Nitin S. Baliga, Professor, Senior Vice President and Director, Institute for Systems Biology, Seattle, WA; Affiliate Professor, Departments of Microbiology and Biology, Molecular and Cellular Biology Program, University of Washington, Seattle, WA; Visiting Scientist, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, Berkeley, CA; Section Editor: BMC Systems Biology, Editorial Board: Nature Scientific Data, Board: Climate Solutions
Evolution imprints environmental structure onto molecular and cellular interactions within biological systems. Encoded within the architecture and dynamics of these networks are blueprints and programs for organisms to sense and process complex environmental challenges to elicit appropriate adaptive responses.
Decoding these networks and constructing predictive models for their operation lays at the heart of solutions for nearly every complex biomedical and environmental problem – from tumor recurrence, to drug resistant infections, to resilience of the microbial loop. We have devised a systems biology approach to reverse engineer gene networks from complex outputs generated by a cell in response to systematically administered perturbations.
I will describe the evolutionary, experimental and computational foundations of this powerful systems biology approach and discuss its applications to personalize therapies to cancer patients, fight drug tolerance in tuberculosis, and characterize determinants of microbial community resilience.
I will also speak about an innovative education program we have created to train high school students in embracing systems thinking and cross-disciplinary practice to solve 21st century problems.
Dr. Baliga did his early schooling in Mumbai, India, where he received a B.Sc. in Microbiology (1992). In 1992, Dr. Baliga won the highly coveted Central Government of India-sponsored Department of Biotechnology studentship in Marine Biotechnology at Goa University.
Dr. Baliga completed his Ph.D. in Microbiology in 2000 at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, and moved to Seattle for postdoctoral training with Dr. Leroy Hood. He was one of the founding members of the Institute for Systems Biology (ISB), and currently serves as the director and senior vice president.
At the ISB, Dr. Baliga develops predictive models of biological networks that catalyze strategies for personalized medicine, and a sustainable environment. He is also actively engaged in health science education, bringing innovative inquiry-based curriculum on current science concepts throughout the United States.
His contributions to health science education have been recognized internationally and have won awards including the Alvin J. Thompson Award.