Scientific Overview and Challenges

Eberhard Voit (April 7, 2014)

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With this presentation I will try to set the stage for the modeling efforts to be discussed in the workshop. As the title €œFrom Within Host Dynamics to the Epidemiology of Infectious Disease€? directly suggests, infectious diseases involve many scales, with respect to time, space, and organization, with the latter spanning the range from molecules to global effects. While a hallmark goal of systems biology is the integration of heterogeneous information across multiple scales and levels, our computational modeling capabilities are clearly not quite ready to cover all aspects of infectious diseases. Thus, the workshop is hoped to address three fundamental questions, namely:

1. How can modeling help us bridge the gaps between scales or levels of organization?

2. How can we make optimal use of very diverse data (from traditional biology and biochemistry, high-throughput €“omics methods, physiology, clinical observations, host-parasite interactions, disease spread, interventions) in order to deepen our understanding of disease dynamics and adaptation, by both hosts and parasites, and to devise treatment options that are generic or even personalized, and executable at a global scale?

3. What can modelers of different sub-disciplines within the span between within-host-dynamics and epidemiology learn from each other?

In addition to these research questions, the workshop is hoped to discuss means of €œbidirectional€? education between the often separate groups of clinicians and experimentalists on one side and computational analysts on the other. This education should give clinicians and experimentalists a feel for what is achievable with modern modeling tools and help modelers frame specific and relevant biological questions for analyses that offer genuine added value.

As this meeting of expert minds is a workshop rather than a conference, polished answers are not necessarily the goal. Instead, the workshop will be a success if the participants collectively take account of where we are, what we can do with today€™s methods, where we want to be in N years, and what we need to do to get there.