Introduction: The high failure rate of drug candidates due to toxicity, during clinical trials, is a critical issue in drug discovery. Network biology has become a promising approach, in this regard, using the increasingly large amount of biological and chemical data available and combining it with bioinformatics. With this approach, the assessment of chemical safety can be done across multiple scales of complexity from molecular to cellular and system levels in human health. Network biology can be used at several levels of complexity.
Areas covered: This review describes the strengths and limitations of network biology. The authors specifically assess this approach across different biological scales when it is applied to toxicity.
Expert opinion: There has been much progress made with the amount of data that is generated by various omics technologies. With this large amount of useful data, network biology has the opportunity to contribute to a better understanding of a drug's safety profile. The authors believe that considering a drug action and protein's function in a global physiological environment may benefit our understanding of the impact some chemicals have on human health and toxicity. The next step for network biology will be to better integrate differential and quantitative data.