To displace live experiments with computer modeling and simulation.
Biocellion SPC (BSPC), incorporated 2013 in Washington State, is a for-profit social purpose corporation whose mission is to increase productivity in life science R&D while also reducing its impact on living systems and the environment. Our vision is to develop and promote computer modeling and simulation for this purpose. The company makes Biocellion software available at no cost for non-commercial use to stimulate ecosystem development and creation of public-domain living system models. Service and licensing revenues from commercial use support BSPC in advancing its social purpose.
Ultimately, we aim to make Biocellion modeling, simulation and real-time visualization and exploration capabilities accessible through a web browser, accelerating progress for a broader spectrum of end-users.
Experiments on living systems have inherent inefficiencies:
- They take time. Growth is slow. Sometimes weeks or months pass before results are available, slowing scientific progress and stalling product development.
- They expend life. When observation techniques are destructive, many instances of the same experiment must be performed to measure behavioral change over time. In some cases, live animals are sacrificed.
- They consume physical resources. Energy, space, and materials are needed to provide the conditions for and containment of experiments.
- They create waste and pollution. Some experimental resources cannot be reused and must be incinerated or treated to meet bio-waste disposal regulations. Incineration of plastics releases noxious gases.
Physical testing is nonetheless necessary to improve human health and product safety. BSPC, alongside other members of the modeling community, is pursuing a pragmatic vision to demonstrate a cheaper, faster, and less wasteful computational alternative.
That vision leverages two technology trends.
- First is that new data extraction technologies from sequencing to imaging are providing scientists with ever more copious biological measurement data at decreasing cost. Automatic measurements at numerous spatial and temporal scales are possible. In the past, biology has been so hampered by the lack of such tools that it has operated as a qualitative science: complex behaviors were described but only rarely measured in detail. Now it is possible to integrate descriptive knowledge with numerical measurements to produce statistically predictive spatiotemporal mathematical models.
- Second is the commoditization of computing, whereby computing power continues to drop in cost. Our first product, Biocellion, is simulation software designed specifically to exploit modern day parallel computing power when simulating multicellular living system models. From laptops to supercomputers, Biocellion’s efficiency yields orders of magnitude greater throughput than other simulation software. The result is the computational capability needed to develop, verify, and apply models of living systems having billions of cells.
The vision also leverages the expertise and labor of an emerging community of modelers.
- The complexity of biological systems is unsurpassed. Complexity is measured as the quantity of information required to predict measurable behavior with a given statistical certainty. Biological state is of high dimension, and the space of possibilities is exponential in that dimension. To map out the entire state space as would be needed to form a comprehensive model of a living system -- even of a single cell -- is therefore impractical. Instead, the acquisition of data and the model constructed must target a specific behavior of interest. While the emerging data technologies provide means for extracting and exploring vast amounts of information, that amount nonetheless represents a tiny fraction of the whole space. Choosing the information pertinent to a given behavior requires domain expertise. When it comes to designing models, there is no magic bullet: human experience and labor is indispensable.
To encourage engagement by the modeling community, BSPC provides its products free for non-commercial uses. For commercial uses (those supported by anything other than government or non-profit funding sources) BSPC charges licensing fees. These fees are scaled to be a modest fraction of customers’ overall modeling investment and an even smaller fraction of the models’ anticipated value in customers’ businesses. BSPC’s business model thus subsidizes the growth of external modeling expertise needed to support its mission.
The promise of living system modeling and simulation to positively impact medicine and the life science industries is comparable to that already evident in the automotive, aerospace, electronic and petroleum industries. There, engineers reuse proven modeling methodologies daily to bring better outcomes to market faster, with less waste, and at lower cost. A similar transformation of the life science industries is inevitable.