Systems biology is an integrative science that aims at the global characterization of biological systems. Huge amounts of data regarding gene expression, proteins activity and metabolite concentrations are collected by designing systematic genetic or environmental perturbations. Then the challenge is to integrate such data in a global model in order to provide a global picture of the cell. The analysis of these data is largely dominated by nonparametric modelling tools. In contrast, classical bioprocess engineering has been primarily founded on first principles models, but it has systematically overlooked the details of the embedded biological system. The full complexity of biological systems is currently assumed by systems biology and this knowledge can now be taken by engineers to decide how to optimally design and operate their processes. This paper discusses possible methodologies for the integration of systems biology and bioprocess engineering with emphasis on applications involving animal cell cultures. At the mathematical systems level, the discussion is focused on hybrid semi-parametric systems as a way to bridge systems biology and bioprocess engineering. (c) 2007 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.