Computational Biomedicine: Towards the Virtual Human

Friday, 14 February 2014
Grand Ballroom E (Hyatt Regency Chicago)
Peter V. Coveney , University College, London, United Kingdom
The virtual human concept is a compelling one, offering an in silico environment within which truly personalised medicine can be implemented, taking into account the specific features of every one of us as an individual, from our personal genome to the anatomy of our connected organ systems. Such virtual humans will not only support medical and clinical treatment and decision making, they will also reduce the need for animal testing and serve as personal avatars which will assist every one of us in making healthcare and lifestyle choices.

The modelling, software and computational challenges associated with the virtual human are immense and will require many years of intensive research effort to bring to fruition. However, the modern principles of modular assembly of tried and tested components will take advantage of the considerable progress already being made in many aspects of the overall virtual human.

Indeed, building virtual humans presents a multiscale challenge, as we must integrate data and models at every level ranging between molecular, sub-cellular, cells, tissues and organs (and even beyond the single human to population health to address epidemiological issues). This is probably the most ambitious project for what is often called "systems biology". To make progress at this stage in the development of high fidelity virtual humans, we invoke Sydney Brenner's famous phrase and address its various components “from the middle out". My talk will outline several biomedical issues which are being addressed today, based on various components of the future virtual human. These examples illustrate how future patient-specific medicine treatments will draw increasingly on the massive power of modern IT systems, including both big data and high performance computing aspects. The examples address patient-specific HIV and cancer drug therapy as well as personalised treatment of aneurysms in the brain.