Looking back: Cyprus welcomes ERASysAPP course on metabolic modeling

ERASysAPP Course on Stoichiometric and Kinetic Modeling of Biochemical Networks, October 6-10, 2014 in Larnaca, Cyprus

Cyprus is one of the participating countries of the ERA-Net for Applied Systems Biology, ERASysAPP. In order to stimulate the local systems biology community and give participants an understanding of the beauty of modeling, the task leaders of the ERASySAPP work package Training and Exchange decided to organize a training event on modeling in sunny Cyprus.

During the week-long course, modeling was introduced as a research method to study metabolism. The intention was to promote a research set-up of iterative cycles between experiments and modeling. Freely available modeling tools with user-friendly graphical interfaces were presented, aiming to encourage researchers with a biological background and no experience in programming to enter the modeling world. The software introduced in the course was COPASI for kinetic modeling and FAME for stoichiometric modeling.

Experienced lecturers who are very familiar with both metabolic modeling and the featured software ensured the success of this course. David Fell (Oxford Brookes University, UK), one of the founders of the metabolic modeling field, the COPASI developers Juergen Pahle and Sven Sahle (University of Heidelberg, Germany) and FAME developer Brett Olivier (Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, the Netherlands), along with the organizer of the course, Egils Stalidzans (University of Agriculture, Latvia), acquainted participants with the principles of modeling.  A mix of lectures and computer practicals aimed to deepen the newly gained knowledge right away. In general, the students were surprised by the broad functionalities of existing, freely available and user-friendly modeling software.

A broad variety of expertise amongst the selected applicants added to fruitful discussions. All participants worked on modeling-relevant research topics, but had different levels of experience in modeling and also different scientific backgrounds. However, around 70% of the students were biologists. This ratio was just sufficient to taste interdisciplinary teamwork on solving modeling-related questions on the last day of the course. This experience will hopefully add to improved communication in interdisciplinary research groups.

Beside the scientific program, the 20 participants from eight different European countries were presented with many possibilities for expanding their network: Joint meals, the afternoon break or an excursion allowed for informal contact between lecturers and participants alike and contributed to a great team spirit.

ERASysAPP Course on Stoichiometric and Kinetic Modeling of Biochemical Networks, October 6-10, 2014 in Larnaca, Cyprus