Dr. Leroy Hood: Systems Biology and Proactive Medicine

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The functional medicine model applies a systems biology approach to addressing the body’s complex physiological systems.1 This holistic and personalized healthcare perspective prioritizes patient-centered care, helping to determine how and why illness occurs and restore physiological function. At IFM’s 2021 Annual International Conference (AIC), Advancements in Clinical Research and Innovative Practices in Functional Medicine, visionary scientist and co-founder of the Institute for Systems Biology (ISB) Leroy E. Hood, MD, PhD, will explore the future of the systems approach to medicine in his presentation, What 21st Century Medicine Should Be: A Journey to Scientific Wellness, Healthy Aging, and Disease Reversal.


In 2000, Dr. Hood co-founded the ISB, a nonprofit biomedical research center located in Seattle, WA, that pioneers holistic approaches to biology and disease using genomics and computational technologies that analyze entire biological systems. Dr. Hood is currently chief strategy officer and professor at ISB after serving as its president from 2000-2017. Continuing his dedication to systems biology and proactive medicine, when ISB affiliated with Providence St. Joseph Health (PSJH) in 2016, Dr. Hood became PSJH’s senior vice president and chief science officer.

Systems biology is a global and holistic approach to wellness that addresses biological complexity, and as Dr. Hood has reflected, this complexity drives the development of innovative technologies and computational tools.2 Further, these new technologies enable genome and phenome projects, such as the joint ISB-PSJH Million Person Project, that present opportunities for deeper biological insights and for the development of healthcare interventions that are more predictive, preventative, personalized, and participatory.3

The ISB-PSJH Million Person Project, pioneered by Dr. Hood, focuses on the genome/longitudinal phenome analyses of one million PSJH patients, studying both healthy and diseased patients to find quantifiable positive predictive biomarkers of wellness, as well as markers of the transition to disease. This transformative project helps to bring scientific (quantitative) wellness to the contemporary US healthcare system, presents new possible approaches for clinical research, and will potentially generate a variety of inventive technologies, all to ultimately optimize the health trajectory of individual patients.

Dr. Hood is the recipient of numerous national and international awards, including the Heinz Award for pioneering work in Systems Biology (2006), the National Medal of Science (2011), and the National Academy of Science Award for Chemistry in Service to Society (2017). Recent research continues to demonstrate the importance of the systems biology perspective to understanding disease and optimizing health. For example, multiple studies use a systems biology approach to investigate the complexity of chronic conditions such as neurodegenerative disorders,4 autoimmune conditions,5 kidney disease,6 and cancer.7 Learn more about proactive medicine and the systems biology approach to health care at IFM’s AIC 2021.


  1. Bland JS. Systems biology meets functional medicine. Integr Med (Encinitas). 2019;18(5):14-18.
  2. Hood LE. Lessons learned as president of the Institute for Systems Biology (2000-2018). Genomics Proteomics Bioinformatics. 2018;16(1):1-9. doi:10.1016/j.gpb.2018.02.002
  3. Hood L. Leroy Hood: reflections on a legendary career. Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology News. 2021;41(1). Accessed April 6, 2021.
  4. Vrahatis AG, Kotsireas IS, Vlamos P. A systems biology approach for the identification of active molecular pathways during the progression of Alzheimer’s disease. Adv Exp Med Biol. 2020;1194:303-314. doi:10.1007/978-3-030-32622-7_28
  5. International Multiple Sclerosis Genetics Consortium. A systems biology approach uncovers cell-specific gene regulatory effects of genetic associations in multiple sclerosis [published correction appears in Nat Commun. 2019;10(1):2956]. Nat Commun. 2019;10(1):2236. doi:10.1038/s41467-019-09773-y
  6. Mulder S, Hamidi H, Kretzler M, Ju W. An integrative systems biology approach for precision medicine in diabetic kidney disease. Diabetes Obes Metab. 2018;20(suppl 3):6-13. doi:10.1111/dom.13416
  7. Agrawal P, Fontanals-Cirera B, Sokolova E, et al. A systems biology approach identifies FUT8 as a driver of melanoma metastasis. Cancer Cell. 2017;31(6):804-819.e7. doi:10.1016/j.ccell.2017.05.007


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