Title of Presentation: An Integrated System for Synthesis and Evaluation of Biological Models

Primary (Corresponding) Author: Andrew Pohorille

Organization of Primary Author: NASA-Ames Research Center

Co-Authors:. Jeff Shrager (Institute for the Study of Learning and Expertise ), Stephen Racunas (Institute for the Study of Learning and Expertise ) and Karl Schweighofer (SETI Institute)

Abstract:  We have developed software that enables biologists to specify, evaluate, refine and share biological models and hypotheses. Using this software, astrobiologists, earth and biomedical scientists are able to bring data and background knowledge to bear in evaluating the consistency and correctness of their models of biological and ecological processes, and in refining them whenever the models are incomplete or do not agree with data. Our core technologies include a graphical user interface that enables scientists to express and analyze models, tools for extracting constraints on models from experiments, databases and background knowledge, and computational methods for the evaluation and refinement of models, subject to these constraints. These methods operate on genomic, proteomic, and metabolic data, higher-level knowledge and representations of metabolic and regulatory networks. The software also includes capabilities that foster scientific collaborations through allowing researchers in different subfields and geographical locations to share their knowledge and discoveries, and work together towards achieving common scientific goals.

At the end of this ongoing project, we will deliver a powerful, easy to use, highly interactive system, equipped with a web-based graphical user interface. In its current form the system is available to NASA-supported researchers through the NASA Center for Astrobioinformatics. It increases productivity in programs sponsored by the Science Mission Directorate by allowing astrobiologists to build integrative models of complex biological processes in ways that would not be possible otherwise. We demonstrate its capabilities through collaborations with experimental biologists on problems aimed at discovering the molecular, genetic, and biochemical mechanisms involved in controlling and limiting evolution, metabolic diversity, and the ability of life to survive in space. By doing so we contribute to accomplishing Goal 3, Subgoal 3C of the NASA Strategic Plan.