News

July 1, 2013

Announcing the New Columbia University Department of Systems Biology

Columbia University Department of Systems Biology

Attendees at the June 2013 Columbia University Department of Systems Biology retreat.

Effective July 1, 2013, the Columbia Initiative in Systems Biology is now the Columbia University Department of Systems Biology. Approved by a vote of the University Trustees, this step recognizes the growth in systems biology research and education that has taken place at Columbia, and formally establishes this emerging discipline as a major area for research at the university.

As Andrea Califano, chair of the new department, explained, "This achievement testifies to the dedicated community that has been gathering at Columbia over the past decade around the field of systems biology. We have witnessed the emergence of a compelling scientific agenda that combines innovative experimental and quantitative methods to address important biological and biomedical questions in ways that were unimaginable just a few years ago. It is very exciting to see Columbia take this step because systems biology is paving the way toward new, more rational approaches in basic and translational research."

"Systems biology is paving the way toward new, more rational approaches in basic and translational research."

The groundwork for the new Department of Systems Biology was laid in 2010 with the creation of the Columbia Initiative in Systems Biology (CISB). At that time, the CISB began coordinating the activities of the JP Sulzberger Columbia Genome Center and the Center for Computational Biology and Bioinformatics (C2B2). This arrangement will continue under the new department, integrating Columbia’s high-throughput experimental technologies with expertise in advanced computational data analysis, two essential elements for systems biology research.

The Department of Systems Biology currently has 26 faculty members, about half with primary appointments in the department. Most are based at Columbia University Medical Center, although several are located on Columbia’s Morningside campus. Faculty members share a common interest in using high-throughput experimentation, quantitative analysis, and innovative technologies to understand complex biological systems, particularly at the genomic and molecular levels. Current research interests include systems and regulatory genomics, bioinformatics, cancer biology, computational genetics and evolution, computational immunology and virology, computational structural biology, synthetic biology, and systems physiology.

The Department of Systems Biology also coordinates PhD education in systems and computational biology across the university. 

Department chair Andrea Califano is the Clyde and Helen Wu Professor of Chemical Systems Biology, and has appointments in the Departments of Biochemistry and Molecular Biophysics, Department of Biomedical Informatics, and Institute for Cancer Genetics. He is also director of the Columbia Genome Center and associate director of the Herbert Irving Comprehensive Cancer Center. Barry Honig will continue as director of the Center for Computational Biology and Bioinformatics. Dr. Honig is also a professor in the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biophysics and an investigator of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute.