Introduction to the Biochemistry and Systems Biology Program

A knowledge of biochemistry, molecular biology and genetics form the foundation for virtually all research in biomedical and life sciences. Within the Institute for Biomedical Sciences, the doctoral program in Biochemistry and Systems Biology is designed to train and develop independent, first-rate scientists who will be competitive for careers in research and education in areas where the principles and methods of biochemistry, molecular biology and genetics are applied to the study of biomedical problems. Our multidisciplinary program consists of faculty at The George Washington University and scientists at the Children’s National Health System and The National Institutes of Health. The principal areas of research being conducted by our program investigators include the following:

Molecular and cellular bases of disease, with emphasis on AIDS, ischemia, and cardiovascular and airway diseases: regulation of HIV gene expression; development of antiviral drugs and vaccines; mechanisms of ischemic tissue injury and cell death; molecular and immunological approaches to diabetes, atherosclerosis, and wound healing; role of actin proteins, MUC genes, and mucin glycoproteins in cystic fibrosis, asthma, acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS), inflammation, and other airway diseases.

Structure, function, and interactions of proteins: role of thymic hormones in the inhibition of apoptosis, immunodeficiency diseases, cancer, and aging; domain structure and matrix interactions of fibronectin; structure and function of extracellular matrix proteins; structure and function of fibroblast growth factor-1 (FGF-1) and receptor interactions; functional studies on VLDL receptor; molecular mechanism of interferon action.

Regulation of cell growth, differentiation, senescence, and death: mechanism of FGF action and signal transduction; regulation of gap junction-mediated intercellular communication in vascular cells and its involvement in cell proliferation and senescence; signal transduction pathways and role of protein phosphorylation in regulation of cell growth, differentiation, and tumorigenesis; molecular mechanism of Bcl-2 inhibition of apoptosis; mechanism of free radical-induced cell damage and death.

Lipid metabolism in health and disease: mechanism and regulation of cholesterol absorption; lipid metabolism in wasting disorders; regulation of eicosanoid metabolism; molecular biology of prostaglandins and corticosteroids; role of tumor cell gangliosides in tumor formation and the regulation of the immune response; signal transduction mechanisms involved in bile acid transport in hepatocytes; hepatocellular metabolism of LDL.

Molecular genetics of disease: Microarray profiling of disease states to identify biomarkers and therapeutic targets; identification of single-nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) that associate with various diseases; proteomic analysis of subcellular organelles using 2D electrophoresis and MALDI-TOF mass spectrometry.

For general program information, please refer to the Program page located on this website. For detailed questions about individual programs, please contact the IBS Office. Detailed Admissions information can also be found on this website.

Systems Biology is an area of academic endeavor defined as the integration of multiple disciplines enabling modeling of biological systems in health and disease. The application of systems biology to human physiology and pathophysiology is termed Integrative Systems Biology.

This emerging academic discipline focuses on multi-scale modeling of the physiome, where time from nano-seconds to decades, and biology from protein-protein interaction to organ-organ systems are understood.

A key new scholarly area of theory and practice within this field is integration of distinct academic disciplines into collaborative inter-disciplinary teams, where methods are developed to break down traditional academic barriers.