Clinical trials and physician interviews translated into differential equations

Biomax provides the knowledge management infrastructure for the Synergy-COPD project, which seeks to produce a more complete computer model of underlying Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) mechanisms. The project studies the underlying mechanisms of COPD phenotypes associated with poor prognosis by simulating different functions of the human body using computer models at different levels (sub cellular, tissue, organ and organ system). In this way, the behavior of each physiological network can be observed separately and in an integrated way.

The Synergy-COPD project seeks to foster a convergence between basic and clinical sciences. It applies a new approach to conventional care that links Systems Medicine and integrated care with the aim to deliver personalized healthcare for patients suffering chronic diseases.

Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is an umbrella term used to describe lung disease associated with lung airflow blockage and breathing-related problems. Causes are destruction of lung tissue leading to collapse of airways (emphysema) and/or inflammation of the airway (chronic bronchitis). Tobacco use is a major factor causing COPD, but other lung irritants, such as pollution (biofuels), dust (asbestos, cement) or chemicals are important factors in developing countries. It is a complex, multi-component disease affecting not only the respiratory system but also the cardiovascular, metabolic, muscle and skeletal systems. COPD is preventable, but not curable.

According to the World Health Organization, 600 million people have COPD and it is considered the fifth leading cause of death worldwide. WHO predicts it will become the third leading cause of death by 2020. According to the European Federation of Allergy and Airway Diseases Patients Association (EFA), COPD is ranked as the fourth leading cause of death in Europe and a leading cause of healthcare costs in the European Union.

Computer tools representing a vast compendium of medical knowledge, in the form of a program that connects epidemiological data, clinical trials and physician interviews and translates them into differential equations), will contribute to replicate the human physiology.

The Synergy-COPD project is expected to bring a variety of benefits to healthcare:

  • Identification of new approaches to manage chronic disease using tools that provide accurate, state-of-the-art disease progression predictions and best practices for treatment
  • Better care especially for high-risk patients with multiple diseases and complex needs
  • Increased understanding of the underlying mechanisms of disease phenotypes and identification of biomarkers associated with disease prognosis
  • Support of disease management by providing pharmaceutical companies, bio-researchers and public health departments with a modeling platform, simulation environment and tools to optimize experimental design and establish shorter and less expensive virtual trials

Leveraging Biomax’s BioXM technology, a comprehensive COPD knowledge base with a graphical frontend for visualization was established. The system integrates five well-established simulations of human physiology with biomedical data drawn from experimental studies, epidemiological data, clinical trials, physician interviews, a multi-center longitudinal study on COPD phenotyping, and public data sets. Integrating with a simulation environment, researchers will be able to perform simulations linking symptoms and pathologies in organs and tissues with other features, such as metabolic pathways. Building on this foundation, a decision support system will allow doctors to anticipate disease progression and optimize therapy.

The Synergy-COPD project is funded by the European Union’s Seventh Framework Programme for research and technological development (FP7) to develop a simulation environment and a decision-support system aimed at enabling systems medicine. The project’s research partners are leading experts in the field of COPD and relevant technologies and methods for advancing COPD research. The development of the proposed system will benefit from having access to large COPD databases previously generated by the researchers involved.

Alongside Biomax, the international consortium comprises a mixture of commercial and academic organizations including:

  • Barcelona Digital Technology Center
  • August Pi i Sunyer Institute of Biomedical Research
  • Karolinska Institute
  • University of Oxford
  • University of Birmingham
  • Technical University of Budapest
  • Linkcare Healthservices S.L.
  • Infermed Ltd.
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