Erica P. Johnson

Systems biologists envision a hulking database where all biological knowledge can be stored, freely accessed, and designed to interact. From it, researchers could easily extract data to construct virtual molecular pathway models working in their respective networks and in dynamic contexts of time, space, and various environmental cues. Hypotheses could be plucked like apples from the electronic tree of knowledge, and drug targets would fall like leaves. Some want to play out this tremendous vision, but they know it cannot be done at a single lab, by a single investigator. Members of Alliance for Cellular Signaling (AfCS), call for a new scientific world order--a shift toward socialist science.

"It's going to be cool if we can get people to do it," says Alfred Gilman, the University of Texas Southwestern pharmacologist who has lead the government- and pharma-funded alliance since its 1999 inception. The group intends to collect...

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