Meet François Fages, leader of the new Lifeware team
We met with François Fages, leader of the Lifeware team.
What does "Lifeware" mean and what are the main subjects of your research?
- Lifeware is an invented word, midway between software and hardware, meaning the biochemical software processes of living systems that cells have acquired through evolution to maintain and develop themselves within their environment, and which we are trying to elucidate using theoretical computing tools.
This is a vast inverse engineering programme, where not everything can be observed, and it is essential to be able to manage partial information, which is the domain of constraint programming, and which we use in various ways in our research and which was the focus of the former 'Contraintes' project team.
So is it more a fundamental research or an applied research subject? What concrete applications are there?
- In my research, what I've always found exciting are the crossovers between theory and practice. On the one hand, the Lifeware project tackles problems of fundamental research into the theory of chemical reaction systems; with application challenges such as a cell's control of gene expression within a microfluidics circuit, elucidating the complex dynamics of certain cell-signalling networks, and optimising cancer chronotherapy; and, on the other, we are involved in software development, such as the Biocham modelling tool (an abstract biochemical machine) which we have been developing for eleven years.
Do you have any industrial or academic partners?
- Research on such an interdisciplinary subject would be impossible without close collaboration with partners working in other disciplines, such as biologists, physicists and mathematicians.
We have always focused these partnerships on concrete problems, which go beyond language differences, especially in the case of INRA, INSERM, CNRS and MIT.
We also have a particularly exciting partnership within the framework of the OSEO BioIntelligence project with Dassault Systèmes and Sobios, developing an integrated systems biology engineering platform for the pharmaceutical industry, which is undergoing dramatic disciplinary changes.