Abstract Systems biology has matured considerably as a discipline over the last decade, yet some of the key challenges separating current research efforts in systems biology and clinically useful results are only now becoming apparent. As these gaps are better defined, the new discipline of systems medicine is emerging as a translational extension of systems biology. How is systems medicine defined? What are relevant ontologies for systems medicine? What are the key theoretic and methodologic challenges facing computational disease modeling? How are inaccurate and incomplete data, and uncertain biologic knowledge best synthesized in useful computational models? Does network analysis provide clinically useful insight? We discuss the outstanding difficulties in translating a rapidly growing body of data into knowledge usable at the bedside. Although core-specific challenges are best met by specialized groups, it appears fundamental that such efforts should be guided by a roadmap for systems medicine drafted by a coalition of scientists from the clinical, experimental, computational, and theoretic domains.