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Systems Networks Norms (SYSNORM)
Start date: Jan 1, 2013, End date: Dec 31, 2015 PROJECT  FINISHED 

Genomic sciences are driving progress in biology at an unprecedented pace, most recently through third-generation sequencing and synthetic biology. These achievements challenge commonly accepted biological concepts and assumptions in the humanities. In this Fellowship I will investigate the impact of genomic sciences on theory development in the social and human sciences, with focus on philosophy and ethics, and develop innovative normative models that align with this new knowledge. Harvard University will provide a unique setting for this investigation through its juxtaposition of front line genomics and medical research with rich humanities resources.My hypothesis is that systems approaches in biology are replacing traditional ontologies of health and disease - based on compendia of symptoms and test reference ranges - with emergent states and activity levels of nonlinear genetic networks. These concepts will induce substantial changes in objectives of basic research, translation of this research into practice, and, ultimately, the delivery and prioritization of health services. This shift must be assimilated into the philosophy and ethics that appraise these activities.Research and training at the Church lab at Harvard Medical School, a Center of Excellence in Genomic Science, will propel my academic career and bring innovative knowledge to Europe. The plan will be to work hands-on with genomic scientists to identify and develop specific examples of pathway characterizations that are in the process of replacing current health and disease categories, extrapolate how these foundational changes will translate into basic research and health care practices, and use the network examples to develop a blueprint for a systems biology-relevant normative model. Specific training objectives are framed in the proposal for human systems biology, network theory and analysis tools, medical genetics and ethics, and in the practice of professional scientific leadership.
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