Economic Principles in Cell Physiology    

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Book project "Economic principles in cell biology"

How can a cell maintain itself as a living being? Living cells, shaped by billions of years of evolution, have developed many ways to adapt to their environment, e.g. by regulation of gene expression. But the rules of physics and chemistry enforce certain boundaries on what cells can achieve and how they can allocate their own resources. Our goal is to uncover some of these governing principles. Shaped by evolution, cells "do certain things right", and computational models of cells often assume that this "doing something right" can be described by evoking optimality principles.

While biological optimality is often contested for good reasons, theories based on economic principles can explain many observations (about cell growth or the usage of cellular resources) much better than purely mechanistic models. Methods such as Flux Balance Analysis are well established, but the idea of resource allocation is gaining ground, and metaphors like "currency metabolites" or "energy budget" are common in cell biology, optimality principles are often applied ad hoc, and a coherent picture - in which many single observations or models would have their place - is still missing.

In our book - to which anyone can contribute - we intend to give an overview of established approaches to "cellular economics", from descriptions of simple metabolic systems to cell growth, variability, and dynamic behaviour.

This is a community project - please join us any time!

Our plan

We started writing a book for researchers and students that will condense the knowledge we have as a community, describe the economics of cells from different angles, and will serve as an open resource for learning and teaching. We plan to

  1. Write the first textbook / companion book on the topic, as an open and free book before commercial textbooks emerge (to be read online, as a pdf, and possibly to be printed on demand for non-profit)
  2. Demonstrate that a useful book can be written and continuously updated by an collective of researchers and students, and bypassing limitations imposed by publishers
  3. Establish this as a standard textbook to which colleagues can easily contribute, rather than writing their own textbook

Our monthly meetings take place on the 4th Tuesday of each month, 5:00 pm CET, on zoom.


  1. Poster (pdf) / Slide (pdf)
  2. Instructions for authors (google doc)
  3. Overview of chapter drafts (google doc)
  4. Template file (zip) / Template file (pdf)
  5. Instructions file (zip) / Instructions file (pdf)
  6. Central git repository (for latex chapters and templates)
  7. Your requests for wording, symbols, or latex macros (google doc)
  8. Template for chapter drafts (google doc)
  9. Principles for collaborative writing
  10. Information about other open book projects and tools (google doc)

Chapter table [edit]


  1. Team: Elad Noor, Herbert Sauro, Markus Köbis, Jürgen Zanghellini, Ohad Golan, Wolfram Liebermeister
  2. Meeting notes (google doc)
  3. Slack channel book-project