Now both contracts are signed, and all is finished – Hiroaki Kitano and Jens Timmer will be guest professors in our department during the next 2 years!
Hiroaki Kitano is one of the founders of systems biology, by e.g. having written some of the early hallmark reviews/commentaries in Nature and Science establishing the concept, and by arranging the first edition of the the biggest conference in the field: International Conference on Systems Biology (ICSB). Kitano is also chairman of the International Society for Systems Biology, which for instance oversees the ICSB, and we will try to make use of this fact to bring this conference to Linköping, perhaps even as early as 2013 or 2014. We have also already applied for additional Japan-Sweden funding, to – apart from the money coming with the professorship – further improve our possibilities for joint activities, and exchange of students, personnel, etc. The main topic of interaction will probably be hierarchical modelling, i.e., such models that can be developed in a distributed fashion, where different sub-models are put together in an object-oriented fashion.
Jens Timmer leads one of the biggest groups around in systems biology, with over more than 35 employees and encompassing collaborations with many different and leading biological groups. Jens has also been the Speaker for HepatoSys, the biggest national network around in Systems Biology. The most important reason why I am very thrilled about this collaboration, however, is that Jens’ group is doing their modelling and model-based analysis in a fashion that is very similar to ours. They also take a data-analysis point-of-view, where the intent is to extract as much information as possible from the data, e.g., by considering also the quantitative aspects of the data features. Similarly, they are also keenly aware of many of the most important pitfalls in such an analysis – such as neglection of the over-parametrization issue, or blind usage of analytical formulas for the statistical tests. We are also already collaborating on the development of improved methods to handle this issues (for instance through my previous additional affiliation as Senior External Fellow in Freiburg, and through our shared employement of Rikard Johansson), such as bootstraping-based statistical tests, and profile-likelihood-based confidence interval calculations.
These recruitments are the result of our headmaster (rektor) having an initiative of attracting some really high-profile people to our university, and of me having been a post-doc in both these groups, and therefore knows them personally. In short, we are very thrilled about this development, and will now start to think about various ways in exploiting this new fact as much as we can: when marketing our systems biology centre here in Linköping internationally and locally, when planning for future recruitments and exchanges of staffs and students, when designing new research projects, etc. All of these aspects now suddenly have drastically improved potential!