NIH funds consortium to establish center for biomedical modeling

By Maggie Lynch

- Last updated on GMT


Related tags Biology Nih biomedical models

The National Institute of Health (NIH) awarded $6.5m to a consortium of universities to create the Center for Reproducible Biomedical Modeling.

The institutions will use the award to create the Center for Reproducible Biomedical Modeling to advance predictive models of biological systems​. The consortium includes the Ichan Institute for Genomics and Multiscale Biology at the Ichan School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, University of Washington, University of Connecticut, and the University of Auckland in New Zealand.

According to a press release​ from Mount Sinai, the multi-institutional group will develop computational tools to help understand the molecular basis of biological behaviors. Advancements from the center are will be used towards systematic and scalable models that are reproducible.

Herbert Sauro, director of the Center for Reproducible Biomedical Modeling told us, “The center's long-term vision is to improve best practices in biomedical computational modeling, focused initially on systems biology-based models. This includes making sure that published models are reproducible, that models are properly validated and above all that models are credible and useful representations of the underlying reality.”

Before the center was established, members of the consortium were said to have pieced together grants to support their research. Sauro explained, “I've been working in the area since 2000 and it has been a struggle for many in the community to get consistent funding and to think long-term. The center award allows us to focus much more on the problems facing computational biomedicine. It gives us the means to think long-term and will significantly accelerate progress in this important area.”

Model and remodel

According to Sauro, models of this nature are often reported as an afterthought or as an appendix. In these cases, mistakes are sometimes made in the transcription of the model’s description.

With the advent of model reproducibility standards, this has improved but it is an aim of the center to improve it further by developing standards and best practices for building, simulating, testing and publishing models.

Models, specifically biological models that have been transformed into mathematical models, are important because they can be encoded in computer software and then be reasoned using logic and have stronger predictive capabilities.

“We believe one way to encourage best practices is to work with journals and to help journals ensure that what is published is reproducible. It’s a pull rather than a push mechanism. This is an important component of the center. We currently have nine journals that are interested in working with us. The center will have a curation team that journals can use for free to check that the models they receive are in fact reproducible,” ​said Sauro.

Sauro continued, “Without reproducibility, science is reduced to hearsay and ultimately becomes no better than superstition. Reproducibility is about improving out trust in what we claim to know.”

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