Boris Gutkin, Zoltán N. Oltvai, Klaas Enno Stephan, Randy Thomas, Pablo Villoslada

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

36 Scopus citations


Background: Biomedical research is changing due to the rapid accumulation of experimental data at an unprecedented scale, revealing increasing degrees of complexity of biological processes. Life Sciences are facing a transition from a descriptive to a mechanistic approach that reveals principles of cells, cellular networks, organs, and their interactions across several spatial and temporal scales. There are two conceptual traditions in biological computational-modeling. The bottom-up approach emphasizes complex intracellular molecular models and is well represented within the systems biology community. On the other hand, the physics-inspired top-down modeling strategy identifies and selects features of (presumably) essential relevance to the phenomena of interest and combines available data in models of modest complexity. Results: The workshop, "ESF Exploratory Workshop on Computational disease Modeling", examined the challenges that computational modeling faces in contributing to the understanding and treatment of complex multi-factorial diseases. Participants at the meeting agreed on two general conclusions. First, we identified the critical importance of developing analytical tools for dealing with model and parameter uncertainty. Second, the development of predictive hierarchical models spanning several scales beyond intracellular molecular networks was identified as a major objective. This contrasts with the current focus within the systems biology community on complex molecular modeling. Conclusion: During the workshop it became obvious that diverse scientific modeling cultures (from computational neuroscience, theory, data-driven machine-learning approaches, agent-based modeling, network modeling and stochastic-molecular simulations) would benefit from intense cross-talk on shared theoretical issues in order to make progress on clinically relevant problems.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number56
JournalBMC systems biology
StatePublished - Jun 4 2009
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Major funding for the workshop was provided by the European Science Foundation, within the framework of ESF Exploratory Workshops in the year 2008. The local organization was handled by the Centre de Recerca Matemàtica (CRM, Bellaterra), which also provided funding for the event. Members of the scientific committee were Albert Compte (local organizer) and Carme Junqué from Spain, and Johan Björkegren and Jesper Tegnér from Sweden. In addition to the signing authors, the following researchers also participated in the meeting: Fazoil I. Ataullakhanov, Mikael Benson, Marta Cascante, Gustavo Deco, Mats Gyllenberg, and Jörg Stelling.

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Structural Biology
  • Modeling and Simulation
  • Molecular Biology
  • Computer Science Applications
  • Applied Mathematics


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