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The GEI Systems Biology Initiative

NAMHC Concept Clearance


Thomas Lehner, Ph.D., MPH
Genomics Research Branch
Division of Neuroscience and Basic Behavioral Science


This initiative will provide support for investigators to conduct studies in systems biology that expand on previous findings from Genome Wide Association Studies (GWAS) to identify and characterize the molecular elements of the larger dynamic networks and their perturbations underlying complex human disease states.


Systems biology can be defined as the use of systematic genomic, proteomic, and metabolomic technologies to identify elements and to construct models of complex biological systems and their phenotypes. Applying this framework to a phenotype can thus be defined as a mathematical function (output) of the digital information of the genome and the environmental cues that arise from outside the genome in nested layers that encompass the cell, the tissue, and the organism. These complex and dynamic networks of molecules and regulatory mechanisms may be perturbed genetically and/or through environmental factors, resulting in a disease state. The supported research projects will use approaches and tools from the emergent discipline of systems biology to investigate and explore molecular pathways, cellular circuits, and regulatory networks that as a whole determine the phenotype under investigation.

Phenotypes of interest are conditions/traits of public health importance and relevant environmental exposures. The initiative will include support for sharing specimens (if applicable), data, assays, and computational tools as part of the NIH-wide Genes, Environment, and Health Initiative (

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