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More powerful database approaches are needed to support biologists in the efficient use of complex, large scale, and rapidly changing systems biology data. We are engaged in research to advance database strategies for capturing, managing, computing, and searching biological concepts in ways that are presently not possible. The Heuristic Entity Relationship Building Environment (HERBE) project is developing mechanisms to automate the translation of concepts into a computable form. HERBE features an open visual environment to collect diverse, complex data and, construct models graphically allowing users to apply their own symbolic logic. As data are entered, HERBE captures the data, then integrates and heuristically interprets underlying concepts into a computable form using a multitiered data management infrastructure.