1998
**From: Institute for Advanced Study**
**Institute For Advanced Study Announces New Program In Theoretical Biology: Martin Nowak To Lead Research Initiative**PRINCETON, NJ. April 7, 1998: The Institute for Advanced Study announced today that it will begin a new program in theoretical biology, to be headed by Martin Nowak, one of the world's leading researchers in this area. Nowak, presently Professor of Mathematical Biology at Oxford University, will come to the Institute this fall to lead the research initiative. The program is made possible in part by a new initiatives fund at the Institute, established by Institute Trustee Leon Levy to provide greater flexibility in exploring promising new areas not already represented within the Institute. "Theoretical biology is a very promising field, one that should play an increasingly important role in the future," stated the Institute's Director, Phillip A. Griffiths. "In recent years, the application of mathematical modeling and computation has paved the way for great strides in our understanding of basic biological phenomena. As part of its mission to foster research at the intellectual frontier, the Institute has been considering the possibility of starting a program in this area for some time. We believe that this new research initiative will contribute substantially to the advance of biology well into the next century, and we are especially pleased that Martin Nowak will be leading this effort." The use of mathematical ideas, models, and techniques in the biosciences is a rapidly growing and increasingly important field. Applied mathematicians have traditionally used mathematical methods to address a wide range of problems in the physical sciences, especially physics and engineering, in the belief that the underlying laws of physics are of a precise nature and therefore capable of being described mathematically. While the physical sciences have had this mathematical/theoretical tradition from their beginnings, biology has had a different history. Although mathematical biology actually began in the 1920s with the work of Fischer, Haldane and Wright in genetics, Lotka & Volterra in ecology and Kermack & McKendrick in epidemiology, biology does not have the same mathematical/theoretical tradition as the physical sciences, and instead has been more focused on laboratory work. However, several areas of biology have gradually developed an understanding of the important role that mathematical approaches can play. Such approaches are often in the hands of people who collaborate with experimentalists, but do not themselves work in the laboratory. "The Institute's new initiative is a tremendous opportunity for theoretical biology and an important recognition of the whole field," Nowak commented. "The main objective of the new program will be to undertake world-class research in diverse areas of mathematical biology, ranging from evolutionary biology and ecology to infectious diseases of humans. The emphasis will be on maintaining research collaborations with leading experimental groups, as mathematical theory in biology is usually at its best when in close conjunction with experimental data. Furthermore," Nowak continued, "there is the definitive chance to introduce bright young physicists and mathematicians to a scientific field which is full of open questions and unexplored areas." The research goals of the new initiative will include work on the evolution and dynamics of infectious disease. The human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) will be an area of focus, because more quantitative data are available for HIV than for any other infectious disease. The research will include topics such as anti-viral treatment, viral population genetics and the complex interaction between the virus and the immune system. A quantitative understanding of anti-HIV immune responses should greatly strengthen the research efforts for an HIV vaccine. Along similar lines, mathematical models will be developed to illuminate the dynamics of prion infections. Other important research goals in the area of evolutionary biology will focus on the mathematical analysis of complex biological systems, such as the evolution of cooperation, development and genetic systems. Evolution of cooperation based on direct and indirect reciprocity is crucial for understanding problems ranging from the interaction among genes and cells to the origin and integration of human societies. Of similar importance are mathematical models for the evolution of human language. "It is overwhelmingly obvious that there is truly extraordinary, exciting progress being made in biology," commented Institute physicist Frank Wilczek, who together with Institute faculty Stephen Adler, School of Natural Sciences, and Thomas Spencer, School of Mathematics, has played an important role in developing the new initiative. "Recently the quality of the empirical data, and its quantity, has exploded, and it seems that virtually every week the press report significant new results. Major insights into such fundamental questions as the origin of life, the orchestration of development, the physical basis of mind, and the nature of disease processes are emerging. Martin Nowak is best known for a very creative use of mathematics to address real-world problems in the biological sciences, and I'm looking forward to a lot of synergy between this new area and the existing work here in mathematics and the physical sciences." Since its founding in 1930, the Institute for Advanced Study has played a unique role among academic institutions pursuing theoretical research. An independent, private institution whose academic membership, including permanent faculty, numbers about 200 at any given time, the Institute has been from the beginning a community of scholars whose primary purpose is the pursuit of advanced learning and scholarly exploration. The first two faculty members were Albert Einstein and Oswald Veblen, followed by such luminaries as John von Neumann, Kurt G�del, Robert Oppenheimer, and Freeman Dyson. Almost all of the most influential theoretical physicists and mathematicians of the second half of this century have worked at the Institute at some point in their careers. The Institute's commitment to its founding principle has yielded an unsurpassed record of definitive scholarship. Institute faculty and Members have received thirteen Nobel Prizes, and 27 out of 36 Fields Medalists, the Nobel equivalent for mathematicians, have come from the Institute. Martin Nowak, who holds degrees in biochemistry and mathematics, was born in Austria and educated at the University of Vienna, where he received his Ph.D. with highest honors in 1989. He subsequently went to Oxford University, where he has worked closely with Professor Sir Robert May, now England's Chief Scientific Advisor and Head of the Office of Science and Technology, for the past nine years, developing a wide variety of mathematical models to address a broad range of problems in evolutionary biology and infectious diseases. Since 1992 Nowak has been a Wellcome Trust Senior Research Fellow in Biomedical Sciences and a Fellow of Keble College, Oxford, becoming Head of the Mathematical Biology Group in 1995 and Professor of Mathematical Biology in 1997. He serves as an editor of a number of scientific journals and is the author or coauthor of over 100 papers. In 1996, he won the Weldon Memorial Prize, an award given to some of this century's most distinguished mathematical biologists, including Sir Ronald Fischer, J.B.S. Haldane, Sewal Wright, Motoo Kimura and Sir Robert May. Photo is available
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