Stanford researchers establish center for physics-based simulations of biological structures

The National Institutes of Health have awarded $19.9 million over five years to Russ Altman, associate professor of genetics, and Scott Delp, associate professor and chair of bioengineering, to establish and lead the National Center for Physics-Based Simulation of Biological Structures (SimBioS). The new center is charged with developing a simulation toolkit to enable scientists worldwide to model biological systems ranging from molecules to whole organisms.

SimBioS is one of four new national centers endeavoring to build the biomedical computing infrastructure urgently needed to speed progress in biomedical research. The centers will create innovative software programs and other tools allowing the biomedical community to integrate, analyze, model, simulate and share data on human health and disease. Establishment of the four centers this month was an important step in the National Institutes of Health Roadmap, a series of far-reaching initiatives designed to transform the nation's medical research capabilities and speed the transfer of research discoveries from the benchtop to the bedside.

"There has been over the last couple of decades a lot of progress in simulating biological structures in order to understand how they work and how they function," said Altman, a practicing physician and bioinformatics expert who holds departmental appointments in Genetics, Medicine and Bioengineering, as well as a courtesy appointment in Computer Science. "We would like to bring this capability to all biologists in a routine way."

The grant, which holds the possibility for renewal for another five years, aims to build an easy-to-use software package allowing high-quality physical modeling. Altman's vision? "A biologist working on a problem at the molecular, cellular or organismal level may have questions about how the physics of their system affects its function. Using our software, they will, without having to establish new collaborations or going back

Contact: Dawn Levy
Stanford University

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