Leroy Hood on The Future of Genomics: Systems Biology
  Leroy Hood     Biography    
Recorded: 29 May 2003

So, you know, I would say I’ve always seen the genome project as a beginning and not an end. And it was a beginning that gave us a parts list of human genetics and drove the development of high throughput technologies and made biologists serious for the first time about computers and dealing with large sets of data. And what’s that taken us to is this I think dramatic new approach to biology which we call systems biology.

And it is an approach. It is different from discovery science because systems biology is first of all hypothesis driven; second its global in nature—it tries to look at all of the elements; third, its quantitative to the extent we can be quantitative these days; fourth, it’s integrative, systems biology absolutely mandates that you look at many different types of biological information and integrate them together before you can understand the system and finally it’s iterative. You do a series of experiments and you test your experiments against a model, a description, a graphical display or mathematical formulation and there’s always a lot of disparity so you use hypotheses to explain the disparities and you go back and in this iterative process you repeat things until you bring the hypothesis together with the data. The ultimate objective of systems biology will allow us to do two things we’ve never, ever been able to do in biology. So one is we’ll be able to predict the behavior of a system with it’s emergent properties and all these kinds of things from just knowing what kinds of perturbations you might apply to it and number two we’ll actually understand the system in sufficient detail so we can redesign it to create completely new emerging properties and that being able to redesign systems whether its with genetics or whether its with drugs is going to be at the heart of the very new kind of medicine that will emerge from systems biology namely predictive and preventative and personalized medicine.

Leroy Hood, a leading scientist in molecular biotechnology and genomics, received his M.D. from Johns Hopkins Medical School (1964) and his Ph.D. in biochemistry from Caltech (1968). In 1992, after more than 20 years as a faculty member at Caltech, where he and his colleagues revolutionized genomics by developing automated DNA sequencing, he relocated to the University of Washington to establish the cross-disciplinary Department of Molecular Biotechnology.

Dr. Hood is currently President of the Institute for Systems Biology in Seattle where he leads efforts to pioneer systems approaches to biology and medicine. He is a member of the National Academy of Sciences and has received the Lasker Award for his studies on the mechanism of immune diversity.

Sharing an interest in the study of antibody diversity, Hood and Watson met in 1967 when Hood attended his first meeting at CSHL. Leroy has been working on the genome since the late 70’s. He went to the first official genome meeting in Santa Cruz in 1985 and has attended all of the subsequent meetings which have been held at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory.