Logo: University of Southern California

NIH Renews Biomedical Simulations Resource through 2013

"In the past five years more than 2,600 biomedical researchers have used BMSR-developed software"
Eric Mankin
August 08, 2008 — One of the Viterbi School's longest running success stories will be running at least five years longer. The National Institutes of Health (NIH) have announced a five-year, $5.9 million grant to continue funding the USC Biomedical Simulations Resource (BMSR) through 2013.
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David D
D'Argenio: "Addressing problems of fundamental importance."
BMSR began in 1985.  This is the fifth renewal — an extraordinary record in medical research. BMSR co-director David D'Argenio said the latest installment brings the total cumulative funding for the program to $27.3 million.

Dean Yannis Yortsos hailed the news. "It is amazing," he wrote in an email to D'Argenio and BMSR co-director Vasilis Marmarelis, " that you have been able to sustain continuing funding for 20-plus years! Congratulations!"

BMSR's vision, radical in 1985 (the year that Microsoft introduced the Windows operating system) was that engineering tools — specifically, computational modeling — could solve biological research questions. Acting on this vision, BMSR researchers developed a set of such tools, and made them freely available to the biomed research community.

These tools work. "In the past five years alone, more than 2,600 biomedical researchers have used BMSR-developed software," D'Argenio says.  These tools include ADAPT drug effect modeling software, the LYSIS nonlinear biological modeling system, the EONS neural modeling system, and PNEUMA, a modeling environment for studying cardiorespiratory function.

"The history of the BMSR is one of addressing problems of fundamental importance in biomedicine, recognizing the challenging realities posed in studying complex biomedical phenomena, and in developing computational bioengineering methods tailored to solve these problems," D'Argenio said.

All the major pharmaceutical companies employ BMSR tools, which have been used in the development of numerous drugs now in use.  And, D'Argenio continues, "because of this experience, Amgen, Bristol-Myers Squibb and Pfizer are each now funding postdoctoral fellowship programs in the BMSR."

BMSR's mission also includes education.  Since 1985, 3,100 researchers from around the world have attended 28 short courses and 23 workshops on BMSR techniques and software.

BMSR core research falls into four main areas, each with its own director:

In addition to the BMSR history of success, the NIH review team that visited BMSR found proposed future work compelling. BMSR Collaborative Research Projects have involved over 60 biomedical investigators nationwide. Some of the current translational research projects include:

  • Pharmacogenetics of Pediatric Anticancer Therapy, with Dr. Mary Relling of St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.
  • Modeling and Optimization in Deep Brain Stimulation, with Dr. Mark Liker of USC Keck School of Medicine.
  • Autonomic & Peripheral Vascular Control in Sickle-Cell Anemia, with Dr. Thomas Coates, Childrens Hospital of Los Angeles.

D'Argenio notes that the success of the BMSR is also due to the stimulating collaborative intellectual environment in the Department of Biomedical Engineering at USC, which has been a hallmark of the department since its inception. Former Dean Zohrab Kaprielian and founding Department Chair Fred Grodins established the BME program in 1968 and "we are continuing to reap the benefits from the leadership of these two USC visionaries."

Read the Viterbi news story about the last BMSR renewal.