Charles Delisi on The Future of Genomic Research
  Charles Delisi     Biography    
Recorded: 08 Sep 2003

Well, I think, what’s going to happen in the future in the biomedical sciences is that it’s going to get increasingly integrative. Certainly we’re going to be, over the next several decades, we’ll begin to work out simple cells; prokaryotes, eukaryotes, human cells in great details so that we’ll be able to perturb them and that will get predictive. And we’ll be able to understand the entire network structure. How those networks change in response to external ligands. But more importantly, I mean, the integrative nature of biology hasn’t really begun. It’s going to get—we’re going to go more to systems level, I mean physiological systems level, organ level. There is a tremendous, and it hasn’t happened yet because no one is really advocating it in any serious way. And that is going to be revived. I mean we’ll get to the point where we’re going to be able to simulate and this is starting in small ways with a number of companies and some universities. We are going to be able to simulate each organ, organ by organ, we will have complete simulators. And we will begin to integrate those organ simulators and then develop a virtual human. And that will all become possible. Whether we’ll be able to go predicatively from a cell to an organ is something else. Of course, an organ is composed in many different type of cells. That’s something else. But we’ll be able to model at all levels, at all physiological levels. And those models will be phenomenalogically connected. Now to get at the mechanisms within the phenomenological connections is something else entirely. But certainly we can begin to think sensibly about an integrative model of a whole human being.

Charles DeLisi did pioneering work in theoretical and mathematical immunology. He received his Ph.D. in physics and did postdoctoral studies in the chemistry department at Yale University researching RNA structure. He became a theoretical physicist at Los Alamos National Laboratory and then moved to the National Institute of Health, where he worked on molecular and cell immunology for ten years.

DeLisi is currently director of the Biomolecular Systems Laboratory, Chair of the Bioinformatics Program, Metcalf Professor of Science and Engineering and Dean Emeritus of the College of Engineering at Boston University.

Charles DeLisi develops computational methods for high throughput genomic and proteomic analysis. His laboratory is helping to develop technologies for fingerprinting the complete molecular state of a cell. He is interested in finding computational methods for determining protein function and researches the structural basis of signal translation by membrane bound receptors, the structural basis of voltage gating, and the docking of peptide hormones and neurotransmitters at their sites of action.

In 1986, DeLisi and Watson met at a CSHL meeting and spoke about their interests in sequencing the human genome.