Life sciences research in the last century has been dominated by a reductionist paradigm. This paradigm allowed the study of microbial and mammalian cell cultures in isolation under highly controlled in vitro conditions and provided us important insights into the workings of cells. The next frontier, however, is to expand from this paradigm into achieving an understanding of more complicated biological systems as found for example in biofilms, microbial communities, mammalian tissue and organs, cancerous tumours, and simple organisms.
All of these system consist of large numbers of cells with different genetic and phenotypic profiles that are organised in intricate spatial structures. These cell collectives create micro-environments within and around themselves, which in turn impact their own behaviour and organisation through feedback dynamics. We need to push life sciences research into unlocking the structure, dynamics, and function of these multi-cellular collectives.
Achieving this will only be possible through the development of a new set of technologies and approaches for perturbing, measuring, and analysing systems at different scales that encompass multiple cell-cell and cell-environment interactions. These developments, in turn, will require more interactions among the different scientific disciplines. As we go towards addressing more complex systems, we will have to utilise more diverse sets of expertise and in more integrated ways.
This Network aims to kickstart this journey by creating an interdisciplinary, vibrant, and collegiate collaborative scientific community that will work towards pushing life sciences research boundary into unlocking multi-cellular complexity (UMC).