Towards a holistic conception of life? Presumptions and implications of systems biology as an integrative concept in modern life sciences

In modern biology, the large amount of data is increasingly difficult to manage and understand. Systems biology promises a more holistic understanding of biological processes. Towards a Holistic Conception of Life (THCL) looks into ethical, legal and social consequences of this development.

After the successful analysis of the human genome and those of other organisms Systems Biology introduces a major shift in molecular biology: Scientific attention now focuses on the complexity and dynamics of biological processes. Systems Biology opens up new ways of modelling, understanding and manipulating living systems.It claims to provide a holistic understanding of biological entities and processes and, ultimately, of life itself, overcoming the conceptual and operational shortcomings of more linear approaches.

However, it may also cause its own ethical, legal and social consequences, which might go far beyond those of earlier concepts and practices in molecular biology.

ITA’s contribution to the project was a detailed description of current Systems Biology in Germany and Austria and an analysis of inherent preconditions and implications.

In collaboration with its German partners it engaged in a dialogue with young and senior system biology researchers and societal protagonists who are involved in the diffusion and regulation of systems biology and its findings. This included an overview of the framework of Systems Biology in the media, in science and in policy documents as well as an empirical-based summary of the socio-cultural implications, the potentials for future innovation and regulatory issues.


12/2009 - 03/2012