Systems Biology: An Approach

Clin Pharmacol Ther. 2010 Jul;88(1):25-33. doi: 10.1038/clpt.2010.92. Epub 2010 Jun 9.


In just over a decade, Systems Biology has moved from being an idea, or rather a disparate set of ideas, to a mainstream feature of research and funding priorities. Institutes, departments, and centers of various flavors of Systems Biology have sprung up all over the world. An Internet search now produces more than 2 million hits. Of the 2,800 entries in PubMed with "Systems Biology" in either the title or the abstract, only two papers were published before 2000, and >90% were published in the past five years. In this article, we interpret Systems Biology as an approach rather than as a field or a destination of research. We illustrate that this approach is productive for the exploration of systems behavior, or "phenotypes," at all levels of structural and functional complexity, explicitly including the supracellular domain, and suggest how this may be related conceptually to genomes and biochemical networks. We discuss the role of models in Systems Biology and conclude with a consideration of their utility in biomedical research and development.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Genetics
  • Genome
  • Humans
  • Models, Biological
  • Pharmacology, Clinical / trends*
  • Phenotype
  • Systems Biology / trends*