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Title: Infobiotics : computer-aided synthetic systems biology
Author: Blakes, Jonathan
ISNI:       0000 0004 2746 5107
Awarding Body: University of Nottingham
Current Institution: University of Nottingham
Date of Award: 2013
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Until very recently Systems Biology has, despite its stated goals, been too reductive in terms of the models being constructed and the methods used have been, on the one hand, unsuited for large scale adoption or integration of knowledge across scales, and on the other hand, too fragmented. The thesis of this dissertation is that better computational languages and seamlessly integrated tools are required by systems and synthetic biologists to enable them to meet the significant challenges involved in understanding life as it is, and by designing, modelling and manufacturing novel organisms, to understand life as it could be. We call this goal, where everything necessary to conduct model-driven investigations of cellular circuitry and emergent effects in populations of cells is available without significant context-switching, “one-pot” in silico synthetic systems biology in analogy to “one-pot” chemistry and “one-pot” biology. Our strategy is to increase the understandability and reusability of models and experiments, thereby avoiding unnecessary duplication of effort, with practical gains in the efficiency of delivering usable prototype models and systems. Key to this endeavour are graphical interfaces that assists novice users by hiding complexity of the underlying tools and limiting choices to only what is appropriate and useful, thus ensuring that the results of in silico experiments are consistent, comparable and reproducible. This dissertation describes the conception, software engineering and use of two novel software platforms for systems and synthetic biology: the Infobiotics Workbench for modelling, in silico experimentation and analysis of multi-cellular biological systems; and DNA Library Designer with the DNALD language for the compact programmatic specification of combinatorial DNA libraries, as the first stage of a DNA synthesis pipeline, enabling methodical exploration biological problem spaces. Infobiotics models are formalised as Lattice Population P systems, a novel framework for the specification of spatially-discrete and multi-compartmental rule-based models, imbued with a stochastic execution semantics. This framework was developed to meet the needs of real systems biology problems: hormone transport and signalling in the root of Arabidopsis thaliana, and quorum sensing in the pathogenic bacterium Pseudomonas aeruginosa. Our tools have also been used to prototype a novel synthetic biological system for pattern formation, that has been successfully implemented in vitro. Taken together these novel software platforms provide a complete toolchain, from design to wet-lab implementation, of synthetic biological circuits, enabling a step change in the scale of biological investigations that is orders of magnitude greater than could previously be performed in one in silico “pot”.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: QA 75 Electronic computers. Computer science