The overarching aim of the initiative is to establish an interdisciplinary activity that will develop a mechanistic and quantitative understanding of the basic processes enabling living systems to thrive. There are two largely disconnected approaches to understanding living systems either by simply trying to apply traditional methods and tools from physics or by producing and analyzing large amounts of data without serious underlying hypotheses to be tested. Our aim is to bridge them from the ground up by establishing a concept-based approach to quantitative biology, driven by theoretical hypotheses, computational methods and standardized experimental data, operating hand in hand. We plan to do so by establishing a Center for (Complex) Living Systems carrying out interdisciplinary research at the frontier between physics and biology in Luxembourg.
Aim of the initiative
National Research Priority
The Luxembourg National Research Fund (FNR) is the main funder of research activities in Luxembourg. In its 2018-21 multiannual contract with the Government, the FNR has been mandated to review the national research priorities for Luxembourg in close coordination with the Ministry of Higher Education and Research.
FNR has made biophysics and quantitative biology a national research priority.
Living matter is ubiquitous on our planet and arguably produces some of the most complex structures in the universe. While unprecedented technological progress in natural science within the last decades enabled a remarkable characterization of living systems at different levels and scales, our understanding of underlying principles is still rather limited. This is mainly caused by our inability to characterize the complex interplay between the plethora of different molecular entities across many spatiotemporal scales. Collectively, these processes ensure a sustained intake of energy as well as reliable information processing essential to sustain life.
To make progress in this direction, new theoretical concepts and experimental approaches need to be developed with the main objective to accurately characterize the major inherent property of complex living systems: emergence of robust but nevertheless versatile behaviors (e.g. signaling, metabolic and regulatory networks) emerging across scales from large numbers (but not too large) fluctuating interacting entities (e.g. molecules, cells) driven out-of-equilibrium. This could be achieved by combining the unique expertise recently established in Luxembourg in the Physics department and at the LCSB. The resulting Center for (Complex) Living Systems could become a world-renowned interdisciplinary center by building synergies between already existing excellent expertise.