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The second speaker was Eric Davidson who talked about gene regulatory networks.

He works on sea urchins and showed us this amazing diagram that looked like a computer chip. The diagram describes the inputs and outputs of 50 genes during the first 30 hours of development.

And, it convinced me that systems biologists are developing their own language.

I’ve never heard gene expression described in these ways before.

Here were some of the phrases that Davidson used:

  • a set of boolean switches
  • a combination of double-negative regulation gates
  • feed forward regulation
  • using “AND logic”
  • boolean exclusions
  • intra-territorial repression
  • interlocking feedback
  • subcircuit architectures

The diagrams are certainly impressive, but I think I need a new dictionary.