Based on the number of prominent research projects currently in the works, 2014 could be a tipping point for the field of personalized medicine and in silico research. Last week, the Insigneo Institute at the University of Sheffield spotlighted its Virtual Physiological Human (VHP) program, which the project’s backers describe as “transcending sci fi and transforming healthcare.”
The goal of the VHP project is to create an in silico replica of a living human body to enable drug testing and other medical treatments. The model will be used directly in clinical practice to improve diagnosis and outcome.
Founded one year ago, the institute is celebrating the first phase of the technology. The program is funded by the European Commission, which has invested nearly €220 million since 2007 to advance in silico projects across Europe.
VHP will rely on integrated computer models of the mechanical, physical and biochemical functions of a living human body that enable it to operate as a cohesive whole. In fact, a main aim for the project is to facilitate a paradigm change in which the body is seen as a single multi organ system instead of as a collection of individual organs.
The project has already made a lot of headway in its first year, addressing a wide range of medical problems, including pulmonary disease, coronary artery disease, bone fractures and Parkinson’s Disease.
“What we’re working on here will be vital to the future of healthcare,” stated Dr. Keith McCormack, who leads business development at the Institute. “Pressures are mounting on health and treatment resources worldwide. Candidly, without in silico medicine, organisations like the NHS will be unable to cope with demand. The Virtual Physiological Human will act as a software-based laboratory for experimentation and treatment that will save huge amounts of time and money and lead to vastly superior treatment outcomes.”
The Insigneo Institute for in silico Medicine includes more than 120 academics and clinicians who are collaborating to develop computer simulations of the human body and its disease processes. The researchers expect that once the virtual human is complete, it will be the most advanced application of computing technology in healthcare.