USC Michelson Center for Convergent Bioscience — 3D Rendering #6
Solving Society’s Grand Challenges
Meaningful solutions to many of today’s most profound challenges—such as health, energy and the environment—can be found in the convergence of the sciences and engineering. The new biology goes far beyond the reductionist approach biology used to define the parts list of life. The new biologist—who is as likely to be a computational scientist, physicist or engineer as easily as a traditional biologist—draws on predictive and analytical approaches to discover how the parts are assembled into cells, and how the cells are assembled to function as complex living systems.
Convergence offers advances in technology that enable the observation of the intricacies of living organisms at levels once unimaginable. The vastness and diversity of data available today about the chemical, physical and biological basis of living systems requires informatic and computational approaches once exclusively used in engineering and physical science to gain the predictive understandings that can lead to pioneering advances.
Interdisciplinary approaches offer dramatic leverage to physical scientists and engineers, as lessons learned from biology’s molecular machines drive the development of unprecedented devices, computation and tools at the nanometer scale. Such interplay offers limitless opportunities to shape a new tomorrow that will address important global challenges, from sustainability to health, and from security to the enrichment of life for all.
USC’s Initiative in Convergent Bioscience will support rapid advances and new ways of thinking, freeing our faculty, postdoctoral and graduate students from the limitations of disciplinary boundaries. By combining the products of the ongoing scientific and engineering revolution (for instance in genomics and nanoscale engineering) with the best practices of engineering and the biological and physical sciences, USC will usher in a new era of discovery, promoting breakthroughs such as:
- advancing new computing devices, including quantum computing, that will accelerate speed and memory, help increase cyber security and open the door for powerful new simulation methods;
- creating new sensors, capable of following biological processes as they take place within intact cells and tissues, enabling new diagnostic instruments and smart implantable medical devices;
- fully embracing the rising flood of biological, genomic and medical data, extracting actionable knowledge and empowering researchers to extract meaning from the variability between and within individuals;
- moving genetic and biochemical analyses to the single cell level, studying individual circulating tumor cells to eliminate the need for many biopsies and allowing more active management of cancer treatments;
- developing advances in precision medicine with individualized risk profiles that aid early detection and that improve the management of increasingly targeted therapies;
- addressing climate change and environmental toxins that might well disrupt agriculture and the natural biodiversity that supports it;
- countering health issues resulting from these issues, including the early detection and management of disease vectors that are expected to evolve geographically;
- designing devices and tools at the nanoscale to help manipulate and construct tailor-made materials with exciting new properties; and
- developing efficient and scalable alternative energy sources, which have significant implications for the environment and human health