Over the last decade, the complete genome sequences for thousands of organisms, including humans, have been elucidated, opening new horizons to biological research. The major focus for the next phase of biological research is to identify the mechanisms that underlie the evolution of these genomes and that transform genomic information into cellular and organismal behaviors using a global or "systems" level view. Among the most fundamental questions in the life sciences are those of how molecular systems are built from the interaction of molecular genetic elements, how such networks adapt to new conditions, when and how they breakdown (as in diseases), and how natural selection works at the network level to enable living systems to adapt to very different environments.
The NYU Abu Dhabi Center for Genomics and Systems Biology (NYUAD-CGSB) has been developed to tackle major challenges in genomic and systems biology research. The Center will make use of genomics, proteomics, imaging and computational technologies to address biological questions at multiple levels of organizations — from cells, organisms, populations and ecosystems. The Center will have a strong emphasis on model systems, as well as key non-model species, to examine living processes across different biological levels.
The Center will launch three broad topical programs aimed at developing significant research endeavors in genomics and systems biology, with emphasis on key areas of renewable resources and regional biodiversity, disease-related chemical genomics, and neuronal systems.
Environmental Genomics and Renewable Resources
This program will focus on environmental genomics, algal systems biology, and renewable resources. The proposed research projects will: (a) study genomic variation in species and strains that are of regional importance, such as the date palm, (b) survey micro-organismal diversity in sabkhas, a unique regional ecosystem, and (c) develop a model biofuel organism for systems-level studies and explore local marine algal species for their biofuel potential.
This program will address key areas of human health using a combination of experimental and bioinformatic approaches, including mass spectrometry, genetics, computational modeling, and chemical genomics. The first two projects will be to: (a) develop the first global map of targets for Cullin-RING Ligases (CRLs) in humans, focusing on breast cancer, and (b) develop chemical genomic screening platforms to identify bioactive small molecules and their molecular targets, focusing on novel potential therapeutic strategies for cancer, diabetes, and pathogenic nematodes.
Molecular Complexity of Neuronal Systems
This program will map the complete transcriptional profile of neurons in different parts of the vertebrate and invertebrate brain, then use this in-depth molecular characterization to manipulate neuronal function in vivo.
The goals of the Center are to provide a focal point for leading biological research in the Emirates and to develop a world-renowned Center in these fields. Research will be built on the foundation for the research and training missions of NYUAD, where undergraduate students, graduate students, and postdoctoral scientists will be co-mentored across disciplines and supported by world-class facilities for high-throughput data collection, visualization, and analysis. The NYUAD Center for Genomics and Systems Biology will be developed as a partner to the Department of Biology and NYU-CGSB in New York, and both centers will serve as the key nodes for transforming a locationally-constrained research enterprise to an open organizational architecture that fosters research projects across the world.