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A Toolbox for Probabilistic Boolean Networks

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Published on Monday, 29 January 2018

During the 16th Asia Pacific Bioinformatics Conference (APBC), which occurred on 15-17 January 2018 in Japan, computer scientists Andrzej Mizera from the Luxembourg Institute of Health (LIH) and the Luxembourg Centre for Systems Biomedicine (LCSB), together with Jun Pang and Qixia Yuan from the Computer Science and Communications Research Unit (CSC) at University of Luxembourg won the Best Poster Award. Entitled "ASSA‐PBN: a software tool for large probabilistic Boolean networks", the poster presents a software tool for analysing biological systems.

Bridging the gap between computer science and biology is a key challenge for our researchers. This year, the Asia Pacific Bioinformatics Conference (APBC 2018) gathered researchers, academics, and industrial practitioners to exchange about the latest developments in the fields of bioinformatics and computational biology. It was a great opportunity for Andrzej Mizera from the Luxembourg Institute of Health (LIH) and the Luxembourg Centre for Systems Biomedicine (LCSB) together with Jun Pang and Qixia Yuan from the Computer Science and Communications Research Unit (CSC) to highlight their work on computational methods for analysing large biological networks.

Qixia Yuan gives an overview of his research activities.

As a computer scientist, how did you become interested in biology?

I came across biology during my master study when my current supervisor Dr. Jun Pang introduced me his project related to systems biology. To me, analysing a biological system is like playing a computer game. Exploring the system is just like trying different ways to complete the mission in the game. It makes me so excited when I can complete the mission with knowledge from computer science in which I have been spending my time and energy since my bachelor study. 

What is ASSA-PBN about?

ASSA-PBN is a software tool for modelling, simulation and analysis of biological systems described as probabilistic Boolean networks (PBNs). It is specially designed for large PBNs, which naturally arise in the domain of systems biology. It is quite useful for biologists to analyse the long-run behaviours of biological systems, e.g., which gene in our body is crucial for the occurrence of cancer. 

What does this award mean to you?

Doing research in an interdisciplinary field is sometimes dangerous as the work you do may be useless when you are not a real expert in one of the fields. This award shows the recognition of our team’s work from the peer researchers of both biologists and computer scientists. It shows that we are in the right direction and it encourages me to continue my research work.