Funding to support development of the Virtual Physiological Human

18 April 2016

CompBioMed, a to-be established distributed Centre of Excellence in Computational Biomedicine, recently received H2020 funding from the European Commission. Aim of this European project is to facilitate the uptake and exploitation of high performance computing within the biomedical modelling community. CompBioMed is part of an active research community that works on the development of the ‘Virtual Physiological Human’. Alfons Hoekstra from the UvA Computational Science Lab participates in the project.

Mission of the Virtual Physiological Human (VHP), of which CompBioMed is an exponent, is to deliver computational modelling frameworks for integrating every level in human biology – one that links genes, proteins, cells and organs to the whole body. Ultimately, the goal of the VPH is to piece together the complete virtual physiological human: a personalised, 3-D model of an individual’s unique physiological make-up. Many VPH research results are on the brink of being applied in clinical practice, with already some very spectacular examples in (pre-)clinical trial phases. In the coming years major breakthroughs are expected, opening up huge opportunities. VPH will be applied in diagnostics, decision support, improving treatments and/or medical devices, in-silico clinical trials, personalised medicine, etc. 

Blood cell

Simulation of red blood cells on a parallel computer. c: Alfons Hoekstra

Cell-based blood flow modelling

At the Computational Science Lab of the UvA Faculty of Science models are developed for vascular disease, for infectious diseases (HIV/AIDS), and recently also for the immune system. One application that will be pursued in the CompBioMed project is cell-based blood flow modelling (that is, simulating individual red blood cells, platelets, and white blood cells as they flow in the blood) and to apply this to thrombus formation.

High-end computing capabilities

The CompBioMed project will support the community by developing required high-end computing capabilities. Partners are not only research groups such as the Computational Science Lab of the UvA Faculty of Science, but also Supercomputing centres. For example SurfSara, located at Amsterdam Science Park, is part of the project. Together, UvA and SurfSara, expect to give a strong boost to Computational Biomedicine within the Netherlands. The CompBioMed Centre of Excellence is expected to start on September 1. It will then make its first public appearance during the VPH2016 conference which is this year organised by the UvA Computational Science Lab.

Not a common grant application

Salient information about this specific grant application is that it was rejected by the European Commission initially. Peter Coveney from the University College London and main applicant did not accept the verdict and hired a lawyer to challenge the decision, with success. Appeals as these are uncommon in both Europe and the United States, and the story made it to the news section of Nature.

Published by  Faculty of Science