A massive Congratulations to the geek studs and stud-ettes from the computational biology department at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and the crystallographers at the University of California at Irvine for creating the first computer simulation of an entire life form - a virus.
I sincerely believe that biological simulations can thrust us into the most prolific period of medical advancement in history. My suggestion for the next big Biology project (i.e. Human Genome Project) should be a government, academic and/or industrial effort to completely model and simulate the human cell. A concerted effort recruiting some of the greatest computer scientists, computational and biological modelers and the foremost biologists available in industry and academia, following a schedule such as this:
- 1 year analysis and standards phase where the "vernacular" for all the computational and biological elements are defined (W3C type standards)
- Continue with three to five (3-5) year parallel efforts to cover all the major organelles of human cells
- Followed by an extensive integration effort that lasts another 3-5 years to complete the cell model with membranes, nuclear and cyto plasms, intra-cellular matrices, etc...
This can be the next great era of medical science and health, especially if government and the general public (especially in the US) start getting more interested in public health. The Human Genome Project should be just the first of a series of Great Biology Projects that the government can help initiate and co-sponsor. I think most of us can agree that it sounds like a relatively good use of tax dollars ... especially relevant these days where trillion dollar debt and $400 billion dollar annual military budgets are the norm. Much too frequently, do we, the public and leaders of the U.S., disregard good medical science because of inflexible religious attitudes, extremist agendas and apathy in regards to good health and longevity. Only when loved ones are struck by sickness or death do we, as individuals, tend to take an interest... please support the efforts of our great institutions that spend day and night fighting disease and disability, such as:
- NIH, CDC, WHO and other great governmental health agencies
- Academia - we are blessed in the U.S. with amazing universities, professors and students
- Patient advocacy groups
I'll jump off my soap box now and finish by saying that you, the public, should take an hour or two each week or month (steal it from your TV time) and stay aware of the great happenings and research efforts around the world to help combat disease, disability and death.
Nature Web Special (PDF) - 2020 Computing