In the next few decades, the “new biology” promises to fuel a surge of innovation that will transform health care and drive down costs, as well as answer profound questions about human biology. The ICT for Life Sciences Forum is helping researchers realise this vision.
A new biology
New biology, also called “convergence science”, is the marrying of the life sciences with the physical sciences, engineering, and information and communication technology (ICT).
It’s already playing pivotal roles in the development of personalised medicine, medicine exquisitely tailored to the needs of the individual rather than the crowd.
It’s also being tapped in the development of the bionic eye, and telemedicine that will ensure even remote communities receive the best healthcare.
In the near future, it may be used to answer profound questions about the causes of diseases like cancer, or how the brain works — questions that, a few years ago, were deemed simply too complex to tackle.
Biology, the physical sciences, engineering and ICT have come together in the past, and with considerable success. Witness, for example, the sequencing of the human genome.
But whereas then, non-biological disciplines were usually viewed as tools to help address the research questions of the biologists, now we have true convergence with biologists, engineers, ICT specialists and physical scientists doing research as equal partners.
These partnerships are driven by society’s needs for new technologies, and new answers, and by advances in computer processing power and memory storage, nanoelectronics, and device miniaturisation.
They take novel approaches to collecting data and running experiments, reflected in the emergence of new disciplines such as bioinformatics, computational biology and systems biology.
ICT for Life Sciences Forum’s role
Established in 2008, the ICT for Life Sciences Forum is an initiative of like-minded organisations (see http://ict4lifesciences.org.au/sponsors for full list of sponsors) in Melbourne, Australia, committed to bringing together researchers with an interest in the opportunities for innovation and research offered by the new biology.
The mission of the ICT for Life Sciences Forum is to:
- Bring together individuals and organisations to share knowledge and ideas at the interface of biology, engineering, the physical sciences and ICT
- Identify new opportunities for collaboration and innovation in the new biology
- Raise awareness of the successes, potential and needs of the new biology
- Support the development of a vibrant and innovative high technology industry in Victoria and Australia
The Forum holds regular presentations by leaders in the field, and organises the Graeme Clark Oration, its preeminent annual event
Melbourne, the capital of the Australian state of Victoria, is well-set to embrace the new biology. It has a high concentration of outstanding medical research institutes; leading teaching hospitals; universities producing high-quality graduates and post-graduates in the life and physical sciences, engineering and computing; the Victorian Life Sciences Computational Initiative , which houses the world’s biggest supercomputer dedicated to the life sciences; the Australian Synchrotron , and other key research infrastructure.
It also benefits from state and federal governments that actively and strongly support research and innovation.
Here is what some say about the Forum:
Excellent value and networking opportunities. It provides an opportunity to learn about ideas that one would not normally encounter and that may be of benefit.
Prof. Ian Gust AO, Chairman Bio21 Cluster &
Chairman, Victorian Biotechnology Advisory Council
The Forum is an outstanding initiative. I particularly enjoy, as a neuroscientist, the opportunity to discuss over a nice meal, important ideas with engineers, physicists and other scientists/academics. It has provided me with new scientific ideas, collaborative contacts and important national and international networks.
Associate Professor Tony Hannan, Florey Neuroscience Institutes
The presentations have been of the highest quality. The meetings with people in similar and not-so-similar fields have led to useful discussions and sometimes ongoing collaborations.
Professor Hugh McDermott, Bionics Institute